CHICKEN | 6 mos+ |🥇💪 ⚠️
Updated: Oct 26
Chicken is a protein-rich food. It is a source of complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids in adequate amounts for maintenance and growth. Your baby is in a developing stage and their newly forming muscles need protein for proper growth, therefore chicken can be a great addition to your baby's diet.
DISCLAIMER: Each child has their own development timeline and specific needs. The content below is general information and for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional one-on-one advice. You are responsible for supervising your child’s health and for evaluating the appropriateness of the information below for your child. Please consult your healthcare provider regarding support or advice for your child's well being and health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
When can I give chicken to my baby?
Babies can eat chicken as soon as they are ready to start eating solid foods, which is usually when they are around 6 months of age and have met all the readiness signs for solids, unless otherwise advised by your baby's healthcare provider.
You can give your baby a safe start to solid foods! This on-demand workshop will provide you with the knowledge and confidence you need to wean well.
Is chicken a healthy food for babies?
Chicken is a protein-rich food. It is a source of complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids in adequate amounts for maintenance and growth. Your baby is in a developing stage and their newly forming muscles need protein for proper growth.
Chicken contains iron, which is necessary for the growth of red blood cells. This iron-rich food can be a valuable addition to your baby’s diet, especially in aiding in the prevention of iron-deficiency anemia. Anemia is a common problem in children around the world. The U.S. prevalence of iron deficiency anemia in children one to five years of age is estimated to be 1% to 2% according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Iron is also needed for the brain to develop and function properly – a lack of iron during infancy can have a huge impact on the ability to learn later in life.
Chicken is a valuable source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant, zinc and magnesium, which play a significant role in maintaining healthy immunity. This animal protein also provides essential vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6, and B12) that are involved in brain development and functioning. Its calcium, phosphorus, and potassium content helps to develop strong bones and a healthy heart.
If you want long shiny hair, bright skin, powerful muscles, a strong immune system, and beautiful nails for your little one, provide them protein-rich food such as meat, poultry, and legumes within each meal.
Fun Fact: Chicken is classified as a poultry. Poultry is defined as domesticated fowl, such as chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks, primarily raised for the production of meat and eggs. The United States is the largest poultry producer in the world, producing roughly 64 billion pounds of poultry meat each year, and is the second largest exporter of poultry meat behind Brazil.
Is chicken a safe food for babies?
Contaminated semi-cooked or low-quality chicken is very harmful to you and your baby. Many kinds of bacteria like salmonella campylobacter are present on the surface of the chicken, which may cause serious health conditions like food poisoning, diarrhea, or even cancer.
Over the past decade, there have been numerous foodborne outbreaks associated with both poultry products and live poultry, such as backyard chickens. These local and multi-state outbreaks associated with poultry have been widely attributed to contamination with one or more strains of salmonella. Salmonellosis is characterized by diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, and dehydration.
Improper handling and inadequate cooking have been identified as key factors contributing to outbreaks. The best way to avoid the health hazards of chicken is to take some food safety precautions when preparing and serving chicken to your baby and other family members. See section “How to prepare and offer” below for more information on how to safely introduce chicken to your baby’s diet.
Is chicken a choking hazard for babies?
Like all meat and poultry, chicken is listed as a common choking hazard by the CDC and by five other international groups. There are a couple of ways to minimize the risk: 1) offer whole cooked drumsticks with the skin and any loose fat pieces removed, 2) pull apart a cooked chicken breast or leg and tease into fine shreds, or 3) cut cooked chicken breast into paper-thin slices. Whichever method you choose, always remove the skin, loose fat, and any loose tendons or bone pieces, and as always, be sure to closely monitor your babies while they eat. See section “How to prepare and offer” for more information on how to safely offer chicken to your baby.
This workshop covers everything you need to know for dealing with gagging, reducing the risk of choking during mealtimes, and offering safe food sizes and shapes to your child.
Note: Keep in mind that any food can present a risk for choking if not prepared correctly. You are responsible for following age and food modification guidelines provided in order to reduce your baby’s risk for choking.
Is chicken a top food allergen for babies?
Chicken allergy is not very common in babies, but some babies may have a sensitivity to chicken’s protein, especially babies with sensitive immune and digestive systems. Whenever you give your baby food for the first time, offer it in small quantities and watch for any signs of a reaction. If your baby seems to tolerate food well and you see no adverse reaction, then continue to gradually increase portion sizes when you offer the food again to your baby. If your baby shows any symptoms like diarrhea, skin hives, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, swelling of mouth, weakness, or dizziness, after the consumption of chicken, consult your healthcare provider. These symptoms can be a sign of chicken allergy or intolerance.
Note: Always consult with your healthcare provider regarding introducing solid foods to your baby, and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby.
