Can Chickens Eat Moldy Food? What To Do If They Did

We all know the feeling of reaching for what you thought to be a perfectly fresh piece of bread or fruit, and finding out it’s gone moldy!

As a chicken owner, your first may be “bugger”, but your second thought may be “I wonder if this is alright for my chickens?”

Whether you’re pondering feeding your chickens moldy food, or you’ve accidentally fed your chickens something moldy without realizing it until afterward. Here’s what you need to know.

Can Chickens Eat Moldy Food?

To begin with, we have to establish that there is a level of “off” food. Let’s take bread for instance. Bread goes from fresh, to stale, to a little bit of mold, to completely dominated by mold.

Since mold is actually a fungus, it can be harmful at ANY level. But, generally the moldier it appears, the more harmful it can be. Even so, when consumed in any amount it can still do harm to your chickens. So because of this chickens shouldn’t eat anything with mold on it at all. 

Therefore it’s vitally important to check any leftovers for signs of mold before offering it to your chickens. This goes for vegetables, fruits, grains, and all. Even regular chicken feed can grow mold, especially if it’s absorbed moisture or has been exposed to the open air for too long. 

But, if your chickens have accidentally eaten a small amount of moldy food, there’s a chance they’ll be absolutely fine. I mean, chickens will eat snakes, chickens will even eat dog poop, all while being able to live to tell the tale.

Still, it’s never worth the risk so always try to prevent chickens from having any moldy food. This goes for other poultry like ducks too.

What If Your Chickens Ate Moldy Food?

It’s a simple mistake, giving your chickens a bit of old fruit or stale bread only to find out after the fact that it’s actually moldy. If your chickens already ate moldy food, like some moldy bread, it’s good to know what to expect. That way, you can take the right actions depending on what symptoms your chickens show.

Firstly, it’s important to note that there are hundreds and thousands of different molds, so what may look like just a small amount, may actually be one of the more toxic varieties. With this in mind, always err on the side of caution.

Moldy food is more often than not toxic. One of the most common illnesses it can cause in chickens is mycotoxicosis. The most common symptoms include diarrhea or weight loss, leading to very underweight chickens.

In mild cases, this will also cause issues with your hen’s egg production. If caught early and treated by a vet, your chickens will return to their normal selves. Unfortunately however, without treatment, this can lead to kidney and liver failure and end up being fatal.

But it’s also important to know that if your chickens only have a small quantity of moldy foods, they can actually be completely fine. Observe your chickens for the next 2-48 hours to watch for any strange behavior.

Some chicken owners also report that you can feed your chickens Epsom Salt or molasses to clear their systems of toxins too.

If your chicken definitely ate some moldy food, to be safe, you can always consult a vet, and they can prescribe anti-fungal medication or other treatment if necessary. But, if it’s just a small amount, there’s a good chance your chickens will be OK.

How To Stop Chicken Feed From Going Moldy

If you find your chicken feed’s become moldy — stop feeding it to your chickens immediately. This goes for moldy chick starter feed too, as baby chicks cannot eat any moldy food as they are especially vulnerable at this age. 

Once you’ve disposed of your moldy chicken feed, you’re going to want to set up the correct storing conditions for their feed to prevent it going moldy again.

Here are a few quick guidelines when it comes to safe chicken feed storage:

  1. Chicken feed should always be kept in an airtight container to limit mold spores interacting with the feed.
  2. Don’t allow your chicken feed to get wet or absorb excess moisture!
  3. Avoid stocking up on too much feed at once. After a month or so the seeds and grains begin to soften and lose their nutritional value.
  4. Always store your chicken feed in a dry location, away from any sunlight, rain, and any damp conditions which could grow mold.

How Do You Know Your Food Is Moldy?

It should be easy to identify moldy food, especially with bread. If you find spots on the food, be it black, white, blue, or even green, it’s moldy. The green and white are likely the first to appear, and they should be the first sign that the bread has gone bad. If you’re seeing black spots, that means the food is too far gone and is much more harmful to consume.

Another telltale sign is the smell. Any food will smell odd when it’s moldy, including bread. If you find its smell similar to that of alcohol, it’s off the menu for both you and your chickens.

When you’re looking at fruits and vegetables the easiest sign of mold is to observe any signs of rot. This can happen if the food is much softer than it’s supposed to be, or has started to discolor. To be safe always avoid feeding your chickens these fruits and vegetables if that’s the case.

To Wrap Up

It seems obvious in the end, chickens cannot and should not eat moldy foods, even if it’s only a small amount.

But, if your backyard chickens have eaten only a small amount that you accidentally gave them, chances are they will indeed be OK. Watch their behavior and examine them closely afterward just in case, and if you believe they’re at all in danger then it’s always best to consult a vet for advice and options.

Even if a small amount of mold may be OK, the risks are simply not worth it for chicken health and wellbeing. Always be extra careful when feeding your chickens any leftovers or table scraps.

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