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Is it safe to feed my hens Christmas leftovers?

For many people Christmas leftovers are almost the best part about the festive season! Bubble and squeak or cranberry and stuffing sandwiches anyone? 

The piles of food can often keep us going for days, but is it safe to pop some of these tasty treats into our hens’ feeders for them to enjoy too? 

As tempting as it is to involve our hens in the fun and deliciousness of Christmas leftovers, the short answer is no, you cannot share your bubble and squeak with them. 

A lot of hen keepers get caught out by this one, but it’s actually illegal to feed your hens not just Christmas leftovers but any food from your kitchen.  

By law, only totally vegan households can share food from the kitchen with their flock, and Defra has specific guidance on this which you can find here

What can my hens have instead of Christmas leftovers? 

Hens everywhere can, however, enjoy veggies straight from the garden and hen treats produced specifically for them, but even these should be given in moderation. Hens can get fatty livers just like us and treats should be restricted to a dessert spoonful daily per hen. 

You can also bypass the kitchen if you’re lucky enough to have an entrance straight into your garden. Simply head straight to your hens’ run when you get home from the supermarket with a tasty cabbage or some sweetcorn and they will be absolutely delighted to see you! 

If you’re looking for some more henspiration when it comes to CHristmas treats for your hens, check out these links: 

So, what’s the law on leftovers?

welfare wednesday hen caviar

Little Brownie here, eyeing up the caviar, would technically be breaking the law if she tucked into this particular treat. Why? Following the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak caused by cross species feeding, stricter rules were brought in to control the introduction and spread of potentially devastating diseases. Outbreaks can cause significant animal health and welfare problems and damage to the economy. 

This may sound a little heavy, but the rules are in place to protect your hens, not to hinder them.

As mentioned above, you can happily take food straight into your garden so long as it has not passed through your kitchen. And if you live in a 100% vegan household there are no restrictions on feeding leftovers to your hens. 

However, a word of warning: hens are not walking dustbins, and should not be fed anything and everything. There are some human foods which can cause a great deal of harm to your hens, such as bread and potato peelings. 

If in doubt, keep it simple, only allowing them to snack on fruit and veg – even better, if you really want to spoil your girls, why not start your own fruit and veg patch in the garden! They’ll take great delight in snatching a fresh raspberry or two straight from the stalk. 

Remember that your hens take great delight in eating bugs and worms too. If in doubt, the best thing to do is to keep it simple and keep it safe.

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