If chickens can eat grains and even veggies like corn, can they eat popped corn? Kernels and all?
Though chickens should stay away from a diet of fatty foods, popcorn will not hurt or harm them. Like other foods, such as fruits and meats, chickens love the popped snack and can be allowed it in moderation so long as it is plain: without butter, salt, or other additives.
But how much popcorn is “in moderation”? Why can’t chickens have salt? Take a look below for a guide on chicken feed!
Can Chickens Eat Popcorn?
Chickens are known for eating grain more than anything else—grains like wheat, and oats, and corn. So, that being said, it is common to inquire after popcorn.
Popcorn isn’t too different from corn in its raw form, but is it too different to be safe? Will the kernels affect a chicken’s digestion abilities? Is something puffy like popped corn going to be too big to swallow? Could the chickens choke?
Chickens are fully capable to digest something like popcorn and even the occasional kernel if need be (just like they can eat sunflower and pumpkin seeds just fine), though they should only eat the good stuff as a “special treat” every once in a while.
With this in mind, the feathery fowls will be more than happy to gobble up some popcorn, just so much as it’s not flavored or salted.
How to Prep the Popcorn for the Chickens?
So, the good news is your chickens can enjoy the same snacks as you! Popcorn for the win! But, there is a caveat; though a little salt won’t hurt them, chickens should stay away from the microwavable popcorn we eat to watch our favorite flicks.
Too much salt isn’t good for them, so your chickens need plain popcorn. Meaning no butter, no salt, just-popped-in-an-air-popper popcorn. Plain as can be.
*Stay away from the microwavable kind/ brands, as they tend to have tons of butter and salt added to their corn.
Best way to go about making popcorn for your chickens:
- Find a nonstick pot with its accompanying lid and place the pot on the stovetop, at high heat.
- Once the pot has warmed up, add the popcorn kernels.
- Reduce the heat from high to medium-low heat.
- Shake/move the pot every 6-10 seconds to prevent burning.
- After 3-5 minutes, the kernels should begin popping.
- Once the popping increments are a few seconds apart, remove the pot from heat.
- Transfer your popcorn into a bowl and let cool.
- Let your chickens enjoy!
A cheaper snack (averaging out somewhere around $5-$35 for a bag of kernels), popcorn may be the way to your flock’s heart. Plus, it’s simple and easy.
Air-popped popcorn is the healthiest kind of popped corn for your chickens, and they will love it!
How Much Is Too Much Popcorn for Chickens?
Next question is, how much popcorn can chickens actually eat before it’s considered “too much”? If experts say chickens should only have popcorn “occasionally”, how often is that?
Just like how experienced parents would advise new parents on how much sugar is safe to feed a toddler, the answer to “how occasional is safe?” can vary. Answers vary from every other day to once a week to not at all. (Though most everyone agrees that giving this kind of special treat out every day would be both unhealthy and not-so-special).
So, the consensus is: up to once or twice a week, in handfuls. This will keep your chickens happy while still maintaining popcorn’s rare, valuable nature.
Any Exceptions to Chickens Eating Popcorn?
So, the rule is that popcorn is good for chickens. But are all chickens included? Are there any exceptions to the rule?
Baby chickens, also known as chicks—are they allowed popcorn too? Normally, popcorn wouldn’t necessarily be “awful” for chicks, but the kernels could prove themselves dangerous for their little throats. Not only that, but chicks have very specific diets. (Small foods are best, so something like bugs or tiny, leafy greens are best).
Because they are smaller than the average chicken and still growing, they aren’t usually given “special treats”, and probably shouldn’t be until they are older.
So, no popcorn for chicks.
Roosters vs. Hens
When we discuss chickens eating popcorn, does that include roosters? Yep, one hundred percent. Roosters are allowed popcorn, just like hens are. Thankfully for the roosters, popcorn is not a discriminatory snack.
Is Salt Bad for Chickens?
One of the main reasons popcorn should only be eaten in moderation by poultry is because of the salt.
Chickens need salt in their diets in order to live a healthy life, but that salt intake should be monitored, as too much or too little sodium can cause some major issues. Because chickens already have salt in their feed, any additional sodium consumption should be considered and controlled carefully.
It is fact that these birds need somewhere between 0.12%- 0.2% sodium in their diets, or about 0.4%- 0.6% if that’s referring to table salt. Taking that to heart, let’s talk about what salt can do, and should be doing for your chickens.
Why Chickens Need Salt
Starting off at a young age (as chicks), chickens need salt in order to survive and develop properly. Sodium in their diets can help in increasing appetite (allowing them to grow strong), and give them an appropriate amount of energy.
Without enough salt, chickens can get tired faster and begin a nasty habit of pecking. And if hens aren’t getting enough sodium, egg production will decrease exponentially.
The worst-case scenario would be allowing these symptoms to go unnoticed to the extreme of death. (When chickens don’t get enough sodium in their diets, too much liquid can engulf the lungs and heart, killing the beloved bird). Not only all this, but if chicks aren’t given the right amount of nutrition, they will not grow up correctly and won’t ever be able to recover.
Too Much Salt
But how do you know when your chickens are getting dangerously close to too much salt?
If your feathered friends are showing any of the following symptoms, you may consider weaning them off additional sodium: depression, respiratory discomfort, odd walking, diarrhea, kidney disease, convulsions, swollen feet and/or legs. They may even begin to eat their own feathers.
