Given that Leopard Geckos have 100 sharp teeth and demand a high protein diet, wouldn’t chicken be an obvious dietary choice? Are there any health risks in feeding geckos chicken? Find all the answers and advice here.
Chicken is not nutritionally optimal or safe for Leopard Geckos. Leopard Geckos are insectivores, and their natural diet should consist solely of insects and other invertebrates. Avoid offering any human foods that may be toxic and indigestible, apart from in the case of a rare emergency.
Can Leopard Geckos eat chicken?
A rule of thumb would be not to feed Leopard Geckos any food they would not naturally eat in nature. There are several reasons why chicken is unsuitable for your gecko and why a varied insect diet remains the superior option.
A shortage of nutritional value
Chicken is not nutritionally ideal for Leopard Geckos as the meat contains too much protein and, in some cuts, too much fat. For example, a piece of breast chicken consists of approximately 80% protein and 20% fat.
In comparison, insects have a maximum of 15% to 20% protein content, with most insects having around 13% to 16%. The insect fat ratio is usually about 2% to 8%, with insect treat options going as high as 17% to 22%. Chicken has substantially too much protein and fat content to be considered a healthy staple food option.
Setting aside other chicken concerns, feeding the chicken to Leo will result in an unbalanced diet and future health complications.
The nutritional safety of feeding chicken to Leopard Geckos has already been covered. It is by far not the biggest safety concern you should be considering.
Eating raw or processed meats is a big no-no. Raw chicken may contain parasites or other dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, which can be passed on to your Leopard Gecko.
Salmonella is a term given to a family of bacteria that usually lives in the intestines of animals. Because the bacteria are invisible to the naked eye, any bacteria on the chicken can be swallowed unknowingly and infect your geckos.
It is impossible to know if your Leopard Gecko has become a Salmonella carrier unless your vet cultures their feces. This is, of course, an infection you should try to avoid as Salmonellosis can cause diarrhea, stomach aches, and fever in people and sometimes more severe consequences.
Leopard Geckos cannot digest meat effectively due to their alkaline digestive tracts. The lack of acid makes it harder to digest the meat proteins. Although their skull and jaw have evolved to cope with meat consumption, they are still not able to digest meat properly.
Leopard Geckos will usually eat whatever they can catch in their mouths in the wild. They sometimes hunt on smaller invertebrates such as newborn mice, smaller snakes, or other small geckos, but these usually need to be tiny enough to fit their mouths and are not usually their best or first choice.
A Leopard Geckos Teeth are Unsuitable
Yes, geckos have teeth, but this does not mean that they are appropriate for eating meat. Although Leopard Geckos have 100 teeth, you will be surprised to know that some geckos have over 300 teeth.
These teeth are tiny, sharp, and conical in shape. Although these teeth are sharp, they are better for gripping than tearing, grinding, or munching. Leopard Gecko’s teeth are used for hunting and for gripping their prey to ensure no prey escapes before being swallowed.
Leopard Geckos swallow their prey whole and use their tongues to direct the insects down the throat. This method of eating and the type of teeth they possess are not appropriate for eating meat. If offered meat of inappropriate size, they could choke.
Related: Can leopard geckos eat baby food?
Occasions where chicken is fed
If, for any reason, you have to give your Leopard Gecko chicken, ensure to wash and cook the chicken before offering it to them. It is essential to also cut the chicken up into small pea-sized pieces, making it safer for your Leopard Gecko when swallowing.
Chicken should only be fed to Leopard Geckos in cases of emergency and when all other options have been exhausted. On the rare occasion where they may need to be force-fed via a syringe for health-related reasons, a chicken baby puree can sometimes be used.
Always consider the size and age of your Leopard Gecko when feeding them new food options to avoid any choking or associated impaction issues.
The ideal diet for your Leopard Gecko
Leopard Geckos need a diet high in proteins and low in fat to remain healthy and active. Providing them with a balanced, varied diet of insects is essential to ensure that they receive all their necessary nutrients.
A 100% high-quality live prey diet is ideal and mimicking their natural diet as closely as possible is advantageous. Assess the nutritional content of insects before purchasing them, and remember to feed gut-loaded insects along with reptile calcium supplements.
Live crickets, mealworms, silkworms, Dubia roaches, and beetles are all excellent options. Treats such as waxworms, butterworms, and hornworms can be given once a week due to their high-fat content. Treats can be given more often if your Leopard Gecko is younger or breeding and needs a higher fat content in their diet.
Healthy Leopard Geckos and overweight geckos need a high protein diet with lower fat content. Although your geckos are low-maintenance pets, they do have some unique dietary requirements that need to be followed in order to keep them healthy and happy.
Avoid feeding your Leopard Gecko chicken with the exception of in a rare emergency. Chicken lacks the required nutrition and may contain parasites or dangerous bacteria. Leopard Geckos cannot digest meat effectively, and its high protein and sodium levels make it inappropriate and unhealthy.
A varied live insect diet with additional supplementation is still the best option for your Leopard Gecko. When considering a new food option, always ask yourself whether it is something your gecko would eat in the wild. If the answer is no, rather, give it a miss.