How to buy chicken for babies
1. Always buy fresh chicken from a trusted store where it is cleaned and dressed well.
2. If you’re buying a whole chicken, it should be plump, not scrawny. Avoid chicken with spotted skin – it should be opaque.
3. If buying frozen chicken, check to see if there is any frozen liquid in the packaging. This may mean that – at some point – the chicken thawed then was frozen again, making it potentially unsafe to eat.
4. When purchasing fresh or frozen chicken, make sure that it spends the LEAST TIME POSSIBLE in your car. It is a good idea to use a cooler or cool packs to transport the chicken, then transfer it immediately to the refrigerator/freezer when you get home.
5. While poultry is not naturally a significant source of sodium, processing can drastically increase the sodium content of poultry products, such as in deli meats or chicken injected with enhancing solutions. Whenever possible, choose minimally processed chicken. Look for labels with 140 mg or less of sodium per serving.
Some of these terms may appear on chicken labels. Here are the facts to help clear up any definition confusion.
Free Range: Chickens have access to the outdoors for at least some part of the day, whether the chickens choose to go outside or not. Chicken labeled as “organic” must also be “free-range,” but not all “free-range” chicken is also “organic.”
Farm-Raised: All chickens are raised on farms. So any chicken could be labeled “farm-raised.” When this term is used on restaurant menus and the like, it usually refers to chickens raised on a local farm.
Pasture-raised: This means the raising of laying chickens, meat chickens (broilers), and/or turkeys on pasture, as opposed to indoor confinement. Chickens eat a wide variety of fruits, grass, insects, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and worms when they’re free to roam on pasture. Recent studies show that pasture-raised chickens may have less fat, and oxidative damage; higher concentrations of nutrients, including vitamin A (beta-carotene) and the antioxidant vitamin E; and more omega-3 fatty acids and protein than chickens that are raised in overcrowded grow houses.
Natural: Under USDA regulations, a “natural” product has no artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives, and is minimally processed, just enough to get it ready to be cooked.
Organic: The USDA has a very specific rule to define “organic” production and prohibits the use of the term “organic” on packaging of any food product not produced in accordance with its rule. According to USDA, the organic label does not indicate that the product has safety, quality, or nutritional attributes that are any higher than conventionally raised products.
No Hormones Added: This means the chicken hasn’t been injected with any type of hormone. No artificial or added hormones should be used in the production of any poultry or pork in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration's regulations prohibit any use of hormones in pork and poultry, so those industries should not use artificial or added hormones in the production process. Therefore, according to the law, all pork and poultry are eligible to be labeled with “Raised without Hormones.”
Antibiotics: A “No Antibiotics Ever” or “Raised without Antibiotics” label is typically only one of a company’s product lines. Some flocks on a no-antibiotic program may get sick, just like other flocks, and some have to be treated with antibiotics. These flocks that have been treated with antibiotics are no longer eligible to be marketed as “No Antibiotics Ever” or “Raised without Antibiotics.” A no-antibiotics program is not a magical program for producing disease-free birds. Rather, it’s a program which intends to raise birds without antibiotics and labels those which are successfully raised without antibiotics as such. Those chickens that must be treated with antibiotics are labeled with another designation.
Enhanced Chicken Products: Some fresh (raw and uncooked) chicken products are enhanced with chicken broth or a similar solution. The presence and percentage of the broth or other solution must be stated clearly and the actual ingredients listed, on the label. Sodium is used in the broth or solution of some enhanced products. Babies’ bodies can’t process high levels of sodium, so make sure to choose a chicken that hasn’t been injected with those solutions or that is very low in sodium (140 mg or less per serving).
All-Vegetable Diet: Poultry feed is made primarily from corn and soybean meal. Poultry feed sometimes includes some processed protein and fats and oils from meat and poultry by-products. If the chicken company chooses not to use these ingredients, the feed would contain no ingredients derived from animals and could be described as “all vegetable.”
How to store chicken
Any meat, including chicken, is prone to bacterial contamination, therefore, it’s important to store raw and cooked chicken properly in order to avoid the presence of any pathogens that could harm your baby.
Place chicken in a disposable bag before putting in your shopping cart or refrigerator to prevent raw juices from getting onto other foods.
Store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator (not in the door). Make sure that it cannot drip onto – or touch – foods on the shelves below.
Stored chicken can be used or frozen until its "use-by" date.
Thaw frozen chicken on a plate in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. You may also thaw it by placing a storage container or bag under running cool water. And don’t thaw chicken in the microwave unless you plan to cook it immediately. Why? Because parts of the meat may begin to cook before other parts are completely thawed. If the chicken is set aside for later use, bacteria may begin to multiply within it.
Do not freeze the defrosted raw chicken again, as it may form poisonous chemicals or promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the chicken meat. It’s okay to cook the chicken and then freeze the prepared meal.
Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken within 2 hours (or within 1 hour if the temperature outside is higher than 90°F).
Wrap the chicken in a plastic bag or put it in an airtight container. Store the chicken on the top shelf of the fridge.
Store prepared chicken for your baby in the refrigerator for up to three days, or up to three months in the freezer.
How to prepare and offer chicken to babies
Follow these precautions when preparing chicken for your family in order to prevent food poisoning:
When preparing chicken, keep it away from other foods in order to avoid cross-contamination. If possible, use a separate cutting board and utensils just for meats and poultry. This isn’t essential – but do be sure to wash the board, the utensils, and your hands with water and soap after cutting up chicken.
Do not wash raw chicken. During washing, chicken juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops.
To safely offer chicken to your baby, first make sure that it's fully cooked. The best ways to cook chicken for babies are by baking/roasting it, poaching, or in a crock pot or pressure cooker. Whatever cooking method you choose, just make sure to cook it fully to kill any potential bacteria present in the meat. You can test the ‘done-ness’ of cooked chicken by inserting a skewer into the thickest part. As an extra precaution you can use a food thermometer to measure the temperature of the chicken. Try to achieve 165 F, which is a safe internal temperature. Let it cool completely before offering it to your baby. Offer chicken in shapes and sizes that are appropriate to your baby’s age, developmental stage, and eating skills, and that doesn't increase the risk of choking. See suggestions below.
Purees: to puree chicken for your baby, first cook it by using one of the methods recommended above. Then, if not using ground meat, grind meat very finely, or allow it to cool down and cut it into small pieces. Place meat in a blender or food processor in small quantities. Alternatively, you can simply mash the cooked ground chicken with the back of a fork (this will yield a more lumpy puree). Add a few tablespoons of a baby-friendly liquid, such as the broth the meat was cooked in, low sodium broth/stock, breast milk, formula, water, vegetable or fruit purees. Process it until forming a smooth mixture or achieving desired consistency. Add more liquid, if necessary. Allow it to cool completely and serve to your baby via spoon-feeding or by preloading a baby spoon and placing it on your baby’s tray or hand for self-feeding.
6+ months: cooked chicken puree or mash served in a spoon or in a suction bowl for hand scooping
Don't get stuck on purees! It's completely ok to start with only pureed foods, if that feels more comfortable to you. However, keep in mind that purees are just a transitional phase into finger foods. It shouldn't last for more than a few days or a couple of weeks. Aim to start exposing your baby to lumpy and finger foods no later than 8 months, unless otherwise advised by your baby's health care provider.
Finger food 6 to 9 months old: at this stage babies use their whole palm or full fists to hold food, so offering bigger pieces of food about the size of their fists, or serving food in a way that baby can use their hands to scoop it, makes it easier for them to eat independently. Cook chicken as recommended above, let it cool completely, then offer it to your baby as suggested below.
Baby Z, 6 months old, eating chicken
You may also offer ground or shredded chicken, but your baby might get frustrated trying to grab it since at this stage they don’t have the ability to use their pincer grasp yet. You can cook ground or shredded chicken in a thick sauce, or mix it with sour cream, mayo, or avocado, and offer it in a section bowl to make it easier for baby to scoop it with their hands.
6+ months: cooked ground or shredded chicken folded into easy-to-scoop dishes, served in a suction bowl
Serve long, thin strips of cooked chicken (bone, visible fat, and skin removed) for baby to suck and munch. Make sure strips are about the size and length of one or two adult fingers together. Offer it to your baby by placing it on their tray or hand to encourage self-feeding. At this age your baby will mostly just suck and gnaw on the meat, which still offers a surprising amount of nutrition. So don’t be alarmed if the meat pales after your baby sucks out all of the nutrients!
6+ months: strips of cooked chicken, about the size and shape of one or two adult fingers together
★If your baby takes too big of a bite from the chicken strips you offer, give them the opportunity to work it out on their own before intervening. They will do that by using their gag reflex, which moves food forward in their mouths, allowing them to chew the food more before attempting to swallow it again, or to spit the food out. You can also coach your baby to spit out food by sticking out your tongue and saying “BLAH” dramatically to model the behavior.
You may also offer a chicken drumstick to your baby to gnaw on. Long, hard, stick-shaped foods like whole rib or drumstick bones are fantastic teethers and they can be extremely helpful for all babies, and especially so for babies with special needs learning to eat. Even though your baby may be only sucking and gnawing on bone, they still get a good amount of nutrients. Here are some tips for offering chicken or other meats with the bone to your baby:
Make sure the bone is long so your baby can easily hold it with their little hands.
Make sure the bone is also thick enough so it won’t easily break off in the baby's mouth.
Remove any pieces of pointy bones, and any other parts that could possibly break off in your baby’s mouth in large chunks (like fat, cartilage, or loose meat).
