Chickens and Styrofoam

Lodi, United States

I was wondering about the different experiences people have been having with styrofoam and their chickens.

Mine attacked my homemade hatcher like ice cream when I left it out to sterilize in the sun. So I could see why it might be a good thing to use to distract chickens from plucking each other.

Other people report their chickens were seriously sickened or killed by eating it.

I think the confusion may be from the general term "Styrofoam". It is a registered name for the insulation "polystyrene". Polystyrene is the substance they make coffee cups and disposabel fast food containers from (or did). It is also what they make the styrofoam coolers you can make into incubators. It isn't, in itself, considered toxic (although some of the chemicals used in its manufacture are) but it takes forever to breakdown and is not very environmentally friendly for that reason.

Unfortunately, polystyrene is highly flamable and is usually not approved for use as insulation in building construction. Solid building insulation is made from "isocynates". Isocynates are very toxic and can have many long term health consequences. See this link:

So I wouldn't panic if your chicken attacks a styrofoam coffee cup--but I would be very careful with them around solid building insulation.

This message was edited Jun 19, 2008 7:10 PM

Williamsburg, MI(Zone 4b)

Mine picked all the foam off the cieling of their coop and around the foundation of the studio. Never hurt them, but I don't think they swallow it. My geese were even worse about it. They would hunt it down and their favorites were the trays that meat comes on. (you know, the dog digs it out of the garbage and the geese chew it up).

Lincolnville, ME(Zone 5a)

Mine have eaten some of both kinds, but mostly the cooler type. They ate a little blue-board the other day and haven't died yet - fingers crossed.

Lodi, United States

Yah--the trays would all be non-toxic styrofoam. My dogs love them too Some building insulation is polystyrene--but the more modern stuff tends to be isocynate-based because of the danger of fire. I was just annoyed that my chickens were eating my hatcher!

Lodi, United States

Blue board is what you use in wet environments isn't it? I have no idea what it is made of. Probably something yummy.

Glenwood, IA

blue board is what we used to insulate our coop as well. The chickens went to town on it, and ate a lot of it before I was able to stop them. I put plastic sheeting up over it, and that seemed to deter them for the most part. But anytime we have had styrofoam around....they seem to smell it!

Woodsville, NH

Crops on birds can grind up anything so I wouldnt worry, mine picked at the foam insulation I used for winter before I put plywood over it. And everyone is alive and happy today.

Silverdale, WA

We built a chicken tractor that we doubled as a hen house and insulated it with those sheets of Styrofoam boards ya'll are talking about. My girls picked the heck out of it until we finally realized they were gonna just eat the whole darn thing. We sided it and they are all fine. I have been enjoying the same flock of hens for 4 years now with a couple additions every year.

Oh btw, is there an introduction thread in this list? I would like to learn who is who? And add my info.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

come to the chicknchat thread... has a pic of a red frixxled chick... we'd love for you to introduce yourself!


edited to add link to the chatting thread:

This message was edited Jul 1, 2008 12:07 PM

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

here ya go Claire!

Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

Thanks TF. They were the sort of greenish color styro beads that are used in packaging. Hopefully it will be OK. She just ate them this morning and I'm not sure how much. Will watch for neuro signs.

Lodi, United States

Most "sytrofoam" seems harmless. Some suspected cases of poisoning are just coincidental with other disorders. But there could be some problem with some forms of solid insulation. I think it is in the link TF posted.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

really? that lin above is for chicken chat, i iwll look...

Moxee, WA(Zone 4a)


Polystyrene ... aka styro-foam ... chickens consume it like crazy and its likely not healthy for them to ingest. I keep it away from them. It disappears when chickens are around. Definitely ... it is not nutritious ... probably goes right thru them. I would not just toss it to them as a distraction. Reminds me of people filling up their guts with balloons and cocaine ... just not healthy. It can be done without side effects most of the time but every now and then there's a fatality. I just sorta think the chickens are not helping themselves by eating an unnatural substance with no food value. My gut feeling ... LOL.

Kelly in Moxee

Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

Oh, I agree absolutely. The thing that happened today was odd. I let Rosie out in the morning before she goes to work. She usually scratches around in the perennial bed, wanders around the porch, keeps her eye on the door in case she sees me coming, and just hangs out in the vicinity of her enclosure. She never went entirely around the house before and into the garage. But, today it was raining. Before when it was raining, she went UNDER the porch and comes out when she hears my voice. Today, I thought I lost her or a hawk took her or something. I was freaking out, and I ran around the house in a tizzy, and there she is in the garage. Scared the wits out of me. Then I realized a box where we store packing peanuts was tipped and there were a bunch of peanuts on the floor, and some were in a rather pecked condition. So, I don't think she ate too many because she wasn't in there for that long, but I don't know exactly how much she ate. I always put her away when I go to work to keep her safe while I'm away. Anyway, I am anxious to go home and check on her. I would never deliberately put styro in front of her...

Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

Rosie does not seem to have suffered any ill effects, yet. Except that she pecked me in the eye this evening, but I'm sure it was unintentional. She is obsessed with my watch and earrings too. But she was already like that so I don't think that's neurological. :-) Hopefully she'll be just fine. She laid a completely enormous egg today. Maybe if I crack it into a pan, it will have a styrofoam peanut in it...

Lodi, United States

Glad to hear Rosie has survived her dietary indiscretion!

I think straight Styrofoam (polystyrene) is probably fairly harmless--inadvisable and possible capable of causing obstructions or crop impaction--but not technically toxic. Isocyanates used in solid foam building insulation are really nasty--I would worry about a chicken that had pecked her way through isocyanate foam board.

If I remember correctly, someone's vet advised them to give their chickens styrofoam to peck to distract them from feather picking. Probably worked. I wonder if they floated better afterwards?

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

Claire it will be about 7- 10 days before the peanut comes out in the egg

Ames, NE

Pigeons are just as wild about styrofoam

Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

Oh dear...well fortunately the pigeon hasn't gone into the garage (yet).

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