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Can Hamsters Eat Chicken?

Can Hamsters Have Chicken?

Many of the staple foods we keep in our kitchens come from the bulk bins (pasta, beans, rice, oats, and other assorted grains), but one of the key pieces in the Standard American Diet is chicken. Though the cliché American meat is probably beef, which make up the hamburgers we eat so frequently, chicken makes up a much larger part of most of our diets (unless we’re vegetarians). Chicken meat also happens to be one of the few things that are consumed widely regardless of lifestyle: whether you’re a bodybuilder who eats chicken steamed with a side of broccoli or a proud couch potato who prefers popcorn chicken, poultry plays a big role in your diet.

Chicken also shows up in many of the foods we give to our pets. High-end brands of both cat and dog food brag about using ‘real chicken’ in their recipes, and most of us are perfectly okay with scraping leftover chicken into our dog’s or our cat’s dish after dinner. If your animal companion is of the hamster persuasion, however, you’re clueless—the label on the back of your pet’s hamster chow doesn’t brag about its quality poultry, and, well, hamsters aren’t exactly renowned for their predatory prowess. So, is it safe to give them a taste of white meat? 
Can you give your hamster chicken?

Technically, yes, hamsters can eat small quantities of thoroughly cooked chicken, but it definitely is not the best food you could give them. Chicken itself is not poisonous to hamsters, so you need not worry about toxicity as a direct result of eating a bit of baked chicken, but it can cause more trouble than it’s worth. Hamsters are mostly vegetarians (more on that in a moment), who are better suited to digesting grains, seeds, fruits, and vegetables than meat products. Nevertheless, many hamsters love the meaty taste of chicken, and it is safe to give to them in small quantities once or twice a week.

Health Benefits?

When we think of household predators, we tend to picture our cats pouncing on mice in the back yard. Many people are surprised to learn that, though commercial hamster mix is made up of mostly seeds and grains, hamsters are technically omnivores. In the wild, hamsters occasionally supplement their diet with bugs. To crickets and mealworms, your little hamster is a cold-blooded killer.

Because they are technically omnivores, hamsters have the ability to digest animal flesh—which is why they can safely consume small amounts of chicken—but they do not need it to survive or even thrive. Healthy adult hamsters can meet all of their nutritional needs by eating seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables.

The one thing chicken meat can provide is protein. Protein is an important part of the hamster diet; it provides the raw materials necessary to build and repair nearly every part of their tiny bodies. When your hamster consumes protein-rich foods, like chicken, their body breaks the protein into its constituent amino acids, then uses them to make new muscle, skin, fur, or nails. Because it plays an important role in growth, protein is especially important for pregnant mothers-to-be or hamsters who are still growing. Like most meats, chicken contains all of the essential amino acids.

Chicken is not, however, an important protein source for hamsters and other tiny omnivores. The best protein sources for your hamster are foods like beans, peas, oats, wheat, and other grains—these foods are also richer in other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, so they will go further in helping your hamster meet all of their micronutrient needs.

Things to Consider

There are several drawbacks to feeding hamsters chicken meat on a regular basis. Chicken is quite high in fat and cholesterol, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease. With all that fat comes a lot of calories, too. Since your hamster is so tiny, they have very low caloric needs. It can be easy to overfeed your hamster if they are eating chunks of meat every day! If your furry friend is already overweight or obese, avoid feeding them animal products (even as treats) until they have attained a healthy weight.

If you make the decision to treat your hamster to chicken a few times a week, make sure it is cooked thoroughly—this will kill any dangerous pathogens that can make your hamster sick. Any chicken fed to your pets should also be unseasoned. Some seasonings are toxic to hamsters, while others can be rough on their stomachs. Plain cooked chicken (preferably boiled or steamed) is the way to go.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, hamsters can eat small quantities of unseasoned cooked chicken, but there is no real nutritional reason to give this food to your pet. Hamsters are largely herbivorous creatures who can get everything they need from a diet of hamster mix supplemented with fruits and vegetables. If you want to give your hamster animal protein that is more suited to their bodies, opt for crickets or meal worms—they may not be appetizing to you, but they are healthier for your hamster!

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