One of the best parts of owning chickens is how they help to minimize your food waste by eating all of your table scraps. 

Chickens will eat almost anything they can fit in their beaks, and much of it is safe. 

But during Lent, we eat a lot more fish than normal, and it got us wondering two big questions: 

  • Can chickens eat fish?
  • Can chickens eat fish bones?

I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t find an answer I liked online. So I researched and asked the experts around me to find the truth. 

Read ahead for the details and answers to a whole bunch of chicken and fish-related questions. 

can chickens eat fish and fish bones

Are Fish Bones Safe For Chickens?

Fish bones are safe for fish, though they won’t eat them as much. Chickens love to pick the fish off the bones and may eat some of the smaller bones. The bones are usually soft enough to be safe, but it’s a good idea to pick out the larger, sharper bones or break them down before feeding them. 

Fish bones contain a lot of calcium and often have a good amount of fish meat on them. 

Both of these are great for your hens as calcium serves an important role in keeping your hens healthy. 

The only real dangers with fish bones are if the fish on them is rotted. 

Spoiled fish should never be fed to your chickens. 

Can Chickens Choke On Fish Bones?

Chickens rarely choke on fish bones, but it is possible. They’re good about pecking down any food they eat to a digestible size, and they have a tough digestive tract. If you’re worried, break down the bones or pick out the big pieces. 

Chickens rarely choke, which is surprising, given how they eat pretty anything. 

If the object is too big or indigestible, they’ll often regurgitate their food without issue. 

It’s not uncommon, though gross, to see. 

If you are worried your chicken is choking, take a look inside its mouth to see if you can reach the bone. 

If you can’t, call a vet for advice right away. 

How Do You Feed Fish Bones To Chickens?

There’s no special way to prep and feed fish bones to chickens. It’s OK to just give them to your chickens as long as the fish isn’t rotted. If there are large and sharp pieces, break them up or pick them out. 

Chickens won’t peck and eat fish bones as much as they will, things like crab shells. 

Check out our article on chickens and crab shells

The fish bones do have some good calcium, but they don’t break down and digest as easily, so chickens tend to just pick any leftover bits of meat on them and then leave the carcass alone. 

Once they pick everything clean, make sure to pick it up (put it in your compost!). 

The little bits of fish will spoil in time, and if the chickens come back later for seconds, they could get sick eating the rotted fish. 

Can Chickens Eat Fish?

Fish is perfectly safe and healthy for chickens to eat. It’s rich in protein and omega-3s, which are essential for overall health and egg production. However, make sure to limit the amount of fish they get as the high-calorie count can cause obesity and kidney issues. 

Chickens love to eat fish, and they should! It’s a great treat for them. 

There are a lot of different parts of the fish and ways to prepare for chickens. 

The three biggest concerns for chickens and fish are: 

  1. Too high protein and calories for a staple food. 
  2. Mercury poisoning from too much fish. 
  3. The eggs will taste fishy. 

As far as protein and calories go, simply don’t feed them fish too often. 

If you’re making it a staple food in their diet, you’ll have a problem. Think of it more like a treat. 

For mercury poisoning, the same also applies; the chances of mercury becoming a problem are low to none if you don’t feed them fish all of the time. 

Still, check your area and the source of the fish. 

If the fish are high in mercury, they’ll likely be information already out there to protect the humans in the area. 

As far as the eggs go, the issue is a little undecided. 

It’s possible that if you feed your chicken a ton of eggs, they’ll taste a little fishy. 

However, the occasional fish treat won’t affect the taste at all (though it will boost the omega-3 content, which is healthy for you, too!). 

Some people say they’ll taste the fish in it no matter the amount, but I think it’s more of a placebo thing. 

My family doesn’t taste the difference, and I bet a blind taste test would show the same. 

Can Chickens Eat Cooked Fish?

Chickens can eat cooked fish just fine, though be careful about the amount of salt and other seasonings you put on it. Too much salt is bad for chickens. 

In addition to this, be careful with the other foods you pair with the dish. Chickens can’t eat everything (though they’ll try). 

Here are some big foods to avoid: 

  • Onions
  • Avocadoes
  • Apple Seeds (large amounts)
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate (why with fish, though?)

Can Chickens Eat Raw Fish?

Chickens eat raw fish just fine. It contains the same amount of or more protein than cooked fish, though it may have more bacteria or parasites inside. 

If it’s safe to eat for you, it’s safe for chickens to eat too! 

Can Chickens Eat Canned Fish?

Canned fish is safe for chickens, though it’s often saltier than fresh fish. Use it in small amounts as a treat, and opt for oil, rather than brine, preserved. 

Brine is very salty and will cause digestive issues.

Also, be on the lookout for canned fish with a lot of added flavors. This often contains extra sugars that chickens don’t need. 

Can Chickens Eat Spoiled Fish?

Chickens should never eat spoiled or rotted fish. It’ll cause instant stomach issues, at best, or severe illness. This is true for all foods; spoiled is bad. 

The problem with fish is that it goes bad quickly. 

Any time you feed chickens fish, be ready to take it away as soon as they lose interest. 

They’ll often come back for more, but by the time it may be rotted. 

Can Chickens Eat Fish Guts?

Fish guts are fine for chickens to eat as long as it doesn’t contain tapeworm or other parasites. The easiest way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to cook the guts to kill it off. Experts always recommend cooking fish guts when possible before feeding them to your chickens. 

This doesn’t mean you need to flavor and saute the guts. 

Just pop it in the oven for 10 minutes, and it’ll be good to go!