Treats for Chickens

A common question I am often asked is “what treats can I give to my chickens?” There are of course no end of tasty greens that you can give to your girls that they will enjoy. Even a bucket load of weeds from the garden are a treat as they will scratch their way through them, sifting out the best bits, however if you would like to provide some really tasty treats that will help to tame your chickens to come to you when you want then insects or mealworms are very popular.

Peas are also a firm favourite for my girls, they are cheap and fresh. You can also defrost a handful of peas quickly by dropping them into some hot water for a few minutes.

Update: New Rules on Feeding Mealworms

The problem is that since I originally wrote this page in 2011, DEFRA banned the feeding of mealworms to chickens producing eggs for human consumption (in 2014, also see my page on animal by-product regulations). Many people continue to feed them, maybe because they don’t know about this rule, or maybe they feel they won’t cause any harm.

Hens absolutely love them, so if you do decide to feed them, at least be aware that it is illegal and understand the reasons why.

Mealworms are usually produced abroad and imported into the UK. To produce them, animal protein can be used. Following BSE and foot and mouth disease (which were both caused by feeding animal proteins back to animals, spreading disease) DEFRA decided that products containing animal proteins should not be fed to chickens.

I have noticed that the dried insects that you buy online are usually Gamma Irradiated & ozone sterilised so they are often stated as being pathogen free but I couldn’t tell you if that’s safe or not. Mealworms are not currently inspected / certified as being  free of ingesting animal proteins which I believe is why there is a ban.

Whilst on holiday in France, I was curious to see that the rules seem to be different (or companies are not following them?) so for our readers in France, there are mealworms marketed specifically for chickens on the shelves of many pet stores.

Anyway, just so you know, the rest of this page was written before the rules changed.

Insects for Chickens

insect treats for chickens

Insect Treats for Chickens CLICK TO BUY

Small insects can be added to your chickens feed or they can be fed to them by hand.

As you will see when your birds free range around the garden, they will eat any insects that fly or crawl close enough!

Insects provide essential amino acids required for good health. The insects you can buy have been dried so will keep a long time so you can use them from time to time as healthy treats for your birds or to tame them and hens absolutely love them.

They can be scattered around the run to encourage natural foraging. If you are using these with young birds, soak them in water first to make them easier to digest.

Dried Maggots

maggot treats for chickens

Maggot Treats – CLICK IMAGE TO BUY

Dried maggots can be fed as treats for your chickens. They are high in fat and protein and provide lots of essential amino acids for your birds.

As well as being a treat, they are useful to have in stock  for birds that are underweight, growing (due to their high protein / fat content) or recovering from illness.

Dried maggots keep for a long time and can be fed mixed with feed, scattered in the run to encourage foraging or soaked before use if feeding younger birds.

Dried Mealworms

Mealworm treats for taming chickens

Mealworm Treats – CLICK IMAGE TO BUY

Mealworms are the larvae of a beetle which feed on vegetables. Dried mealworms are probably the most popular treat that chicken keepers use to tame their birds.

Mealworms are high in protein, contain vitamins and high grade edible oils.

Mealworms that you can buy dried will (like the other insects) keep a long time and can be scattered around the run to encourage natural foraging.

Again, if you are using these with young birds, remember to soak them in water first to make them easier to digest.

Feather Pecking Boredom Buster

Insect Peck a Block

Insect Block Boredom Buster – CLICK IMAGE TO BUY

‘Occupational Health’ for chickens! This is another nutritional treat but this time one that can be useful to use as a boredom buster.

Chickens may start feather pecking if they are bored in a run during the day. Feather pecking is a difficult vice to cure but often if you have treats like this peck-a-block hanging in the run and you scatter insects in the morning and a handful of mixed corn per bird (called ‘scratch’ in the US) to encourage foraging, you can often stop feather pecking that occurs through boredom.

The pecking block contains a mixture of insects, grains, seeds and herbal extracts.

It is a complimentary Poultry Feed that provides long lasting stimulation for chickens and again, helps with boredom in the run. They are very reasonable priced at only a few pound so several can be kept in stock and added to the run as required.

Where to Buy Insect Blocks

Amazon have a complete range of reasonably priced insect treats in various sizes that are suitable for chickens available from a number of different sellers. You can see the complete range here on this page.


  1. I have three hens and am worried that in the winter months when I won’t be home until they have probably gone to bed, I will not have been able to gather eggs nor give them an afternoon treat. I suspect one hen of feather pecking as it is.
    Any advice please?

    • Change jobs, the hens take priority.

      Oh OK then that’s silly! You could use an automatic coop door closer for a start to ensure they are shut in at dusk come what may, but also remember they don’t really need afternoon treats… They will survive well on a standard commercial feed with lots of greens left for them in the morning. Weekends could be treat time 😉

  2. can anybody clarify the legal status of these insect treats. They are obviously available to purchase yet regulations seem to indicate that insects are not approved for use as feed except in fish and shellfish.

  3. EU animal by-products and TSE regulations mean that mealworms should not be fed to poultry.

    Dried crustaceans, such as river shrimps and dried terrestrial invertebrates, such as mealworms, are usually imported into UK in accordance with Annex XIV, Chapter IV, Section 2 of Regulation (EU) No 142/2011, “the competent authority may authorise the importation of certain materials for purposes other than feeding to farmed land animals (except for feeding to fur animals) provided there is no unacceptable risk for the transmission of diseases communicable to humans or animals”.

    A summary of the EU ABP & TSE legislation relating to this is as follows:

    • Terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates imported in this way are not considered to be processed animal protein (PAP), as they have not been processed in accordance with the Animal By-Product (ABP) Regulations.

    • Terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates cannot be imported as feed for poultry under provisions in the ABP Regulations, which prevent the import of certain materials, including invertebrates, for feeding to farmed livestock.

    • Under Article 31 of Regulation (EC) No. 1069/2009, terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates need to be processed to be used in feed for farmed animals.

    • However, if terrestrial invertebrates are processed, in accordance with the ABP Regulations then they do become PAP and are prevented from being fed to poultry under TSE rules.

    • Aquatic invertebrates, processed in accordance with the ABP Regulations become fishmeal and can be used in feed for poultry under authorisation conditions.

    • All poultry, including those kept as ‘pets’ are considered as farmed animals under the Animal By-Product (ABP) Regulations and the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE) Regulations.

    • Thanks for pointing this out. I have added this information to our page on animal by-product regulations and linked into this with a comment at the end of our page on feeding chickens.

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