chicken management
food not suitable for chickens
There are a number of plants and foods that are poisonous to chickens and should not be fed to them.    There is also a larger number of plants and food that are potentially unhealthy or even harmful to chickens but can be fed to your chickens at least in small doses.

poisonous plants
Below is a list of plants poisonous to chickens courtesy of The plants marked with an # are plants that are found in my backyard.

  • Bloodroot
  • Bull Nettle
  • Bracken
  • Bryony
  • Carelessweed
  • Castor Bean
  • Cocklebur
  • Curly Dock #
  • Daffodil #
  • Delphinium
  • Elderberry
  • Fern #
  • Foxglove #
  • Ground Ivy
  • Hemlock
  • Horse Chestnut
  • Horse Radish
  • Hyacinth #
  • Hydrangea #
  • Ivy #
  • Laburnum (seed)
  • Lamb's Quarters #
  • Lantana
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Nightshade (Also called Deadly Nightshade) #
  • Rhododendron #
  • St. Johns Wort
  • Tulip #
  • Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata L.)
  • Yew

As is a British website some of the plants on this list may not be found in Australia, plus there are undoubtedly other plants that could be added to this list depending on what part of the world you live in. To be absolutely sure which plants in your backyard are poisonous to your chickens you should consult a local poultry website or club.

potentially unhealthy food and plants
There are numerous poultry websites with lists of food and plants that they recommend you should not feed to your chickens.  The problem is that the lists offer conflicting information and often do not match my own experiences of feeding my chickens.  Below  left is a list compiled from a number of poultry websites of plants and foods that they recommend you should not feed to your chickens .   On the right are my comments about these recommendations and whether I comply with them or not.

AVOCADO Yes.  Mainly skins and pips.
GARLIC Rarely.  Because of garlic disease risks I dispose of any rotten garlic in the garbage bin.  The good garlic is all reserved for human consumption.
CITRUS FRUIT Yes, but they never eat it.
(Because of it going mouldy)
Yes.   Though my chickens usually only eat a small amount of it when it is very fresh.  Once it gets mouldy they don't touch it.
RAW POTATOES AND POTATO SPROUTS Never.  Primarily because the potatoes are likely to sprout. 
ROTTEN FOOD Occasionally.  But usually only in the form of mouldy bread.
(Such as eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and potato leaves)
Yes, except for potato leaves.  My chickens simply ignore these leaves.
(Risk of disease)
Yes.  Usually fat offcuts or chicken skin, sometimes offal.  Though I cut it up into small pieces so the chickens can easily eat it.  My justification is that if the meat is coming from a clean source then why would it be carrying disease.
JUNK FOOD Occasionally my partner brings home stale leftover sandwiches and cakes from work that the chickens greedily gobble up.  For me feeding junk food to chickens is the same as for humans; in moderation it is fine, only in excess does it pose a health risk.
(Aids in the raising of body temperature in hot weather)
Yes. Cracked corn comes in the commercial mixed grain I feed my chickens and is not a problem in small doses.  The same body temperature raising problem applies to sunflower seeds.

Photo of a plastic compost bin.
The plastic compost bin that I use to compost poisonous plant material such as deadly Nightshade, potato and Rhubarb leaves.  It  is outside of my chicken run and always has a lid on it so if a chicken escapes it cannot get at the compost inside.
Of course the above usage comments are based on my experiences of living in Ballarat. Given that so many poultry sites have strident warnings about the dangers of feeding mouldy food to chickens it likely indicates that  some parts of the world harbour much more dangerous varieties of mould. 

So please take these comments with a grain of salt.  All they show is that my somwhat lax approach to what I feed my chickens has worked for me, it may not work for you.

Also keep in mind that I have my main compost bins in the chicken run which I add almost all my green waste to, knowing that some of that  material will not be eaten by my chickens.  If my compost bins were not in the chicken run I would only be feeding my chickens food and plants that I knew they would eat.

For information about the benefits of having your compost bins in the chicken run see Compost Bins In The Chicken Run.

For poisonous plant material such as Deadly Nightshade, Rhubarb and potato leaves. I have a separate plastic compost bin outside of the chicken run that I use to compost such material.

the discerning chicken
Chickens picking over a compost bin
Chickens picking over a compost bin containing a range of palatable and unpalatable food and plant scraps.  Chickens are very capable of sorting out what is good and not good for them to eat.
As far as I am aware in twenty five years of keeping chickens I have never lost a chicken to food poisoning, even when I have accidentally added rhubarb and potato leaves and Deadly Nightshade plants (complete with their poisonous berries) to the compost bins that my chickens forage in.  So why haven't I lost a chicken to food poisoning?

If my chickens are anything to go by it is probably because chickens are good at working out what they can and can't eat. 

I think this ability is due to a discerning palate rather than trial and error on their behalf.  If it was trial and error I would probably have lost some of my chickens to food poisoning before the rest got the message about a particular poisonous plant such as Deadly Nightshade. 

This ability cannot be restricted to specific chicken breeds as over the years I have kept a number of different breeds.  For more information on the breeds I have kept see Chicken Breeds I Have Kept.  It also appears to have little to do to the ages of the chickens.  Over the years I have raised numerous broods of chicks all of which had no problem working out what can and can't be eaten in the compost bins.

I am sure that the threat to chickens from food poisoning is a very real one but do not underestimate the ability of chickens to sort out what's good for them to eat themselves.