So, while salt is good for your chickens in the proper amounts, too much salt can be a problem, which is why you should not feed your chickens salty popcorn.
Can Chickens Eat Sugars and Dairy?
So now we know that chickens need salt to survive, but what about sugars and dairy? Do they need that too? If so, how much is necessary?
Don’t Feed Your Chickens Sugar
Funny enough, chickens actually don’t need much sugar in their diets.
It’s preferred chickens don’t get additives like sugar because chickens will most definitely get hooked to the flavor. Once they’ve had a taste of sugar on their food, they are less likely to go back to the basics later. (Which is why feeding any kind of kettle corn, or sweetened popcorn to your chickens is a bad idea).
So, though sugar is not “bad” for chickens, it’s recommended by many that people stay away from feeding poultry any sweeteners, for it will most likely lead to obesity and less egg production.
Dairy is a No for Chickens
Like sugar, chickens don’t need dairy in their diets. Unlike sugar, however, feeding any kind of dairy to your chickens will be detrimental to their health.
Because chickens don’t have the proper enzymes to digest dairy products (such as milk or butter), when they do ingest any dairy, a chicken’s stool will be loose and watery, and not-so-healthy. Chickens can also become bloated and fatigued easily from dairy consumption.
In short, dairy guarantees tummy troubles for chickens, which is why popcorn fed to your birds should exclude butter.
Any Issues With Chickens Eating Popcorn?
Okay, so stay away from dairy and probably sugar, and have a good balance of salt. So, popcorn is safe for chickens so long as it’s plain, right?
Though safe for your chickens to eat, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any risks in tossing popcorn out in the coops. The main culprit: kernels. (So be sure to get every kernel possible popped, or throw out any remaining unpopped corn).
Chickens, though not known to be allergic to any foods in particular, can seem as though they get sick from the puffed corn. Here’s how and why.
If your chicken starts sneezing (yes chickens can sneeze!), then you may want to take a closer look at your bird. It could be from a plethora of things from having allergies, having dirt in their beaks, or having kernels stuck in their nares. Nares are the two nasal passages (or nostrils) at the top end of the beak.
Sometimes, when eating popcorn, chickens have been prone to getting unpopped kernels stuck in their nose openings and may need help getting them out.
Many suggest using a toothpick or something softer to pry it out. If it stays stuck, further medical attention may be needed.
So yes, chickens can eat popcorn kernels like they eat seeds, but the kernels have the chance of getting stuck and causing problems, so it is best to avoid them at all costs.
What To Feed Your Chicken Other Than Popcorn?
All that being said, what foods will provide your chicken with the best nutrients? Which foods offer the right amount of sodium, proteins, sugars, and carbs?
Take a look at the list below for some ideas:
- Cooked rice, pasta, grits
- Oatmeal (cooked or uncooked)
- Dried corn
- Cereal (plain and not the sugary kind)
Try to avoid options with too much sugar or added preservatives. Sticking to the basics, with as little flavor as possible, is best. For example, if it’s a cereal that a kid would frown at, you are on the right track!
- Cooked Fish
Chickens are indeed omnivores, so they will eat just about anything you throw at their feet. If you find some worms out in the garden, take them over to the chickens, and they will appreciate the protein.
Fruits (in moderation):
- Bananas (peeled)
Though fruits are “good for you” and would be great additions for your fowl’s feast, be sure not to overload on the fruits, as they are more sugary and could be damaging if not eaten in moderation.
- Turnip greens
Much like popcorn, all of the foods listed above make great snacks for chickens!
What Foods to Avoid
Now that we know what some of the favorites are, how about the foods to stay away from? Are there any products chickens should avoid?
Short answer: yes.
Here’s the list of no-gos:
- Citrus (lemons, oranges, etc.)
- Dry beans
- Dairy (milk, butter, cream)
Some chicken owners across the web have mentioned that their flocks never had issues with specific foods, so it really depends on the flock and farm. The list above though is made up of items known to cause some irritation, but it’s really up to a farmer and their chickens, which foods to try and which to avoid.
That said, the bigger threats should be written in bold:
Though not too harmful to chickens, too much citrus in your poultry’s diet could thin the shells of your hen’s eggs, and even decrease egg production.
Onions and Garlic
Bringing up the rear of our list, onions and garlic have proven dangerous because of the traces of thiosulphate in their makeup. (In large amounts, this matter can cause anemia or jaundice in chickens).
To wrap things up in a neat little bow: chickens can indeed eat popcorn and will do so. Being recognized as a break from their normal feed, popcorn is a poultry-fan-favorite!
So, while staying away from sugary kettle corn (we don’t want obese, fatty birds), salted corn (just better safe than sorry), and the buttery movie theatre microwavable stuff (beware of dairy!), your chickens will absolutely adore you forever if you hand out their favorite special, plain-as-can-be treat.
Remember air-popped in the way to go, moderation is key (only allow treats up to once or twice a week), and every kernel must be puffed up to perfection.
Though you want to avoid feeding popcorn to chicks, all other chickens are fair game and will most certainly guzzle down any popped kernels you allow them.
Additional Information On Animals Eating Popcorn
Are you curious about what animals can eat popcorn? Click here for an animal overview or click on an animal below to find out specific details: