Sardines might sound like a bizarre thing to feed to chickens, but they’re actually packed full of goodness, and from experience, I’ve found they can even be a pick-me-up for a chicken who’s not feeling great.
In this article, I’ve put together information on how you can feed sardines to chickens as a treat or to perk them up when they’re not themselves, along with the benefits and best types to use.
What are the Benefits of Feeding Chickens Sardines?
For me, sardines are one of the healthiest and most beneficial treats you can give to your flock if they need a nutrient boost.
I swear by sardines when my hens are quite themselves, especially during a molt or if the bird is having problems laying.
I started giving them sardines initially because I had an ex-barrtery hen who was struggling to lay a hard-shelled egg.
Although she was on layer feed, I wanted to give her a natural supplement that wasn’t dairy-based, so I did some research and found that sardines are an excellent source of calcium because they contain bones.
The table below shows the nutrients which are found in sardines, along with ways they can benefit your birds:
|Nutrient Found in Sardines||Benefit For the Chicken|
|Calcium||Good for bones and|
producing hard-shelled eggs
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids||Fatty acids have anti-inflammatory|
|Protein||Protein helps to keep the bird strong and|
|Vitamins (including vitamin B-12|
and Vitamin D)
|Good for overall chicken health |
|Minerals (including zinc, iron|
|Good for overall chicken health|
It’s important to note that sardines should not be fed as a replacement to their normal complete chicken food but as an occasional treat.
Although sardines are packed full of good nutrients, chicken feed is designed to give them the right amount of protein and other nutrients; however, sardines can give them an extra boost.
What Type of Sardines Can You Feed to Chickens?
You can buy sardines in various forms such as cooked and canned in sauce or oil, or fresh and raw.
The best type of sardines to feed chickens are canned in oil (not brine because they are too salty for chickens) or cooked fresh sardines.
Canned sardines are cheap and easy to keep in the cupboard until you need them, and although maybe not quite as nutrient-packed as fresh sardines, they’re still excellent.
If you do go with the fresh option and live in the UK, it’s worth keeping in mind that there are laws against feeding chickens any food prepared in a non-vegan kitchen. Click here for more information on kitchen scrap rules.
How to Feed Sardines to Chickens
If you’re feeding chickens canned sardines, remove them from the can and drain off any excess oil before placing them on a plate or dish from which the chickens can eat.
Break them up into chunks, but don’t worry about mashing them too much because the chickens will pick at the flesh with their beaks.
It is fine for the chicken to eat the whole sardine, including all of the bones, because they’re soft, and it’s the bones that contain all the calcium.
One standard-sized can of sardines will be enough as a treat for two or three average-sized chickens.
When my chickens are going through a molt, I also sprinkle over a spoon of Verm X pellets for molting birds, for an extra nutrient boost when they need it most.
How Often Should You Feed Sardines to Chickens?
A complete chicken feed contains all of the nutrients a chicken needs to stay healthy and to provide them with enough energy.
Sardines should be treated as an occasional treat one or two times a week or as a pick-me-up for a chicken who might need an extra boost in nutrients.
There are certain times when I feed my chickens sardines more regularly to give them a boost; these include:
- During molting, if the chicken looks lethargic.
- If they’re struggling to lay or are producing soft eggs.
- If we take on a new ex-caged hen.
I find sardines are perfect for older and ex-caged hens because they can have problems with soft or brittle eggs even when they’re on layer feed. In addition, sardines contain a good amount of calcium and can boost the birds when they need it most.
It’s important to point out that although home remedies like sardines can help to give them a nutrient boost, they can’t cure illness. So if you have an unwell bird and you don’t know why, always seek veterinary advice first.
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