Can Chickens Eat Coffee Grounds? (Is It Safe For Coops?)

Feeding pets scraps and reusing food waste has become commonplace, but there are still some hazards.

Some food can be toxic to animals, and leaving them in proximity of your cats, dogs, or even chickens can be a real risk. 

In this guide, we'll explore whether chickens can eat coffee grounds and what the implications might be to them.  

Coffee grounds might seem like an appropriate food for chickens or other animals.

Many people even deliberately feed coffee grounds to their chickens to see how they react to the caffeine and to test whether it increases their egg laying capacity. 

Unfortunately, this is not the case, and coffee grounds will only make your chickens very sick.

You should never feed your chicken coffee grounds or any caffeine because even small amounts can seriously harm or kill your chickens.  

Why Are Coffee Grounds Harmful To Chickens?

When chickens eat coffee grounds it can make them really sick, and the reason for the harmful nature of coffee grounds is the caffeine contained within them. 

Caffeine is a form of methylxanthine which is present in coffee, chocolate, and tea, and is toxic to most animals, including chickens. 

If your chicken consumes even a small amount of methylxanthine, it can cause issues very quickly, and the poisoning can take effect in under 30 minutes.

When they eat coffee grounds the caffeine toxicity in chickens will usually present itself as: 

  • Vomiting 
  • Panting 
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Agitation 
  • Tremors Or Seizures 

Scientists have run studies to see why caffeine toxicity impacts chickens and have found that it’s because the caffeine stops calcium absorption and impacts the immune system. 

This, in turn, impacts their central nervous, respiratory, and circulatory systems and can cause them to shut down.

It doesn't matter whether you use your own grounds or grounds from Starbucks coffee shops, caffeine is very toxic to chickens, and even a small amount can cause death.  

Will Chickens Avoid Coffee Grounds?

Some pets have a natural nose for food, and they’ll avoid eating spoiled food or anything which could make them sick, but in our experience, this isn't a quality that chickens have.

Many chicken owners have claimed that their pet chickens will ignore fresh coffee grounds and unless they feed chickens directly they won't eat it.

This means they feel comfortable using their own used grounds on the soil without worrying about the caffeine toxicity. 

Unfortunately, the truth is there's no real way of knowing whether the chickens eat coffee grounds left out. 

If you want to keep your chickens safe, you need to keep coffee grounds away from them, and that probably means avoiding putting them in the compost bin.  

Coffee grounds have been proven to be a good fertilizer which will promote healthy growth and support organic gardening.

The coffee chaff can even protect your soil from insects, but by leaving it on the surface, you run the risk of chickens consuming it. 

If you're raising chickens then you should never feed your chickens your own coffee grounds directly and never leave it in an area where they may come across it and ingest it.

Even having a small amount of it in your chicken's diet can lead to serious issues.

Can You Feed Coffee Grounds To Other Animals?

You shouldn't use your used coffee grounds as chicken feed, and feeding coffee grounds to any animals is a bad idea. 

It's a common myth that pigs eat coffee grounds, and that other farmyard animals enjoy them.

This isn't the case though - and eating coffee grounds is bad for them because it's too much caffeine.

If your pet ingests caffeine it's dangerous too as the caffeine consumption and chemical compound called methylxanthine can be harmful.

Can Chickens Eat Coffee Grounds? (Is It Safe For Coops?)

Are Coffee Grounds Safe For Chicken Bedding Coops? 

Coffee grounds may seem like a good choice for chicken coop bedding because of the texture, and coffee grounds do actually have some very positive qualities that make them well suited to the job.

They will help to absorb moisture, reduce mess, and most importantly, give you a much more pleasant smell.

The risk is that your chicken will ingest the coffee grounds and these ingested coffee grounds can cause caffeine poisoning.  

There’s a split opinion about whether coffee grounds are safe for bedding coops and as chicken coop litter.

Many people believe it’s a great way to give their own used coffee grounds a 2nd life as a good smelling, low-cost form of bedding, but others believe it isn't worth the risk because if the chicken eats even a tiny amount, it can cause a lot of harm.  

For us, the risk of chickens eating it is too high and it's better to use other materials to line chicken coops. 

Chickens aren't naturally drawn to coffee grounds as food, but there's no guarantee they won't consume coffee grounds left on the floor.

There are plenty of other inexpensive materials to use in the bedding, and we'd recommend using wood shavings, straw, hay, sand, or pine for a safer chicken coop. 

Plus, you won't end up with a moldy, stinky mess when the chicken manure mixes with the raw beans!

coffee ground grains

What Common Food Leftovers Are Good For Chickens? 

Chickens, coffee grounds, and dinner time do not mix because of the caffeine toxicity, but the good news is that chickens aren’t particularly picky with what they eat.

