One of the perks of keeping and raising chickens is that they are not picky eaters at all. Chickens, or hens in particular, can eat pretty much anything humans can eat. The eating process is also fun to watch for many people.
However, chickens’ digestive system is different from that of humans, so there will be some human food that isn’t ideal for the chickens, especially man-made food. Which will be the case for bread? Can hens eat bread?
Can hens eat bread?
Bread is safe to feed to hens. You can give them fresh, stale, or any common type of bread. But, bread should only be fed in moderation as a treat for the hens, and don’t feed them moldy bread.
Hens love bread
Hens love bread. And as mentioned, they are not picky when it comes to food. White bread, stale bread, fresh bread, wheat bread, you name it, they enjoy them all. They especially like the whole grain bread with little seeds inside
However, the bread itself doesn’t contain many nutrients that benefit hens, so you should only feed the hens bread at the right amount only. Also, don’t feed your hens only bread for their diet.
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Limit your bread to the hens and rooster only
Baby chicks can benefit from many better choices of high-nutrient food, particularly those with high protein. Bread is low in nutrients, so limit your bread amount when trying to feed the chicks.
If you want to know just how low the nutritional value of bread is, basic white breads only contain 2 to 3 grams of protein in a slice. (source)
Here is a list of protein value in many kinds of bread compared to Gucci starter, and while done bread types have different amount of protein, they are generally low compared to chick starter – proper chick feed (source)
- Chick Starter: 18 – 20%
- Wheat Bread: 9.1%
- White Bread: 7.3%
- Multi-Grain Bread: 7.7 – 8.8%
- Wheat or Oat Bread: 9.6%
- Italian Bread: 9.6%
Why is moldy bread bad for your hens?
You should not feel your hens spoiled or moldy bread, or most moldy food in general. People may say that they have been feeling their hens moldy bread and seen no problem so far, the risks definitely outweigh the benefits.
Moldy bread has mycotoxins that can cause bad effects to your hen’s health. It can cause mycosis or thrush in the hen’s crop. Although it is treatable, preventing the mold is still better than feeding your hens moldy food and regret later.
Also, depending on the type of the mold, it may cause serious infections on hens as well as in humans. It can spread through the air too, so don’t let your hens breathe the mold, or your hen will get bad effects, and they are:
Decreased egg production
Continuous exposure to the mycotoxin, even at just a small amount, can result in decreased egg production after 3 weeks.
Researchers who came to the above conclusion believed that the cause of the decreased egg production is likely that the mycotoxin causes degeneration of the liver tissues, which leads to the hens not being able to utilize protein efficiently.
Decreased eggshell quality
The low nutrient amount isn’t just about protein, but calcium as well. And calcium is very important in the formation of eggshells. Low calcium amount means the eggshell quality will decrease.
Strong and rigid eggshells require the hens to have access to sufficient amounts of calcium, typically a lot of it. Too much bread will make the hens get full on bread and consume layer mash – proper feed for laying hens – less.
Many of the food problems didn’t cause bad effects right away, and sole bread consumption is no exception. In the long-term, it will result in brittle and easy-to-break eggshells.
Feeding your hens bread the right ways
As mentioned, it is okay to feed your hens bread, as long as you feed them in moderation and as a treat for your hens for the most parts.
And when it comes to feeding your hens bread as a treat, here are some ways you can blend bread into the hens’ feeds:
Warm bread mash
Warm bread mash is a great treat for your hens on a really cold morning, here is how to make warm bread mash:
- Add bread into your normal feed
- Mix it with hot water
- Add other safe chicken food like cucumber, pumpkin, or zucchini. You can also add crushed eggshell for calcium and material for the hens’ gizzards to do their jobs.
DIY Chicken Bread
If you have a passion for making bread or you have already been making bread normally at home, you might as well make bread for your hens.
Again, you can mix in the bread-safe veggies, grains, seeds, or crushed eggshells. The homemade chicken bread will bring joy to your hens and you too.
Make at home flock block
The make-at-home flock block is great for your chickens as a treat, as something for the hens to peck and look at throughout the day.
Once again, you can mix in fruits and veggies that are safe for chickens. The flock block is great to reduce boredom for your hens, whether they are in a small area or a free-range area.
So, can hens eat bread? Bread is safe to feed to hens, as long as it is fed in moderation and as a treat only. Don’t overfeed it since bread is low in nutrients.
Also, don’t feed moldy bread as it can cause bad effects like decreased egg production and eggshell quality. And there are many ways to make bread as a treat to feed your hens, like chicken bread, flock block, or warm bread mash.