Can Chickens Eat Food Colouring?

Most animal food contains some form of dye in it, even if it may not be completely necessary but can chickens eat food coloring? Food coloring is found in food or some people want to color their chickens with it.

Chickens are able to eat food coloring, but it is best to stick with food coloring that is 2-3% vegetable-based. Monitoring your chickens’ diet is the only way to ensure that they’re not getting too much food coloring. While they can ingest some, it can still be toxic if added directly to water. 

While chickens can eat food coloring, it is always good to consider if it is necessarily good for them.

If you’re interested in whether or not food coloring is safe for chickens, this article is for you. Keep reading for more on the safety of food coloring for chickens, as well as what chickens are eating that has food coloring.  

Is Food Colouring Safe for Chickens?

Most people have switched to only using natural food coloring as artificial food coloring isn’t the best thing for anyone to ingest. This is a good thing to keep in mind when considering feeding your chickens food coloring. 

While chickens are able to have food coloring, it is still recommended to be mindful of the kind you are using. Along with this, it isn’t necessarily a good idea to give them a lot. Food coloring shouldn’t harm your chickens as long as you use the 2-3% vegetable-based food coloring, and they aren’t ingesting large amounts. 

Not only is it not safe for the chickens, eating eggs from hens that have ingested food coloring can also be unhealthy. For some, eggs from hens that have artificial coloring in their yolks can cause allergy-like symptoms

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When do Chickens Encounter Food Colouring?

The most common reason for people to ask this question is due to a few main reasons. These usually have to do with attempting to dye a chicken a different color. This can be before or after they have hatched, but either way, you will want to be mindful of not causing harm to your chickens. 

Dying Eggs with Food Coloring Before They Hatch 

There are some people who hope that by feeding their chickens food coloring, it may transfer to the egg. This is unfortunately not likely, as the food dye would most likely not make it past the digestive system. At most, the dye would simply tint the color to a degree you most likely wouldn’t notice. 

Dying A Chicken with Food Coloring 

Many chicken owners enjoy dying their chickens using food coloring, which makes their chickens vibrant and unique colors. This is possible and is the safest option over other dying solutions. Food dye is most likely the safest dye for a chicken to ingest. 

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How To Dye A Chicken Safely With Food Colouring

  1. Apply food colouring to a toothbrush and start from the button of the chicken and follow the direction of their feathers be gentle and do not damage the feathers
  2. After applying the food colouring leave the dye for 15- 30 minutes the longer it stays on the more vibrant the color but do not leave it for more than 30 minutes to prevent stressing the chicken
  3. Use a shower of gentle sprayer and rinse the food colouring off until the water is running clear, await the chickens eyes and beak
  4. If your chicken doesn’t mind use a blow-dryer on low heat to prevent them from being cold once they are outside.

The main thing to keep in mind is that you are using the correct kind of food colouring so they don’t ingest something that can harm them. You must be sure not to harm the chicken while applying the food colouring. This means you will need to make sure to brush the food colouring on with the feathers. 

The most important thing to note while doing this is that you don’t want to cause the chicken any stress. Make sure to be mindful of your chicken, and if they appear stressed, then you should stop the process and simply rinse the food coloring off. 

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Should You Dye The Chickens Food?

This isn’t common, but some people prefer to use boiled or crushed eggshells over oyster shells when feeding their chickens. Most owners’ main concern when doing this is that this will cause the chicken to begin eating their own eggs. To prevent this, some chicken owners have dyed the eggshells to prevent them from realizing that it is eggshell they are eating. 

While you can dye the eggshells with the food coloring I mentioned previously, most people haven’t run into any issues with chickens becoming egg eaters. Most owners will simply boil or crush the eggshells and feed it to their chickens without any issues. This is the healthiest option, and as long as you are crushing the shell, then they shouldn’t realize what it is.

What Foods Might Contain Food Dye? 

There are some foods that chickens might eat that have food coloring in them. Many of these don’t seem obvious, so it’s important to read labels and keep an eye out to make sure your chickens aren’t eating anything that could make them sick.

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There are many veggies available that aren’t as natural as you might hope. In fact, unless labeled otherwise, vegetables don’t just go right from the earth to the store. More than likely, those purchased at a farmers’ market or natural grocer are farm to table, but that’s not the case for all vegetables. Baby carrots are one of the biggest culprits of harboring lots of food coloring inside. 

Store-Bought Bread

Processed bread is another food source that chickens eat that can have food coloring. It’s not a ton, but enough over time can do serious damage. 

This is something to be sure to share with everyone in the family, including visitors to your home. Tossing scraps of bread to the chickens is something that people seem to do often, and can lead you to not know how much bread your chickens are actually ingesting. 

Canned Fruit

Chickens aren’t able to have citrus at all, but there are other fruits that come in cans, and it might be tempting to feed them to chickens out of convenience. However, canned fruits often contain artificial food colouring. 


The earthy tones of grains can be deceiving and lead you to think they’re naturally coloured. But there are several that are known for being colored with food coloring:

  • Microwave popcorn
  • Oatmeal
  • Cereal
  • Granola 
  • Snack bars

There are plenty of options available that don’t have food dye, but the only way to know for sure is to read the labels. 

Poultry Feed

Even food made specifically for chickens can have unhealthy amounts of food coloring. This is especially true for chickens that rely on poultry feed for much of their nutrition. Supplementing poultry feed with other foods is one way to eliminate this problem, and of course, reading the label of your poultry feed. 

Final Thoughts 

It is important to note what can harm your chickens, and try to prevent any extra stress. While food coloring may not harm chickens, it is also not a great idea for them to ingest large amounts as it can become toxic. 

It is good to keep in mind that if there is an item that you are unwilling to eat, then it is most likely also a bad idea for your chickens to consume it. Make sure to do thorough research on what you should be feeding them, and know what to avoid. 

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Dane McManis

Dane started learning about farming while volunteering on a farm. Now he and his wife raise chickens, pigs, and ducks on their small farm with their two little girls.

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