Which Holiday Leftovers are Safe for my Chickens?

Most of us end up with leftovers after our Christmas feast - that's part of the fun of the holidays. I am asked all the time what is okay for chickens to have and what's not. Of course, any of these foods should be treated as 'treats' and fed only in limited amounts, but go ahead and share some of the feast with your feathered friends.

Here are some popular holiday food items and my recommendations on sharing. Let's start  with some leftovers that are okay to share:


If you think chickens are vegetarians, you've never seen them go at a turkey leg! Leftover cooked turkey (or chicken) meat, skin and even the carcass is all fine to give to your chickens and a great source of protein for them. Since turkey and chicken bones splinter and we can't give them to our dogs, the chickens always get all those leftovers. They will pick the bones clean in no time.


Ham, as you know, is pretty salty, so I would only give the chickens ham leftovers in extreme moderation, but a bit is fine.


Our chickens love cooked seafood of all kinds, including the shells. So if you are serving shrimp cocktail,  toss them the shells and any leftovers.

Sweet Potatoes 

If there's any of your sweet potato casserole left over when dinner is over, scrape off the sugar-laden marshmallow topping and let your chickens enjoy the rest. Same goes for yams.


Of course salad, dressing and all, is fine for your chickens. They will love the lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and other veggies.

Office Party Platters

Crudite platters are also a no-brainer to give to the chickens. You know those fruit and veggie platters that always turn up at office parties? Bring them home! Bring home the platters of rolled meat and cheese too. As a special treat for your flock it's all fine and they always have lots of leafy green garnishes too.

Green Bean Casserole 

Green bean casserole always seems to make an appearance on holiday tables. Feel free to share leftovers with your chickens.

Creamed Spinach 

Spinach is a nutrition powerhouse and our chickens love it. The oxalic acid in spinach can interfere with calcium absorption if fed in large amounts, but as a holiday treat it's one of the more nutritious choices.

Cranberry Relish 

Chickens love cranberries, so leftover cranberry sauce will be a big hit. Sure, its got sugar in it, but a little bit won't hurt them.

Deviled Eggs 

Made too many deviled eggs? Share with the chickens by all means. Eggs are one of the most nutritious treats you can feed your flock, and no, feeding them eggs won't lead to 'unauthorized' egg eating.


Leftover rolls or bread are fine as an occasional treat.  Not terribly nutritious, but certainly okay on a special occasion - like Christmas.

Pumpkin Pie 

While I wouldn't make it a habit of feeding my chickens pie of any kind, a bit of leftover pumpkin pie actually has some nutritional value, so go ahead and share.

Apple Pie 

Same with apple pie, I wouldn't recommend making it a regular part of my chickens' diet, but since pie isn't part of our own regular menu, when I do bake pie and there are leftovers, I share with the chickens.

Now for a few leftovers I would skip giving to the chickens:


Mashed Potatoes

Skip the white potatoes. Cooked or raw, skins and flesh, they contain the toxin solanine which while not immediately fatal to chickens, can cause diarrhea, destroy red blood cells and eventually lead to heart failure. Small amounts aren't anything to worry about necessarily, but best to stay away from feeding the chickens white potatoes.

Creamed Pearl Onions 

Skip the onions also. Onions contain the toxin thiosulphate which also destroys red blood cells and can cause jaundice, anemia or even death in your hens in large enough amounts. (Note: garlic contains the same toxin but in far lesser amounts and I do feed garlic because I feel the health benefits far outweigh any potential health risk)


Asparagus can taint the taste of your chickens' eggs, so toss those leftover asparagus spears in the composts pile, not the chicken run.


Toss that leftover congealed gravy in the trash. It's mostly grease, butter, flour and salt, so not much nutritional value there. 


Our chickens don't eat citrus fruit. They don't like it. Citrus is thought to interfere with calcium absorption and contribute to thin-shelled and fewer eggs, so I would toss any citrus fruits.


Unlike pies that contain fruits or pumpkin, cookies have little to no nutritional value so I would skip feeding left over cookies to your flock. And who ever has leftover cookies anyway!

Chocolate/Coffee Grounds/Tea Bags/Alcohol 

No chocolate, no coffee grounds, and no tea bags. And no alcohol. That's kind of common sense. Also, nothing too salty, sweet or fried. If its not good for you, it's probably not good for your chickens either. But in the spirit of the holiday, go ahead and share some of the goodies - within reason - they'll enjoy them and it won't hurt them.

For a more complete list of healthy treats, click HERE.
For a complete list of no-no's, click HERE.

I would love for you to join me here...


  1. Nice job ! I think this post will be very popular this week. It's good to have a list to refer to when you are clearing the plates and packing up leftovers

  2. gravy is primarily stock and drippings, which I would think is very healthy for anyone...minimal flour, and fat in homemade gravy.

  3. The Girls will get some Ham from me for their treat tomorrow.

  4. Mine got chubby mealworms for Christmas.And will have a salad.

  5. I tried a turkey carcus, they would have Nothing To Do with it! I am happy about that! I too am a vegetarian!

  6. Gravy is fat, salt, flour...I would skip it but a bit won't kill them.

    1. You make your gravy differently from some of us. Mine is broth, cornstarch & milk. I use a batter to separate the fat. I can't stand grease! I just thicken th healthy broth. Except for fried chicken, then I make the role in the pan grease & add milk.

    2. You make your gravy differently from some of us. Mine is broth, cornstarch & milk. I use a batter to separate the fat. I can't stand grease! I just thicken th healthy broth. Except for fried chicken, then I make the role in the pan grease & add milk.

  7. yeah, but like I said, I make my own- I know what goes into it. the stock I make is primarily lean stock, very little fat and flour-I barely use thickener- and fat is skimmed off when congealed, whats left is a gelatinous ,high in protein stock. That would extremely nutritious...Canned gravy is a whole different story-blech! :)

  8. They got ham bone, and ham chopped up for 4 or 5 days till all my scraps were gone, i will have to buy ham more often now. They loved it.

  9. I read how to raise mealworms snd since i burn wood in basement i find them under the bark of wet logs so im gonna try yo cultivate them for my chickens, since free i always better.