Chicken owners always look for healthy foods to boost egg laying in their backyard chickens. So, if you have cats and chickens at home, you may have wondered if you can feed your chickens cat food. On the surface, providing both pets with a tasty, protein-packed meal seems convenient. Since chickens are omnivores, they can eat plant and animal matter, so cat food is something chickens can tolerate.
However, there are essential differences between the nutritional needs of cats and chickens. While cat food has a higher protein and fat level than chicken feed, too much high-protein food can be harmful to chickens. In addition, you can choose dry cat food for chickens; or can they eat wet cat food too?
Chickens are natural omnivores that can eat many things, but they do need a balanced diet, and you would find a big difference between cat food and chicken feed. Also, cat food’s protein and fat content may become excessive if fed too often. Chickens and cats require anywhere from 16-40% protein depending on age and activity level. Cat food is high in protein at over 25% protein on average.
So can chickens eat cat food? In small amounts, dry cat food can provide a beneficial protein boost. In our guide, you can learn more about wet or dry cat food and chickens. By the end, you’ll see chickens can eat cat food and what you need to do to feed them cat food as part of their diet. (Read Can Chickens Eat Peaches)
Why Would You Feed Chickens Dry Cat Food?
People mainly consider feeding their chickens cat food because cat food is high-protein and contains more protein than other foods. One difference is that chickens require 16-18% protein in their diet, cats need around 26%, and kittens require up to 40% protein in their foods.
So cat food can provide a protein boost that chickens love and is helpful during the times chickens need extra protein, like when:
- Molting Chickens
- Hens are laying eggs
- Chicks are growing
- The weather is extremely hot or cold
While cat food contains more protein, many types of cat food contain more fat than chicken feed. This added fat provides concentrated calories and energy. So, the high protein and fat content draw chickens toward cat food. Chickens seem to love the taste and protein-packed punch of cat food.
Chickens Eat Cat Food, But How Much?
While chickens can eat dry cat food, chickens should not eat cat food excessively or replace their regular chicken food.
Here are some guidelines on how much cat food chickens can eat safely:
- No more than 1-3 times per week
- Only 10% or less of their total daily food intake
- Primarily as a supplemental treat or topper, not a main diet
For example, if your chickens eat 1 cup of food per day, chickens require anywhere between 1-2 tablespoons of cat food mixed in. More than this is potentially harmful to chickens over time. (Read Can Goats Eat Pumpkin)
Best Types of Cat Food for Chickens
If you do choose to feed your chickens the occasional cat food or other high protein treat, some types are safer than others:
- Dry cat food: The kibble texture is better suited for chickens than wet food. It also contains less fat than canned wet food.
- Low-fat formulas: Choose low-fat dry foods to reduce the fat intake.
- Kitten formulas contain more protein than adult cat foods but less fat.
- Poultry-based formulas: Chicken and turkey cat foods align better with chickens’ nutritional needs.
- All life stages formulas: These contain balanced ratios of protein, fat, and nutrients for all cats.
Avoid fish-based cat foods, as the high omega ratios can be unhealthy for chickens long-term.
When To Feed Chickens Cat Food?
There are certain situations when feeding a small amount of cat food can benefit chickens:
Molting is the natural process where chickens shed and regrow their feathers. It typically happens once per year. Molting requires extra protein to regrow healthy feathers. A tablespoon or two of cat food 2-3 times weekly can boost protein.
Laying eggs requires high levels of protein. Adding a sprinkle of dry cat food to their feed 2-3 times a week can help provide more protein for egg production.
For the first 12-16 weeks, mixing a tablespoon or two of crumbled cat kibble into their feed 2-3 times per week can boost their protein.
In extremely cold or hot weather, chickens expend more energy regulating their body temperature. The extra protein in cat food can provide this additional energy when needed.
Recovering from Illness
After an illness, injury, or stress, the extra nutrition in cat food can help chickens recover and regain their health faster. Only feed it for a week or two during recovery. (Read Can Budgies Eat Cucumber)
Risks of Feeding Chickens Too Much Cat Food
Cat food can be a good supplemental source of protein for chickens. However, too much cat food can negatively impact chickens’ health. Here are some risks to be aware of:
- Excessive fat intake: Too much fat strains the liver and heart. Over time it can lead to liver damage or heart disease.
- Kidney problems: The high protein also taxes the kidneys. Excessive amounts can cause kidney dysfunction.
- Nutritional imbalances: Chicken feed is balanced for a chicken’s needs. Replacing too much feed with cat food can lead to imbalances.
- Reduced feed intake: Chickens may fill up on the fatty, tasty cat food and refuse their normal feed.
- Obesity: The increased fat and calories can lead to overweight chickens if overfed.
- Digestive issues: Too much protein and fat can irritate the digestive tract, causing loose droppings or diarrhea.
In addition, you still need to feed your cat, and if you give this food to chickens too often, they can chase cats off their food.
Signs Your Chicken Is Eating Too Much Cat Food
It is okay for chickens to eat cat food, yet check for signs that your chicken may be getting too much cat food:
- Loose, watery, or smelly droppings
- Lack of appetite for their regular food
- Weight gain or obesity
- Lethargy, weakness, or other signs of illness
- Evidence of kidney problems like increased drinking or urination
In closing, you’ll find feeding a small amount of cat food safe for chickens, yet you may still ask how to avoid feeding my chickens too much. Give your chickens this food as an addition, and keep it in moderation. Chickens do need a balanced diet, and this food is a great way to boost this.
The higher protein and fat content make it a great supplemental source of nutrition during molting and egg production. However, too much protein in cat food may overload chickens’ systems over time. Chickens need a balanced diet, so choose quality dry cat food brands and limit to 1-2 tablespoons 1-3 times per week.
Ultimately, most dry cat food is okay as an addition to a chicken’s diet but not the basis of their nutrition, even if cat food has a higher protein level.
FAQs Feeding Chickens Cat Food
Can chickens eat dry cat food?
Chickens can safely eat small amounts, as dry cat food is beneficial and higher in protein. The kibble texture and lower fat content make dry cat food better than canned wet food. Limit it to just 1-2 tablespoons 1-3 times per week.
Do chickens like cat food?
Chickens love cat food! Cat food is a great protein and fat source, making it tasty to chickens.
Is cat food better than chicken feed?
Chickens don’t mind where their food comes from. Yet, cat food is not better than chicken feed overall, although they may prefer the taste. While the protein levels are higher in cat food, chicken feed offers a complete nutritional balance for chickens.
Is wet cat food bad for chickens?
Wet, canned cat food is higher in fat than dry food, so it’s generally not as healthy for chickens. If feeding wet food, choose low-fat varieties and only feed 1-2 tablespoons 1-3 times per week. (Learn How To Keep Raccoons Away From Chickens)
Can too much cat food kill chickens?
Excessive amounts of cat food can be fatal to chickens over a long period. Too much fat and protein stresses their organs.
Do chickens stop laying eggs from eating cat food?
No, small amounts of cat food should not impact egg laying. Just the opposite – a little cat food can help hens get the extra protein needed for high egg production.