If you love cheese as much as I do and have a flock of chickens, you may be wondering, can chickens eat cheese? The answer is yes! They can eat cheese. But, what type of cheese? We’ll take a look at many different types of cheeses and determine if they’ll be good for your feathery flock. To start, let’s look at the nutritional profile.
Nutritional Profile of Cheese
Cheese is made up of fat and protein. These levels vary between cheeses. What exactly do you find in cheese and how much of it? If you take a look at 100 grams of normal cheddar, there are 406 calories. 37% is water with 24 grams of protein, 1.3 grams of carbohydrates, 0.3 grams of sugar, 33.8 grams of fat with most of that being saturated fats. So, in terms of fats, it’s not the most healthy of options, but won’t be bad for your chickens in limited quantities.
On the plus side, cheese has a lot of protein. This protein comes as casein. Casein can lower blood pressure and increase absorption of minerals. This is fantastic for egg production. Feed your chickens something rich in calcium and the cheese will help them take it up.
Important minerals in cheese include calcium, vitamin B12, sodium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin K2.
Calcium is essential for bone health and egg production. Vitamin B12 helps with the nervous system. Sodium is normally just added for taste, but a lot of cellular processes require the use of sodium.As for phosphorus, chickens with low blood phosphorus typically need supplements as a low level of this leads to thin and soft shells. Cheese can be a natural supplement of it. Selenium is known for being an important component of a chicken’s diet. Poultry need it for their health and production of eggs as well as meat production. Zinc, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin K2 are all important in maintaining bone and heart health.
Now that you know what cheese is made of, how exactly do they make it? It’s always good to know what goes into something you intend to feed your chickens as well as how it’s made.
How is Cheese Made?
Cheese starts with milk! This milk is tested for quality and purity then sent off for standardization. At this point in the process, the milk is weighed, heat treated, and pasteurized to kill off any bacteria.
Once that’s done, cheesemakers will add in the good bacteria, also called cultures. This bacteria will ultimately determine the flavor and texture of the cheese. After that, rennet, a milk-clotting enzyme, is added which will thicken up the cheese to look like a custard.
Once the cheese is starting to thicken, the cheesemakers will cut it into small pieces for separating the whey from curds. The collected large curds are then cooked at lower temperatures to make soft cheeses or cooked at higher temperatures for harder cheeses. Then, the curds are cooked and stirred until it’s the exact temperature and firmness desired. Once that’s done, the whey is drained off which leaves a tightly formed curd.
From there, the curds are transformed with salt and other techniques followed by pressing for 3-12 hours and curing for weeks to years.
Long story short, nothing used in this process will hurt your chickens by consuming the finished product!
So, maybe you have some specific cheeses in mind that you’d like to feed your chickens.Consider goat cheese. This is made out of goat milk which is no more dangerous than cow milk. It’s slightly more aromatic and acidic, but this won’t hurt them.
How about shredded cheese? Shredded cheese just comes in a different form of cubed cheese or cheese rounds. Nothing about the composition changes, so your chickens will be fine. Plus, they might actually like this form better because it’s easier for them to eat. On this note, mozzarella is typically shredded. This is one of the least acidic forms of cheese and can be fed to your chickens either by itself or on something else, like pizza. Although I don’t recommend making it a staple in their diet!
Same goes for cottage cheese which might be better fed to your chickens with something other than itself. Cottage cheese is a very soft cheese and comes almost as a lumpy mush. If you give this to your chickens, consider mixing it up with their feed in a separate bowl or they’ll just scratch it around and make a mess of it.
Finally, let’s talk about blue cheese which is a moldy cheese. These cheeses use Penicillium roqueforti and Penicillium glaucum. They are blue moulds great for cheeses. However, they’re not dangerous and are actually healthy because the acidity, salinity, moisture, density, temperature, and oxygen flow are all out of the range for toxins to spawn in the moulds. Rather, they’re healthy because Penicillium roqueforti and Penicillium glaucum have antibacterial properties that over-take pathogens.
Wait! There’s one last cheese you might consider: cheese puffs! Cheese puffs are little airy treats that your chickens will love. But it sure isn’t healthy for them. Like with any treats, give it to them sparingly. Don’t go out and buy a bag dedicated for their consumption, but if you have a few old ones sitting on your shelf that you want to get rid of, go ahead and give it to them. They’re fattening and will overall affect your chickens’ eggs.
Your chickens love cheese just as much as you do, so if you’re wondering if chickens can eat cheese, the answer is yes. However, it is a fatty food so feed it to them sparingly, and try to avoid the cheese puffs! Meanwhile, they’ll be reaping the benefits of all the protein and minerals in it.
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