Can foams be given to chickens and why do they peck it?

Some representatives of the animal world are able to eat completely tasteless and certainly inedible things with greed and appetite. A vivid example of such a situation, well known to many farmers - the unhealthy "gastronomic" interest that chickens show for some reason for foam - will be discussed in this review.

Why do chickens eat polystyrene?

Seeing how enthusiastically a feathered herd pounces on light white balls, some poultry farmers clutch their heads in horror, while others seriously begin to wonder if the bird is trying to get something that is missing from the body. Why do chickens do this, let's understand.

Scientists do not give an unambiguous answer to the question why the chicken is “pulled” by polystyrene foam. There are a number of hypotheses about this, but none of them is certain. Here are some of these assumptions.


Curiosity is the most commonly called cause. A cute white ball of small size, crunchy in contact with the beak, must certainly be perceived by the chicken as a treat.

It is worth noting that chickens, which have not yet formed a sense of smell, actually peck absolutely everything that comes in their way. As the bird grows older, it still begins to show intelligibility.

Did you know? Australian, American, British and Italian scientists who have studied the mental abilities of chickens for many years have proved that these birds have a good memory, are able to perform simple arithmetic operations, analyze (choose the most profitable behavior model), and also manipulate.

Thus, natural curiosity can explain the primary interest of the chicken in an unfamiliar subject. However, this bird is too smart to continue to eat something obviously inedible, and even attack such a treat again and again.

Addiction and habit

A more unusual version as to why chickens peck foam is that this material is a drug for birds (more precisely, not the material itself, but isopentane - a low-boiling hydrocarbon, sometimes used in the production of foam as a blowing agent). However, this reason does not look convincing enough, and here's why:

  • the foam does not always contain isopentane, and only he has the narcotic effect of all possible blowing agents for the production of material;
  • that, after pecking “chemistry”, chickens fall into a certain euphoric state, farmers usually do not mention;
  • if this material had a narcotic effect, other animals (primarily rodents) would have shown interest in it. It has long been noticed that neither mice nor rats perceive polystyrene as food or a treat (this is one of the advantages of building material). And even if they make holes in it, it is only to simply overcome the obstacle in their path or to use soft, light and heat-consuming grains to build their own nest.

Video: why chickens peck on polystyrene foam

Habit is another often-called reason that does not really explain anything. Other “bad habits” are also attributed to chickens (for example, pecking their own eggs, killing chickens or adult relatives to death).

It is unlikely that such complex mechanisms are created in the head of a chicken rushing to peck the polystyrene foam or bloody wounds of its "commodity." Probably, such behavior is caused by some other reasons, the nature of which people have not yet understood.

Important! From the point of view of psychology, stable nerve connections are called a habit, which are formed in the brain and are characterized by the special ease of “inclusion” due to the expected emotional reaction.


Chickens eat polystyrene because they take it for grain. A version that does not withstand any criticism, but put forward very often. Even if we assume that in the "empty" laying head light white balls of different sizes and shapes are somehow mistaken for small grains (the similarity is very dubious), it is completely inexplicable what kind of feed the chicken resembles whole layers of foam.

Salt content

It is sometimes said that by eating polystyrene, the hens make up for the deficiency of salt. Salt is a necessary component in the diet of poultry, but polystyrene is hardly suitable as a source of this product (rather, it is more appropriate to talk about baking soda and other salts of carbonic acid, which are often added to poultry diets to normalize the acid-base balance in its body )

Did you know? Among the strange, but at the same time not so rare manifestations of toxicosis in pregnant women, an irrepressible desire to chew on school crayons, tooth powder, or even lime plaster is usually called. There is also a craving similar to substance abuse to inhale gasoline vapors. The first case is explained quite obviously - a lack of calcium in the body, but an unhealthy interest in a flammable liquid, it turns out, indicates the presence of iron deficiency. So the desire to try polystyrene foam in chickens is probably due to a lack of nutrients in the body (this is one of the reasons).

Is polystyrene harmful to chickens?

If not everything is clear with the reasons for birds eating inedible material, then the answer to the question of whether it is possible to give them such a “delicacy” is obvious. It is enough to ask what this product is and what it is used for.

Due to the microscopic air cavities inside the thin shell, the material has high thermal and sound insulation properties. These circumstances make foam easy and very convenient building and packaging material.

Contrary to popular belief, the foam itself is not toxic. Proof of this can be one-time packaging in which many food products are sold, including meat, sausages, cheeses, vegetables.

Hazards to health are substances that release polystyrene under the influence of certain factors (for example, during combustion or even a slight increase in temperature). This is, first of all, phenol, styrene and formaldehyde, and if the latter is released at very high temperatures (above +160 ° C), then for the first and second it is enough to heat the material to +20 ° C and +25 ° C, respectively. Important! Polyfoam is the collective name of several varieties of materials obtained by foaming plastics (polymers) into a loose formation, consisting of many cells filled with gas. Scientists have no reliable information about whether polystyrene can cause serious damage to the health of an animal if it enters the stomach. It is also unknown whether the substances released by polystyrene foam from the digestive tract of poultry enter the meat, and whether they can affect the quality of this product.

However, the fact that the material is not poisonous does not mean that it is edible, therefore it is not necessary to feed the chickens specifically with foam plastic just because the bird likes it.

As information, it is worth bringing to mind two radically opposite points of view expressed on this issue.

The first is that polymer balls can cause such a dangerous symptom as a blockage of goiter in a bird (obstruction of the esophagus due to its overflow with swallowed masses).

Representatives of another version, on the contrary, argue that peeling of polystyrene for chickens is not only not harmful, but even useful and desirable. The evidence is based on stories from personal experience when birds suffering from severe bloody diarrhea (obviously coccidiosis) began to peck frenzy at the chicken coop walls, after which their condition improved dramatically and the disease subsided.

Neither one nor the other position is official, although a civilized approach to poultry farming precludes the use of building and packaging material as a prophylaxis and treatment of diseases in the feathered herd. And this means that when you ask if the polystyrene is harmful, you must answer in the affirmative (or incline to the opinion that this is a “product” that is useless for a bird).

Find out what premixes are for chickens.

Preventative measures

So, if we take as a basis the idea that the foam in the chicken diet is an outsider product, you can rid the bird of the “bad habit” using very simple measures:

  • Do not use “narcotic” material for the interior decoration of the house;
  • monitor the timely disposal of polystyrene packaging; do not leave them in places to which poultry has access;
  • in the presence of foam insulation on the outer walls of the poultry yard, reliably hide it behind the finishing material;
  • do not allow children to feed the "balloons" to the chickens as entertainment and a fun game;
  • monitor the proper and balanced nutrition of the feathered herd (the smaller the deficiency in the important components the bird will experience, the higher the likelihood that it will not show an unhealthy interest in inedible items).

Summing up is simple. Chickens just love polystyrene. This fact is confirmed by many farmers. Although there is no answer to the question about the dangerous origin of such a strange taste for food, it’s better to try to limit the access of the feathered inhabitants of the compound to material not intended for eating. It is not difficult to do this - just show a little attention and caution.

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