While you will probably never see a chicken fishing, there is no doubt that they love everything about eating fish! Avid anglers may be delighted to know that they can share their annual quota and offcuts with their flock and that fish has a lot of health benefits for chickens.
Chickens can eat fish, and it is an excellent protein source. It can be offered raw or cooked. Some varieties may have a high mercury content and are not recommended for poultry. Fish should only form one component of a balanced diet for chickens. Excessive fish may taint the taste of eggs.
A chicken will always take advantage of an opportunity to dine on fish if it is available. Let’s find out what types of fish are best, how much they can have, and the safest ways to offer it to your flock.
Can Chickens Eat Fish?
Fish is an excellent treat for chickens, and it can add exciting variety to their staple food. Whether provided cooked, raw, whole, or chopped, the birds will make short work of the protein-rich food.
Although chickens can eat fish, it is not essential to their diet. They are highly adaptable and have learned to forage for protein from various sources, including bugs, worms, grubs, leafy greens, or even small mammals.
Including fish, or even fish guts, in your chickens’ diet is a great way to add variety. Since it can be offered raw, leftover portions from fishing trips can be frozen and spread out over long periods.
Like all good things, there are a few times when serving fish is not recommended. These include:
- When the available fish may contain high levels of mercury.
- When the fish has gone off. Rotten fish should be buried deeply in the garden, where it can add nutrients to the soil.
- When it is mixed with other unsuitable ingredients, for example, when fish has been packed in oil.
Fish is a highly nutritious food for poultry but cannot replace staple chicken feed. It should only be fed in moderation, as too much protein on its own can result in kidney issues or obesity.
What Kind Of Fish Can Chickens Eat?
Most of the fish you are likely to catch while recreational fishing in local ponds and lakes is suitable for sharing with your chickens. In fact, some, like invasive blue catfish, are good eating for humans and chickens, and reducing their numbers in the waterways is also doing the environment a favor.
Types of fish that you can confidently share with your poultry include:
You can offer any parts of the fish. If you are filleting your catch to use immediately or freeze, give the chickens the heads and guts. No parts of a fish on this list need to be wasted.
What Kind Of Fish Should Chickens Not Eat?
Fish is a blanket term that includes a variety of species. While most types are perfectly healthy for chickens to consume, a few should be avoided. Knowing what is safe can be confusing.
Since chickens are a lot smaller than humans, it is not safe to say that if it is safe for humans, it will be fine for chickens. Our little feathery friends are much more susceptible to contaminants in some types of fish, and they also won’t limit themselves to small servings if they are offered a whole fish.
The table below lists the types of fish to avoid feeding to chickens and the reasons:
|Types of fish that should not be given to chickens
|The main reason why it is not recommended
|Orange roughy, shark, king Mackerel, marlin, tilefish, ling, gemfish, barramundi, ray, swordfish, and tuna.
|They are known to contain high levels of mercury.
Tuna can be given, but only occasionally and in small amounts.
|Salmon, herring, King Mackerel, and eel
|Very fatty fish. It should only be offered in small amounts. Obesity in poultry can lead to serious conditions, including heart disease, heat stroke, laying difficulties, or even mobility issues.
|Fish processed in oil, salt, or that contain preservatives
|Raw or cooked fish is a healthy treat, but preserved fish often contains other ingredients that may be unhealthy for chickens.
|Any rotten food can make chickens sick.
What Is The Best Way To Give Fish To Chickens?
The best way to give fish to chickens is in moderation. If you have had a great catch, freeze any extras and divvy it over a few months rather than overwhelming your chickens all at once.
Chickens are natural foragers that have evolved to eat a variety of foods. There is no need to scale or debone your catch. As long as it hasn’t gone bad, the birds can pick away at the fish, and they will leave any bones that are too big.
If you have small fish, they can be offered whole. Larger fish can be chopped up, or you can let the chickens entertain themselves as they pick the flesh from the carcass.
Although bones can be a worry, chickens usually pick around larger bones. Fish bones are a valuable source of calcium, but if they are hard and sharp, they could cause problems. It is always best to err on the side of caution and chop raw fish into pieces if you are concerned about the bones.
