Can chickens safely consume oatmeal or is it harmful to them? For those raising chickens who are interested in incorporating oatmeal into their diet, it can be a nutritious and beneficial snack. However, there seems to be some debate and controversy on whether or not oatmeal is even suitable for chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Oatmeal?
Absolutely! Chickens can consume both cooked and uncooked oatmeal, as well as unprocessed raw oats that still have their hulls intact. Oats are a nutritious and delicious addition to a chicken's diet, making for an excellent snack, meal or supplement.
Oats contain something called beta-glucan, which chickens apparently digest poorly. Studies have shown that beta-glucan can cause a thick gel to form in birds’ intestines, preventing vital nutrient absorption.
When it comes to adding oatmeal to poultry diets, there are several factors to take into account. We're here to provide insight into these considerations and address common inquiries regarding chickens and oatmeal. In general, if oatmeal is properly integrated into their diet, chickens typically flourish when consuming it.
Beta Glucan & Oatmeal Toxicity
Beta-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides and soluble fibers. They are found in the greatest abundance in certain raw foods and cereal grains like oats, barley, wheat, rye, yeast, and a few mushroom species.
Whole, unprocessed grains, like steel-cut oats and pearl barley, contain the highest levels. Any processing done to the grains (like sprouting, fermenting, cooking) naturally reduces the amount of beta-glucan.
The term fiber refers to the parts of the plant that cannot be digested or absorbed by the body. Beta-glucan is thus not digested but works to slow food transit in the intestines.
And this is what can cause potential issues and make oatmeal bad or even dangerous, flock: it can inhibit nutrient uptake.
While this is certainly possible, beta-glucans also have a long list of benefits: beta-glucans slow the absorption of carbohydrates which results in more even blood sugar levels.
There are also a number of nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals in oatmeal that are obviously good for chickens. Things like: copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, protein, vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B5 (pantothenic acid).
One study reports, “The energy content of naked (hulled) oats is 17% and similar to that of wheat. Oats (both regular and naked) contain beta-glucans, which can cause digestive problems and sticky litter when fed to poultry. Researchers have reported that up to 40% of naked oats could be included in broiler diets with no adverse effect on growth, feed efficiency, shrinkage, dressing percentage, or bone strength.”
In fact, the whole grain chicken grower feed I buy and ferment to feed my chickens from the day they hatch contains oats.
So do many other commercial feeds.
Clearly, the toxicity of beta-glucan in oatmeal is perhaps a bit overstated.
Keeping Your Flock Warm & Happy During Winter
In the wintertime, I love to serve my flock a platter of cooked oatmeal with scrambled eggs, flax meal, and black oil sunflower seeds. It is a great way to warm your chickens on those chilly mornings and provide them with extra nutrition too.
Many will insist this is unnecessary pampering and that all chickens need is their feed, and that's fine if it's how you choose to do things at your place.
But if humans need extra fats and proteins during the winter, why shouldn't chickens get something extra too?
- Feeding Free-Range Pastured Chickens During Winter
- How Is Cold Too Cold For Chickens?
- Winterizing Your Chicken Coop
How To Feed Chickens Oatmeal
Raw vs. Cooked Oats
Raw oatmeal is perfectly safe for chickens to eat, but prefer to feed mine cooked.
I also prefer sprouted oatmeal (Costco has big bags of Organic sprouted oatmeal) over the other kinds as it is more nutritious and easier to digest.
If you have a chicken with some type of digestive upset, I would absolutely make sure to cook the oatmeal first and I would also feed it in conjunction with scrambled eggs.
So, with that said, it is generally better to cook the oats before feeding them to your chickens, especially if you are unsure or have a chicken with digestive upset.
Cold vs. Hot
You can feed cooked oatmeal to chickens warm or cold, but never piping hot.
Note that even if you heat it, chickens are grazers, and will likely pick away at their healthy treat for hours…it won’t be warm for long.
How Often Can I Feed Oatmeal?
You can feed oatmeal to chickens every day, but it is important to remember that they should not eat more than about ¼ cup of dry oats per day.
Oats are high in carbohydrates and can cause weight gain if chickens eat too much on top of their regular feed.
