The answer is straightforward: No. Chickens can not eat chocolate.
Chickens eat about everything you give to them; they are not very picky eaters. It’s also very tempting to feed them any leftover or table scraps you might have, thinking, ‘if I can eat it, why can’t they?’. Unfortunately, not all human food is suitable for animals, so be careful what you feed your chickens. Feeding your flock wrong can cause serious health issues or weaken them.
- Why can’t chickens eat chocolate?
- Dangers of chocolate intake
- Are all kinds of chocolate dangerous?
- What do I do when my chickens accidentally eat chocolate?
- Treats I can feed my chickens
why can’t chickens eat chocolate?
Chocolate contains toxic ingredients such as caffeine and theobromine, which can kill your chickens. It’s quite known that chocolate is dangerous for dogs and cats, but it can be very hurtful for chickens.
What is Caffeine?
The boost you get after eating chocolate does not only come from sugar intake. It has everything to do with caffeine, a stimulant to the central nervous system. Not all types of chocolate contain the same amount of caffeine, only the chocolate derived from cocoa beans, so there is less caffeine in milk chocolate than in dark chocolate. And no caffeine is found in white chocolate because it only contains cocoa butter, not beans.
What is Theobromine?
Theobromine, also known as xantheose, is found in food such as chocolate and tea leaves. It’s a bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant and the main reason why chocolate is deadly for many animals as they metabolize the theobromine more slowly than humans. Animals, also chickens, can succumb to theobromine poisoning from as little as 1,5 oz of milk chocolate.
We’re well aware that most chicken owners won’t feed chocolate deliberately; it mostly happens by accident. Every household has chocolate somewhere in the kitchen, or maybe you have some leftover chocolate cake that’s just lying around somewhere or small children who aren’t aware of the danger of certain foods for birds and poultry.
Accidents always happen without notice, so be careful not to bring toxic food (like chocolate) near the chicken coop and talk to your kids about what they can or can not feed the chickens.
So it’s better to do yourself and your family a favor and keep all the chocolate to yourselves. There are plenty of healthy snacks available for poultry so pamper them with some food that is good for them and yummy at the same time.
What’s the danger when chickens eat chocolate?
Chocolate poisoning is a severe issue that should be addressed immediately. It can cause:
- Kidney Failure
- Abnormal Heart Rhythms
Is all chocolate dangerous for chickens to eat?
You might think there is a difference between feeding your chickens white, milk, or dark chocolate? Of course, they’re not the same, not even close, but all kinds of chocolate are bad for most mammals and birds. We’ll explain the difference between these three types of chocolate.
Dark chocolate contains 50 – 90% cocoa solids, sugar, and cocoa butter and is generally believed to be the healthiest chocolate option for humans. Lower quality dark chocolates may also contain butterfat, vegetable oils, or artificial colors or flavors. Dark chocolate holds the highest amount of theobromine, more than white or milk chocolate.
Milk chocolate is the most popular kind of chocolate, especially for children. It’s less ‘real’ chocolate but still contains 10- 50% cocoa solids. It also holds cocoa butter, milk, and sugar.
This type of chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids and holds purely cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. Therefore one could wonder if white chocolate is chocolate at all? With only 0,25 mg per ounce of chocolate, there is a lot less theobromine in white chocolate.
is white chocolate safe for my chicken?
No. Although white chocolate rarely poses a threat to chocolate poisoning because of low levels of theobromine, it can still be dangerous when eaten by your chickens.
Chances of chocolate poisoning are lower, but not zero. White chocolate still contains small amounts of theobromine, not fatal, but it could make your chickens ill. Secondly, white chocolate also includes loads and loads of sugar and fat (butter), which can make your hens feel miserable.
Let’s face it, chocolate (definitely white chocolate) isn’t even very healthy food for humans; we don’t get sick from the theobromine levels. But for animals, who eat what you’ll give them, chocolate is always toxic and sometimes even fatal.
What do I do when my chickens accidentally eat chocolate?
That depends on the type of chocolate they’ve eaten and the amount. Dark chocolate contains higher levels of theobromine and caffeine, so it is more toxic than white chocolate. On the other hand, white chocolate contains more sugar and butter, so it can make your chickens feel sick.
Unlike dogs or cats, chickens can not vomit. So when struck with chocolate poisoning, chickens can not upchuck the contents of their upset stomachs. So the symptoms of chocolate poisoning are not that obvious.
You can turn to a ‘Chocolate Toxicity Calculator‘ or call your veterinarian to tell whether an emergency visit is required. But always consult your veterinarian when not sure about the needed treatment.
Treats I can feed my chickens
Some food is just irresistible for chickens but always feed treats with moderation. The ground rule is: don’t exaggerate. Never feed your chickens more than 10% of their total feed of the day in snacks.
Favorite treats top 10:
- Pumpkin (raw or cooked)
- Sunflower seeds
- Cottage cheese
These treats keep your chicken flock happy and healthy when fed in moderation. You’ll notice that most treats are everyday fruits or vegetables found in any household.
There are numerous chicken snacks in pet shops that are not natural at all and just plain rubbish, with no nutritional value at all. On the other hand, when you read the labels, you can also find some terrific chicken snacks available in shops, but understand that it’s unnecessary to buy special chicken snacks, as your chickens are happy with kitchen scraps.