Chickens will pick off a fish’s skin, flesh, and other tasty parts, but they may not consume everything. Always collect any leftovers or bones at the end of the day, as the pungent smell of fish is highly likely to attract critters and predators. Fish is also highly perishable, and rotten remains can make your chickens sick.
Can Chickens Eat Dry Fish?
Drying fish is a practical way to preserve it if you don’t have enough freezer space. Since dried fish is often high in salt, it is less healthy for poultry than raw or cooked fish. Dry fish is a versatile way to add a bit of extra protein to your chicken’s diet, as it can be added to other treats in a crumbled form.
Can Chickens Eat Shellfish?
Shellfish are an excellent option for hens as the shells are a great natural source of calcium. Next time you dine on prawns, shrimp, lobsters, or crab, add the leftovers to the chicken’s scraps bucket and let the flock pick through the remains for any tasty morsels you may have missed.
Can Chickens Eat Cooked Fish?
Whether you have grilled, baked, or boiled fish, it will be welcomed by your flock. Since the texture of fish changes during cooking, it is a good idea to check for large or sharp bones that may get swallowed in the excitement. Either remove them or cut them into smaller, more manageable bits.
The only time that cooked fish isn’t suitable for chickens is when it contains a lot of other seasonings that could harm the birds. Colorants, preservatives, salt, and oil are also not healthy for poultry.
The Benefits And Risks Of Giving Fish To Chickens
As a high-protein food, fish can be particularly beneficial to chickens in cold weather if they are injured or during molting. But there are also risks with feeding chickens too much fish or too often.
Benefits Of Feeding Fish To Chickens
The benefits of offering fish to your chickens are not just about the valuable array of nutrients. Chickens love fish, and offering them whole, complete with scales and bones, is an interesting alternative source of calcium from the usual ground eggshells or oyster shells.
Fish is packed with goodness and is a healthy food for humans and chickens. In addition to protein, fish is also a valuable source of Omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients help to maintain a healthy body and have been linked to good heart health.
Although the levels of nutrients differ from one fish species to another, it is always a good source of Vitamin D, iodine, Vitamin B12, and Iron. Not only are these valuable additions to the chickens’ overall health, but they will also appreciate the variety in their diet.
Risks Of Feeding Fish To Chickens
The danger for chickens is that they may be given fish varieties that contain contaminants, hold inherent health risks, or that they will overeat. Since fishing is an activity that often takes place periodically, it often happens that fish is not always available, but when it is, there is a lot of it all at once.
The following are the main risks of feeding fish to chickens:
- The incorrect varieties may be laden with harmful contaminants.
- Chickens can swallow small bones safely, and in fact, they are very nutritious. However, large sharp bones could become stuck in the bird’s throat or crop.
- Overfeeding fish to chickens can lead to health issues, including kidney problems and obesity.
- In some cases, consuming food high in Omega-3 fatty acids can lead to eggs having a slightly fishy taste.
- Fish that has been preserved may contain additives that are unhealthy for chickens. Cooked fish may also have seasonings that should be avoided.
- Rotten fish can make chickens sick.
Does Fish Make My Chicken Eggs Taste Fishy?
A potential side effect of regularly feeding fish to chickens is that some hens may start to produce eggs that taste a little fishy. The reason for this is that fish is packed with healthy Omega-3 fat.
Interestingly, whether chickens get a lot of this fatty acid from fish or another source like canola or flaxseed, the result may still be fish-tainted eggs. This slightly off-putting effect doesn’t affect all hens and only lasts briefly while the Omega-3-rich food is in their system.
It is well worth letting hens enjoy fish as a healthy occasional treat as it in no way negatively affects the nutritional value of the eggs produced. If you are really put off by the idea of eggs with a fishy taste, freeze any excess fish and give it to the hens during the annual molt while they are not laying. The extra protein will boost them while sprouting new feathers, making it a win-win situation.
Chickens can eat most types of fish, giving the birds a protein boost in addition to their staple diet of chicken feed. All parts of a fish are safe and can be offered raw, cooked, or dried. Some fish species contain dangerously high levels of mercury that can affect poultry, so they should be avoided. Fish should only be an occasional treat for chickens.