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Can Chickens and Baby Chicks Eat Rice? (and should they?)

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For many years, wedding parties have often discouraged the act of throwing uncooked rice as the new couples leave for fear that it will harm the birds that eat it. This may have you wondering if rice is safe to add to your own backyard chicken program.

Can chickens eat rice? Yes! You can safely feed both cooked and uncooked rice to your chickens.

Rice is a healthy and economical food that can be added to your poultry feeding regimen without worry. Your chickens will love the variety that rice adds and they will unknowingly be getting some much-needed nutrients as well!

hens and chicks eating

Rice is a staple in many countries and has long served as a calorie-rich food that is as tasty as it is nutritious.  Thankfully, rice will be a great addition to your chickens’ diets and if you take the necessary precautions, you can feed it without any fear of adverse side effects.

Not all rice is created equal and there are some varieties that should be avoided when possible.

How healthy is rice for chickens?

Rice is very healthy for chickens! Rice is a cereal grain that is cultivated and eaten by people all around the world.

Rice comes in several varieties, some more nutritious than others, and it is full of fiber and protein.

  • Brown and wild rice contains large amount of these nutrients as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This is because it is minimally processed before being packaged.
  • White rice contains less nutrients because the healthier parts of the rice has been removed during processing, but it still is a relatively healthy treat for humans and chickens alike.
  • Cooked rice is rice that has been boiled and steamed to add moisture, making it easier to eat as well as digest for humans. It is not necessary to cook rice before feeding it to your chickens, but it perfectly healthy for them if you do.

Remember that chickens can eat and digest rice much easier than we can, regardless of how it is prepared.

chickens eating food

Is rice safe for baby chicks?

Baby chicks and chickens up to at least 10 weeks old should be fed chicken starter food instead of treats or foods like rice.

Starter chick feed is a mixture that is specially formulated to provide baby chickens with the nutrients and calories that they need to survive and grow.

You should avoid feeding baby chicks cooked or uncooked rice, or any rice varieties until they are at least 6 months old or even older. Young chickens need a balanced diet to help them grow and overcome any illnesses or other health issues that they may encounter.

It is safest to wait to feed them any variations from their starter or grower food until they are much older (outside of the occasional high protein treat like I list in this article about baby chick treats)

The truth about uncooked rice and birds

You may have heard time and time again that if you feed raw, uncooked rice to birds of any kind, it will cause them to explode. This rumor is most often spread in reference to weddings, but it is not true! It is a myth and it has been disproven by bird enthusiasts all over the world.

The truth is, birds of all kinds, including chickens, can safely eat uncooked rice without the fear of explosion or death.

While people may claim to have seen birds die from eating raw rice, the truth is that there have been no documented cases of a bird of any kind, including a chicken, eating uncooked rice and dying from it.

A biology professor from Kentucky named Jim Krupa fed his own pigeons and doves only instant rice and water for 12 hours and noted that none of his 60 birds displayed any negative side effects. (source)

Many backyard chicken owners agree, they have fed their chickens both cooked and uncooked rice, instant and regular and their chickens are just fine.

How can chickens safely eat uncooked rice?

Chickens have unique digestive systems made up of multiple parts that allow them to digest their food in stages. It also allows chickens to begin safely digesting uncooked rice shortly after eating it.

The popular myth about birds and raw rice claims that the uncooked rice will mix with water in the bird or chicken’s stomach, expand and then cause the stomach to burst, resulting in death.  

The problem with this theory is that rice needs to be boiled to expand rapidly enough to harm a bird’s stomach. Due to the way food moves through a chicken’s body, there is not enough time for this rapid expansion to happen.

Once a chicken eats raw rice, the food will move into the crop, a storage area for excess food. It will then pass to the proventriculus, the stomach, where it will mix with digestive juices and begin breaking down.

Whatever rice particles are leftover will move into the chicken’s gizzard where it is ground up into even smaller pieces to aid in digestive. At this point, there is not enough rice left to expand to a point that would cause any issues.

rice crispies

Are Rice Krispies okay to feed to chickens?

Rice Krispies are a popular crisped rice cereal that is completely safe for chickens to eat in moderation. It contains vitamins B6, B12, and D as well as iron, potassium and Folic Acid.

Chickens are able to easily eat and digest this cereal in moderation. As long as you continue providing your chickens with a balanced diet, you can safely feed them some plain Rice Krispies cereal each day.

Avoid feeding your chickens Cocoa Krispies as well as Frosted Rice Krispies cereal because they each contain larger amounts of sugar and sodium that, over time, may be detrimental to your chicken’s health. (source)

You should not feed your chickens any Rice Krispies Treats cereal or bars as they contain sticky binding agents that are hard for chickens to eat and they also have unhealthy added sugars.

rice cakes

Can chickens eat rice cakes?

Yes, chickens can eat rice cakes but that does not mean that they should regularly.

Rice cakes consist of puffed out rice compacted together to form a not-so-cakey cake. They are a low-calorie food that is often touted as a go-to diet food; however, rice cakes are not healthy at all.

Rice cakes have little nutritious value and do little to satisfy hunger, but chickens often find them enjoyable to eat.

You can safely let your chickens eat rice cakes on occasion, but do not use the cakes to replace any of their essential and nutritious foods. Chickens cannot survive on nutrient-lacking rice cakes alone.

Steer clear of flavored and premixed rice blends

Feeding your chickens plain rice is fine, but you should avoid feeding them premixed flavored rice.

Rice-based foods that already contain spice additives when you buy them typically have a large amount of sodium in them that is not healthy for chickens, especially in large quantities. These rice products are not often very healthy for humans, so they will not be healthy for your chickens.

Things to Remember

  1. Always feed any treats or variations from a chicken’s natural diet in moderation.
  2. Brown and wild rice ranks higher on the nutritional scale than white rice.
  3. Avoid feeding chickens rice products that have a lot of added sugar or sodium.
  4. Uncooked rice is safe to feed your chickens.

Final Thoughts

Chickens are typically hardy animals that can eat a large variety of foods. Luckily, rice is just another safe food for chickens to eat in moderation. Forget that odd myth you heard about chickens and their stomachs exploding, raw and cooked rice are both safe for birds and chickens.