Can Chickens Eat Sardines?

Chickens have a healthy appetite overall and love plant- and meat-based foods. If you are wondering if chickens can eat sardines, you only need to look at the nutritional benefits of the small oily fish. What type of sardines you feed your chickens is important, as not all sardines will be a healthy treat for your flock.

Chickens can eat sardines, as they contain multiple nutrients such as iron, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamins B12 and D, which will improve the overall health of any chicken flock. The healthiest sardines for chickens are canned in water, not in sauces with additives or brine water.

Many chicken owners ask if they should remove the bones before feeding them to their beloved chickens. If the sardines are relatively small, you can feed them whole, as the bones are soft and edible and a great source of calcium. Let’s discuss why it’s a good idea to feed sardines to chickens.

Is It Healthy for Chickens to Eat Sardines?

Sardines pack a nutritional punch and add many nutrients to a fish-inclusive diet. The following nutrients are taken in with every fishy bite of a sardine:

Sardines Are a Source of Protein

Sardines are oily fish jam-packed with nutritional goodness. One thing you are sure to get when eating these fish is high-quality protein. Protein that’s good for body tissues in the sense that they help grow and repair these tissues.

Sardines Are a Source of Iron

Red blood cells are manufactured in bone marrow, are found in the blood, and contain hemoglobin (a protein), which is essential in carrying oxygen to your lungs and other parts of your body. Sardines contain a mineral that plays a prominent part in producing these red blood cells. That mineral is iron.

Iron helps to maintain energy levels and helps to prevent a disease called iron-deficiency anemia. Iron is good for humans and our feathery friends.

Sardines Are a Source of Minerals and Vitamins

Sardines are stacked with minerals and vitamins, such as the following:

  • Vitamin B12: Helps with nerve functioning and plays a critical part in red blood cell production.
  • Vitamin D and Calcium: Enhances the immune system and increases overall bone health.
Close up photograph of a bunch of sardines

Sardines Are a Big Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Feeding your chickens a healthy dose of sardines now and then will result in improved heart health and brain function and reduced inflammation.

All thanks to the high content of omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA), found in the oily sardine body.

EPA also reduces triglyceride levels in the blood and helps to prevent blood clots.

Healthiest Sardine Brands to Feed Your Chickens

When choosing sardine brands to feed your chickens, try to stay clear of any brand that cans them in sauces with added additives, such as tomato sauce, and look for brands that stock them in water. Sardines packaged in brine should not be fed to chickens due to the increased salt content.

Unsalted sardines are the healthiest option to feed your flock.

Here are some brands that package their sardines in water only, ensuring that no spices, additives, or brine are included in the tin:

Types Of Sardines You Can Feed to Chickens

When it comes to the type of sardine you can feed your chickens, they are spoilt for choice. The following sardine types are canned for consumption by humans and animals:

  • Herring (North Atlantic)
  • Pilchard (Europe)
  • Slender White Sardines (Thailand)
  • Slender Rainbow Sardines (Indian Ocean and South China Sea)

One of the best sardines on the fish market is sourced from the North Atlantic and is called Brisling Sardines.

What To Keep in Mind When Feeding Sardines to Chickens

Now that you know there’s nothing fishy about feeding sardines to chickens, except for the fish themselves, you must take note of the following when treating your feathery friends with a taste of the ocean:

  • Chicken safety: The smaller the sardine, the safer the chicken, so try to ensure that you feed your chickens small sardine pieces to minimize the choking hazard when eating sardines with larger bones. Chickens can eat small sardines and the soft bones inside them without a problem. Sardine bones are a source of calcium.
  • Presentation: When feeding sardines to chickens, it’s recommended that you cook them first or feed them plain canned ones. Raw sardines potentially carry all sorts of bacteria and parasites, which can harm the flock.
  • Plain sardines are healthier: Plain sardines without seasoning, salt, and oils are the healthiest type to feed your prized flock.
  • Everything in moderation: Chickens do best when fed a healthy and balanced diet with an occasional non-commercial feed treat. A balanced diet consists of commercial chicken feed, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and the occasional fishy treat.
Chickens eating

Can Chickens Eat Whole Sardines?

Chickens will devour whole sardines, especially the ones fed to them straight from the can, as they are often billable size. If a chicken can’t swallow them whole, they will peck at the flesh until finished, so if you have smaller chicks, you may have to break the sardine into edible chunks.

The bones of sardines are soft and safe to eat.

When To Feed Sardines to Chickens

Commercial chicken feed is formulated to contain all the required nutrients for a chicken to be healthy and live a good life. Adding sardines to their diet is a good way to further boost their nutrient intake, and they can be fed as a treat.

Many chicken owners will include a sardine treat up to two times a week or when they notice that their chickens are:

  • Lethargic (typically during molting)
  • Struggling to lay eggs
  • Producing soft eggs


Chickens can eat sardines. Feeding sardines to your chicken flock is an excellent way of ensuring that their diet consists of healthy proteins, iron, vitamins B12 and D, and omega-3 fatty acids. The soft bones of sardines are an excellent source of calcium which assists with overall bone health.

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