Give Your Chickens A Protein Kick

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 21 July 2020

A chicken's diet is a beautiful balancing act between vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and of course protein. Protein, as many of us know, is basically the building blocks of existence, including eggs for that matter. There’s a reason why all those pumped up gym junkies scoff down cartons of raw eggs in the locker room and that reason is protein! So, by that logic, does more protein equal more eggs? Like most things in chicken world that answer isn’t entirely in black and white but there may be some truth to this. Read on to find out more about the benefits of treating your girls to some eggstra protein snacks.  

Barnevelder chicken in backyard    

What’s the deal with chickens and protein?

In a eggshell, protein essentially helps the body grow. Even if your chickens aren’t getting any bigger they will still be producing feathers, cooking up eggs, growing their nails, all the normal things that bodies do. Protein is the building blocks that make all of these things possible.

How much protein does my chicken need?

Chickens need different levels of protein at various stages in their life. Of course, during their first few weeks of life they will need eggstra protein to ensure that their bodies continue to grow and develop. That’s why there are different feeds for chickens at different ages. Starter feed, for example, tends to have approximately 24% protein, compared to layer feed which only has 16%. Normally chicken feed derives its protein from soybean and cottonseed meal, as well as oilseed meals, like peanut, sunflower and sesame. Generally speaking, protein is a more expensive ingredients, that’s why many chicken feed manufactures are conscious about reducing the amount of protein in their products when the chickens do not need it.

Can I give my chicken too much protein?

Your chickens can overdose on protein. Giving you chickens extra protein is like drinking a protein shake – if you indulge too regularly you’ll either get fat or start to look funny. All levity aside, if you feed your chickens a ridiculous high protein diet, your chooks will basically experience malnutrition because their bodies are simply not getting enough of the complex array of vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates that they need. Don’t feel discouraged though, giving your chooks a protein boost at select times can drastically improve their health and state of mind.

When should I treat my girls to a protein snack?

Though treating your chooks to a few sneaky snacks should be an almost daily routine, there are certain times in the year when it is best to kick-start your ladies with an extra bit of protein. Moulting season in particular is the perfect time to treat your laying hens to some more protein. It’s important that you fortify your flock’s diet with extra protein, which will help them reproduce their feathers, as well as assisting them produce eggs again. Though there are a lot of ways you can ensure that your chooks produce eggs for longer, a few extra protein treats here and there is definitely a great option.

Do chickens in hot climates need more protein?

There is some evidence to suggest that chickens who live in hot and humid climates, like Australia, need fractionally more protein than chickens from cooler parts of the world. To be clear however this is only a small percentage more - about 18-19 % of a chicken’s diet in Australia should be protein, compared to around 16% in other parts of the world.

What are some protein snacks I can give my chooks?

Whatever extra protein snacks you decide to give your hungry girls make sure it doesn’t equate to more than an extra teaspoon of protein per chook per day. It’s important to remember that their feed has plenty of protein in it as well – so a teaspoon may not sound like enough, but it’s only supposed to be an extra boost to their system, like taking a multivitamin. Here are some protein treat ideas for your chickens…

Cooked Eggs


Yes, cooked eggs does sound strange, but believe me your girls will love gobbling down on some scrambled eggs. Not surprisingly it is a very rich source of protein that will rapidly assist you chickens forming new feathers during a moult or simply inspire their egg maker to really kick it up a notch. Make sure you don’t give them raw eggs though as this might compel your ladies to start eating their own eggs, shortly after laying them – annoying!



Mealworms are the crème de la crème protein chicken treats. Your chickens will go wild for them be they served fresh or dried. If you want to encourage your chickens to scratch a bit more be sure to scatter them around the coop and backyard, which will surely get your girls gardening.

Pumpkin seeds


Fresh pumpkin seeds are one of the best scraps you can give to your girls. They are a dense source of protein, as well as being rich in anti-oxidants that will have your ladies feeling in top form. So, next time you’re carving up a pumpkin, make sure you save the seeds for the coop.

Japanese Millet


Like oats, Japanese millet is a rich source of protein and other essential vitamins and minerals. It can be easily grown alongside bodies of water, like lakes, rivers and swamps. If you live in a wet area make sure plant some Japanese millet, which you’ll be able to treat your chooks to once it is in season.



Tasty fish like tuna and sardines will drive your chickens wild. It won’t take them long to peck the carcass of a tuna fish clean, as their bodies crave the high protein and omega 3 content that fish possess in abundance. If you give your flock canned sardines or tuna make sure that it doesn’t have any additives, like salt or oil – fresh is always best.



Chickens may not eat parsley directly from the garden, but if you mix it through into their feed or other treats, they will munch it down in no time. Not many people know that parsley is actually quite a dense source of protein that can easily be grown in your garden. So, just like in a restaurant, make sure you garnish you chickens meals with just a touch of parsley here and there.

There are surely a whole host of other protein treat ideas for your chooks, but this should give you an idea of some of the more popular snacks. At the end of the day, whether you’re keeping ISA Browns, Silkies or Plymouth Rocks, your chickens are going to lay more productively if they have a balanced diet in a safe, calm and relaxing environment. One way to make your girls feel secure is to ensure they have a beautiful coop, like the Taj Mahal, Penthouse or Mansion, which you can browse on our website now!

From proteins to disease prevention, make sure that you've got the knowledge you need to raise a happy, healthy flock. Did you know 67% of chicken keepers surveyed experienced a chicken health or behaviour issue in the first 12 months that they didn’t know how to handle?

But don’t worry! Our feathered friends over at Chickenpedia have created a Chicken Healthcare Course. It is a comprehensive online course that covers everything you need, including what to look for in an unhealthy chicken and how to support your egg-laying hens to optimal health. All of their courses are really well structured and filled with vital knowledge, which is why I highly recommend them to all of my readers! From raising baby chicks to feeding to behavior, you’ll find valuable information that’ll give you the knowledge and confidence to successfully look after your chickens.

Check out Chickenpedia today. As a member, you will also get access to the ALL of their chicken courses!

Sources and further reading