They shouldn't eat coffee, but there's a lot of leftover food you can feed your feathered friends.

If you pick the right scraps, you can give them a lot of healthy nutrients and help improve their overall health. This is what we'd recommend feeding them:  

  • Grains
    Barley, wheat, and other types of grain are all great for chickens. They give them a lot of nutrients they might not get otherwise and encourages them to forage on the floor when you scatter it.  
  • Oats
    Oats can be fed to chickens raw or cooked. They’re a great source of vitamins, protein, and antioxidants and provide various nutrients that will support your chicken’s immune system.  
  • Cooked Meat 
    Chickens can and will eat cooked or raw meat. Raw meat is a bit of a risk because it could have salmonella, which will quickly spread throughout your flock.

    Cooked meat is just as good for them and provides some healthy protein. Just try to avoid any fatty meats and cut it into small pieces, so it's easier for the chickens to digest.  
  • Cheese 
    Cheese might not seem like an obvious choice, but it will provide your chicken with protein, calcium, magnesium, and various vitamins. This will help to strengthen their bones and help prevent any physical deformities.  
  • Fruit 
    Fruit has a wide variety of minerals and vitamins, which are just as good for chickens as they are for us. We find banana works really well.  
oats & seeds

Here are some foods you should never feed your chicken: 

  • Coffee grounds 
  • Chocolate 
  • Raw eggs 
  • Uncooked rice 
  • Avocado skin 
  • Sugary sweets 
  • Dried beans 
  • Out of date food 

Other More Effective Ways To Use Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are toxic to chickens, but that doesn't mean they can't be used in other ways.

You need to make sure that your chickens can't get access to them, but if you're able to seal off part of the yard, here are a few ways to make the most of them:   

Fertilizers  

Coffee grounds actually make an excellent fertilizer because they contain essential nutrients like nitrogen, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, and chromium.

All of these help your plants to grow and promote healthy soil. 

Some specific plants like blueberries and lilies, and crops like carrots and radishes, also get an extra boost from the coffee grounds.

Some companies have now started selling coffee grounds as fertilizer because they're so effective and if you want to buy used grounds you can check out your local Tractor Supply store. 

Mix the coffee grounds with dry materials and sprinkle on top of your soil to get all of the benefits.

Try not to use too much coffee or it can make your soil acidic, and make sure it’s somewhere your chickens can’t access.  

Pest & Insect Repellent  

In the last few years coffee began being used as an insect repellent and it worked really well!

If you layer coffee grounds on top of your soil, it can repel insects and pests, stopping them from getting to your plants, and the smell will also discourage some pests from even coming close. 

Just make sure you only use it in fenced-off areas so your chickens can't reach it.  

Composting 

Coffee grounds make excellent compost material and can be used in composting to help break down organic waste.

By mixing it with the other composting material, you will also give it a fresher coffee smell and remove the horrible mulch odor from the area. Just make sure your compost is covered and away from animals.  

Scouring 

Coffee grounds are actually great for cleaning stubborn stains from your pots and pans. The coarse texture of the grounds means you can use them on the dishes and scour off the stains.

Just make sure you rinse it all off thoroughly afterwards. 


Common Chicken & Coffee Questions 

What other foods are not safe for chicken aside from coffee grounds? 

Chickens should avoid any out-of-date food, avocado skin, chocolate, raw eggs, and any coffee grounds or foods with caffeine. A full list of foods you should avoid can be found here 

Will coffee grounds kill the chicken? 

Yes, if your chicken eats too many of the coffee grounds, it can kill them, and you will start to see the symptoms of caffeine poisoning within 30 minutes.  

Can chicken eat whole coffee beans? 

No, it can be hazardous for chickens to eat whole coffee beans.  

Can coffee grounds stain the chicken feathers? 

No, dried coffee grounds shouldn’t stain the feathers or any other part of the chicken. 


Conclusion

Coffee grounds are toxic to chickens and should never be fed to them if you want them to stay healthy.

You should also avoid leaving coffee grounds in areas chickens can access, or they may ingest it accidentally and give themselves toxic poisoning. 

Hopefully this guide has helped explain why coffee grounds are toxic to chickens and has given you some ideas of other ways to use coffee grounds safely.  

Kayla Stavridis

Head of Marketing

Kayla Stavridis
Kayla Stavridis is a coffee enthusiast and Head of Marketing for Barista HQ. She blends her professional insights and experience with a deep passion for all things coffee. Kayla offers a unique, hands-on perspective on coffee culture and trends. You can find her sipping a cold brew with just a touch of milk on the beach in the afternoon and a Corona with lime in the evening.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... Cold Brew

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