It can also throw them off nutritionally.
Ensure you provide your chickens with proper feed each day, and incorporate the oatmeal where you see fit. Consider giving them oatmeal (for example) in their food each morning; they may graze and take their time consuming it!
There is also a myth worth debunking here. It’s been said often that feeding chickens oatmeal in the winter months can adversely affect when a hen lays her eggs (in that it prompts her to lay sooner). There is not currently concrete evidence to support this.
It’s also worth stating that chickens, especially in winter, do not require their food to be warmed up! Most chickens have a body temperature higher than humans, and while they might not fuss over a slightly warmed bowl of oats, they don’t require it.
What Type of Oatmeal?
When feeding oatmeal to chickens, you can give them whole regular oats (steel cut is fine) rolled oats, or instant oatmeal. All three types can be safe for chickens to eat and offer different nutritional benefits.
Whole oats are the least processed and contain the most fibre, while steel-cut oats are easier to digest. Rolled oats are generally more processed depending on the brand, and instant oatmeal is pre-cooked and often flavored with sugar or other additives.
Avoid instant oatmeal, please. Both for yourself and your chickens.
While any of these options could be good for your chickens, it is important to note that whole or steel-cut oats are likely the best choice and that you should avoid instant oatmeal in many cases as they have a lot of additives and flavoring.
It is imperative to ensure your oatmeal choice is preservative and sugar-free (organic is always good, too) so that you don’t accidentally make your chickens sick.
Benefits of Feeding Oatmeal
Oatmeal is a healthy food and desirable snack option for chickens; it provides many nutritional benefits. It is high in fiber, which helps may help keep the chicken's digestive system working properly.
Oats are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, and manganese. Additionally, oatmeal can help chickens stay warm and active in the winter and provides a healthy alternative to other processed treats.
Overall, oatmeal is nutritious for chickens that can provide many benefits.
Oatmeal & Baby Chicks
Oh, this is another controversial topic in the chicken world: feeding anything other than chick starter to chicks.
You should know that I do not bother feeding chick starter to my chicks at all.
And in place of medicated chick starter, we utilize the Deep Litter Method of coop management, which is a natural and effective way to provide coccidiosis immunity to chicks.
My baby chicks get the same fermented Chicken Grower Feed (18% protein) that my entire flock gets, whether that be the layers, the meat birds, the pretty and expensive heritage breeds, the day-olds or the adults.
My chicks also get scrambled eggs weekly with black oil sunflower seeds, seaweed, and flax meal too alongside their fermented feed.
If you wish to feed oatmeal to your chicks, then go ahead and do it, but do not make it the primary food source, especially if your feed already contains oats in a good quantity.
I would also definitely cook the oatmeal first.
Best Oatmeal Picks For Chickens
Organic and sprouted rolled oats.
This is the brand we buy and have in our pantry.
You can also buy (untreated) whole oats from feed stores and sprout them yourself. they won't be rolled into oatmeal, but they will be MUCH cheaper.
You can also just buy a high-quality feed that already has oats in it and then ferment the feed to make it more beneficial and easier to digest for your chickens.
Check your local Costco first as it is cheaper to buy there.
In conclusion, oatmeal is a healthy and nutritious food option for chickens that can provide many benefits.
However, there are a few things to consider when feeding oatmeal to your chickens, such as potential digestive issues and weight gain. Always monitor your chickens and introduce new foods slowly; remember, you can combine the oatmeal with other foods! If you notice problems, reduce the amount you’re feeding them.
Overall, your chickens should graze happily and absorb all the nutritional benefits oatmeal has to offer!
Learn More About Chickens
- Can Chickens Eat Tomatoes?
- Feeding Chickens Cheese & Dairy Products
- What To Feed Chickens During Winter
- Can Chickens Eat Grapes? Grape Safety & Nutrition
- Can Chickens Eat Bananas & Banana Peels?
- Fermenting Chicken Feed For Healthier Hens, Better Eggs, & Cost Savings
- 15 Surprising Benefits Of Backyard Chickens
- Pasty Butt in Chickens: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, & Prevention