Symptoms of Too Much Protein in Chickens

Feeding chickens with high protein feed.

Protein is a macronutrient that chickens need in large amounts because it is essential to their growth, immunity, egg production, and many other biological functions. Failure to get enough protein from feeds will likely lead to serious health risks for your chickens. Hence, you need to provide your chickens with ample protein. But what will happen if you provide them with too much protein? Would it be bad for their health?

Well, too much protein will likewise harm their health. Besides, the body of a chicken doesn’t have enough storage for extra protein. As such, it can only store a certain amount of protein. So, it will be best if you are also extra careful not to give your chickens too much protein. 

Why is Excessive Protein Bad for Your Chickens?

Supplying your chickens with too much protein will not do your chickens any good. First, your chickens will only excrete any excess protein, and such excretion can be very harmful to others. Such excretion also exudes a strong ammonia smell—the byproduct of protein metabolism—emanating from wasted protein excreted by chickens. 

Such a smell can also be hazardous to humans and chickens and might damage their respiratory system and other organs like the trachea and eyes. Another thing is that excessive protein intake might make your chickens crave more water, which could lead to wetter litter. Wetter litter, as we all know, might harbor bacteria and other pathogens.

Possible Effects of Too Much Protein on Your Chickens

The effects of too much protein will manifest themselves in the body of your chickens. Thus, it will be best to be wary of these telltale signs. Among the possible side effects of too much protein include the following symptoms:


Humans do not have a monopoly on the disease called gout. It can also affect chickens. Gout usually appears when you eat food high in purine. Purine contains a high level of uric acid, which causes gout. 

Gout causes joint pain and might result in kidney damage, kidney stones, or tophi, and gout is due to poor diet and many other factors. 

In chickens, excessive uric acid might lead to swollen and painful joints, regurgitation, diarrhea, feather picking, loss of appetite, and even inability to urinate.

Excessive Water Consumption

Another indicator that your chickens are getting too much protein is when they exhibit excessive water consumption. So, you should watch your chickens if they take in too much water. Besides, if their litters are wetter, it might be indicative of excess protein intake. 

Respiratory and Eye Damage

If your chickens get exposed to too much ammonia, they might exhibit some symptoms of frequent exposure to ammonia. Remember that ammonia is a highly corrosive solution that can damage your chicken’s eyes. Ammonia can likewise damage their respiratory system, including the trachea. 

Ammonia can damage the respiratory tract of chickens, wreaking havoc on the cilia of the respiratory tract. If the cilia get damaged, chickens will have difficulty clearing mucus from their tracheas. If not egested, mucus that harbors bacteria might cause respiratory tract infections. 

Fetid Smell of Ammonia in their Feces

Another indicator of too much protein is the strong and fetid fecal smell due to ammonia. Chickens will not shirk eating excess protein if you provide them with protein-rich food. Yet, their bodies will only excrete this extra protein. 

Thus, their excrements become more fetid with a strong smell of ammonia. Your chickens will not be the only ones to suffer in such a case. Even you who manage the poultry will be affected by this strong smell. 

Blisters and Burns in their Feet

Another telltale sign that your chickens are getting excessive protein includes blisters and burns on their feet. Remember that chickens are not like humans, trained to poop in the latrines. Chickens will poop anywhere in their coop. 

More often, they would walk over their feces, exposing their feet to ammonia in their litter. Thus, if you see blisters on their feet, it is only indicative of excessive protein intake. 

Recommended Daily Intake of Protein for Chickens

When supplying your chickens with protein, you must walk the thin line between excessive protein and insufficient protein levels. Many chicken raisers, however, say it should be at 12% to 20% in their chicken diet. Remember that inadequate protein intake might lead to reduced egg production and weight. Besides, it can cause health problems for the chickens. 

Protein deficiency is apparent in poor-quality eggs. If the hen is hatching, you’ll see weak offspring. Besides, the birds may exhibit weakness or misshapen feathers after molting. Hence, it is critical to know the most recommended range of protein intake for your chickens to ensure their maximum growth. 

There are many factors, however, you need to consider when providing protein to your chickens. These factors include the chicken breed, the stage of growth, the rate of egg production, the climate, and the molting. So, if you don’t want to engage in guesswork, it will be best to know what the experts would recommend. 

Experts, however, would peg the recommended range of protein intake at 16% to 18%. For example, if you mix a feed of equal parts millet, hemp seed, canary grass seed, rapeseed, and safflower, the result would be a feed with approximately 18.64% protein. It might be slightly higher than the recommended range, but not more than one percent. A bit higher, however, would be better in this case. 

Why Are Complete Feeds Insufficient in Protein?

Most complete feeds do not provide enough protein because their protein content is only 15%. It will be good to note that protein is the ingredient of feeds that is the costliest. Hence, food manufacturers usually are niggardly lacing their feeds with protein. 

Thus, if you feed your laying hens with layer feeds, they would likely get around 15% protein regularly. On the other hand, scratch mix or grain blends would only supply them with approximately 12% to 14% protein. 

If your chickens are free-range, they would surely gobble up everything they lay their eyes on, like those healthy greens and tasty insects. Tasty insects, of course, can be a good source of protein. 

Besides, you might be giving your chickens table scraps, garden waste, and weeds that could further add up to their protein intake. Yet, you must ensure that you provide them with scraps and other treats in moderation.

Can I Give Higher Protein to My Chickens?

Yes, you might overdose your chickens with protein if you’re not wary of what you feed them. If your chickens receive too much protein, they will become malnourished, and they might show many other health issues related to having too much protein. 

You might also get discouraged upon seeing the effects of too much protein on their bodies. But you can remedy this by becoming more meticulous in the feeds you give them. Be more scientific and ensure they only get the right amount of protein in their feeds. 


Protein is a necessary macronutrient for the growth and development of your chickens. With the right amount of protein in their diet, you can ensure that your chooks will become healthy and strong, providing you with healthy meat and eggs. 

However, anything that is excessive or lacking is detrimental to your chickens’ health and growth. As such, you should be careful and a bit more scientific in providing your chickens with the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, to ensure their optimum growth and health.  

Leave a Comment