Can My Backyard Chickens Chow Down On Dried Peas and Lentils?



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Now I know what you’re thinking – why the heck would I wanna feed my feathered ladies something weird like dried peas and lentils?

Don’t they just peck at chicken feed and scraps from the garden?

And you’d be right to wonder! But let me tell you, when you’ve raised chickens as long as I have, you get to know them pretty dang well.

I’ve had my little flock for nigh on 12 years now – started out with just 4 little buff Orpington chicks for my daughter’s 4-H project.

Fast forward over a decade and I’ve now got 32 chickens pecking around my coop! Breeds like Rhode Island Reds, Black Australorps, Barred Rocks – you name it, I’ve raised it.

So I could tell when my ladies started getting bored of their daily feed.

My little Leghorn Lucy stopped racing me to the coop in the mornings.

And Rosa, my big Rhode Island Red, started leaving more and more feed behind. That’s when I knew it was time for a change!

Turns out peas and lentils can make a nutritious little supplement to a chicken’s diet – in moderation, of course!

Just be sure not to overdo it with legume feeds, or you might get some messy chicken poop issues.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me break this down for you:

A Dash of Legume Delight

The long and short of it is dried peas, lentils, beans and other legumes have good stuff like protein and fiber that chooks need to stay healthy and happy.


Usually about 16-18% protein, not to mention all kinds of amino acids, vitamin B, and more. So as a change up from plain chicken feed, they can be pretty dang good.

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Now your average chicken feed runs about 16-17% protein too. But the difference is legumes provide protein in a whole, natural form that can spur a chicken’s appetite in new ways.

I first tried sprinkling some green split peas and red lentils into the mix. Those gals gobbled it up like kids gobbling Halloween candy!

But don’t go dumping a whole sack of lentils in there willy nilly! Legumes need to be fed in moderation. Here’s a few tips…

Don’t Overdo It!

While legumes provide good nutrition, too many can bind up those sensitive chicken tummies. Their digestive systems just aren’t built to handle large amounts of beans or peas.


All those oligosaccharides cause gas and loose droppings – not a pretty sight!

So mix just a little bit into their feed to start – we’re talking 10-15% or so replacement. In a typical 20lb feed bag, that’s just 2-3 lbs of dried peas substituted in.

For my flock, I’ll mix in about half a 5 lb bag of green split peas to start.

Keep an eye on your chickens’ droppings and appetites as they adjust to the new feed mix. If you see any changes, back off the legumes for a bit.

You can try again later with smaller amounts. The key is slow, gradual introduction so their digestive systems adapt.

Soak Them First

Simply sprinkling dry peas and lentils into feed doesn’t give the best result. Those tough little legume seeds often pass right through undigested without chickens getting full nutritional benefit.

That’s why it’s important to soak dried peas and lentils before feeding. Recommended soaking time is at least 8 hours, even better if soaked for a full 24 hours. This softens up the outer seed coat through hydration, releasing key nutrients and making it much easier for digestion when chickens eat them.

After soaking, simply drain off excess water and mix peas/lentils thoroughly into feed. I like using a 5 gallon bucket and big wooden spoon to mix it up before scattering feed in the run. More uniform blending means each chicken gets an even share of the legume goodness!

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Watch out for Digestive Upset

I’ll admit, I learned the hard way not to overdo it with legume feeds. One time I estimated my peas-to-feed ratio wrong. Let’s just say the coop cleanup wasn’t pretty! Explosively loose chicken droppings tell you right quick something’s not right.

So if you start spotting issues like diarrhea, decreased appetite, sluggishness or poor egg production after feeding legumes, back off the amount substantially. Give their systems a reset before slowly reintroducing a smaller legume ratio.

Making changes gradually allows your chickens’ guts to acclimate without major upset.

It may take some experimenting to find that perfect sweet spot. But with some fine tuning, peas and lentils can be a treat both you and your flock love!

Best Varieties to Use


With dozens of dried bean and pea varieties out there, which are best for chicken treats? I prefer sticking to peas for easiest digestion, including:

As for lentils, red and green lentils are safest. They hold their shape well compared to smaller lentil varieties that can blow right through…

Serving Size Guidelines

Exactly how much dried legumes can chickens safely consume? As with any treat, using peas and lentils to replace just 10-15% of feed by weight is a good rule of thumb.

For a typical backyard flock of 6-12 chickens, that may work out to:

  • 4 oz dried split peas per bird, per week
  • 3 oz dried lentils per bird, per week

Split up into 2-3 smaller servings mixed into feed over the week. Very large commercial flocks would follow similar percentage-based guidelines.

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Avoid Pre-Seasoned Varieties

Skip those split pea or lentil soup mixes! While the onion, garlic, and spice flavors seem tempting to us, they may upset a chicken’s digestive balance. Stick to plain, unseasoned dried legumes with no salt or other additives.

The Benefits of Sprouting

An alternative way of preparing peas/lentils for chickens is sprouting prior to feeding. Similar to soaking, this germination process unlocks key nutrients and natural enzymes.

Sprouted legumes are also more easily tolerated thanks to lower complex carbs and starch. The tradeoff is sprouting takes 3-5 days versus quick overnight soaking.

Pair with Probiotics for Digestion

Adding a probiotic supplement when introducing legumes is smart for avoiding stomach upset. The “good bacteria” in probiotics support digestion and gut health as chickens adjust.

Sprinkle probiotic powder onto soaked/drained peas and lentils before mixing into feed. Yogurt with live cultures also introduces probiotics when mixed in sparingly.

Grow Your Own Pea Shoots

If you really want to spoil your flock, try growing fresh pea shoots! Simply soak and sprout peas as usual, but include the root tendrils and growing leaves.

Herbivore chickens will gobble up these crisp, living shoots packed with antioxidants. They make great natural treats in spring alongside grass clippings and bugs!

Save Leftovers as Garden Fertilizer

Got leftover soaked or sprouted peas/lentils after chicken feeding time? Don’t toss them in the trash! Those legumes make fantastic organic fertilizer for the garden.

Work them into vegetable beds, flower patches and around the bases of fruit trees. Nitrogen-fixing peas and lentils will enrich the soil for healthier plants!

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