6+ months: cooked chicken drumstick (remove pointy bones, tendons, and loose pieces of fat)
★Cooking chicken for longer periods of time at lower temperatures can help prevent the bones from becoming brittle. Make sure to check and test the bone before giving it to baby. Try bending it and pushing on the edges. You want strong and firm bones to offer to your baby. If the bone breaks easily, crumbles at the edges, or splinters, the risk of the bone breaking off inside your baby’s mouth is higher.
Another option is to spread chicken puree on a lightly toasted slice of bread and cut it into slices about the length and width of an adult finger. Place it on the baby's tray or hand to encourage self-feeding. Note that wheat is a common allergen, so if you haven’t ruled out wheat allergy or intolerance in your baby yet, make sure to start with small portions.
Finger food 9 to 12 months old: you can continue to offer chicken as recommended above. However, at this stage, babies begin to use their pincer grasp (thumb and index finger) to pick up small pieces of food, and some babies might not be as interested in bigger shapes and sizes. So you can move into bite sizes of food about the size of a garbanzo bean by finely shredding or slicing chicken into paper-thin pieces.
Baby Z, 12 months old, eating chicken drumsticks
If your baby has developed their pincer grasp, offer ground or shredded chicken on its own to minimize the choking risk as your baby advances more in their feeding skills. Make sure the meat is moist, and place it on baby’s tray or in a suction bowl for self-feeding. If your baby’s pincer grasp has not yet developed, either stick with chicken strips about the size of two adult fingers placed together, chicken drumstick, or ground/shredded chicken folded into easy-to-scoop dishes as recommended for 6-9-month old babies.
9+ months: cooked ground or shredded chicken on its own; bite size pieces of cooked chicken about the size of a garbanzo bean
Encourage the use of utensils by preloading a baby fork with one of the bite-sized pieces of chicken, then give the fork to baby so they can bring to their mouth independently. If your baby is not interested in using utensils, then just place the pieces of chicken on his tray, plate or bowl.
★Refrain from offering chunks or cubes of meat, as it increases the risk of choking.
This is also a great stage to start mixing chicken with other foods and making preparations, since your baby should have already been exposed to a few different foods and you have probably ruled out some possible food allergies or intolerance.
Finger food 12+ months old: continue to offer chicken as suggested above, and incorporate in different preparations as well. Encourage the use of utensils by preloading a baby fork with a bite-size piece of chicken and giving it to your baby so they can bring it to their mouth on their own. Give them also the opportunity to practice “forking” a piece of meat themselves.
Baby L, 2 years old, eating chicken drumsticks
When you feel your baby is ready, you can also move up to bigger sizes for biting and tearing practice, or you may start offering chicken patties or meatballs - this is a great stage for this, as toddlers love “shaped” food. Serve a patty or a meatball on top of or with a side of applesauce, yogurt, sour cream, tomato sauce, or other baby-friendly sauces for dipping, which will add moisture and aid in swallowing - plus toddlers love to dip stuff!
★To reduce the risk of choking, refrain from offering chunks of chicken or serving perfectly sized cubes.
★As a reminder, always stay within an arm’s reach of your child during mealtimes, especially when they are eating challenging foods or common choking hazards such as meats.
Note: Finger foods are small pieces of food that your baby can pick up and eat easily. Introducing finger foods early, as soon as starting solids, helps your baby get used to different food textures, improves coordination and encourages self-feeding. These are important feeding skills. Babies can enjoy soft finger foods before they have teeth. They can mash foods into smaller pieces using their gums.
⚠️Avoid putting finger foods or whole foods in your baby's mouth for them. Your baby must do this at their own pace and under their own control.⚠️
Chicken meal ideas for babies:
Offer chicken strips of drumsticks with humus, guacamole, yogurt for dipping.
Mix shredded chicken with grains like quinoa, farro, rice - offer in a suction bowl or make balls/patties/sausage.
Combine shredded chicken with mayonnaise, sour cream, mash avocado, veggie puree, or yogurt in a suction bowl for scooping.
Other FAQs About Chicken
White meat chicken vs dark meat chicken. Which one is better?
All types of chicken meat are loaded with essential nutrients. However, dark meat may be more beneficial than white meat in some aspects. Dark meat has a juicy flavor, as it is high in fat and calories, whereas white meat contains less fat and more protein. The fat content of dark meat eases the preparation and yields a more moisturized cooked chicken, which makes it easier for baby to eat it.
As always, discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider. This post and this site is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. The materials and services provided by this site are for informational purposes only.
Library Symbol Legend
Here in our Food Library we use some symbols or emojis to make it easier for you to find what you need. Listed below are the symbols we use and what they mean.
🔥 - this is a high-calorie food. You should include a high-calorie food at each meal.
💪 - this is an iron-rich food. You should include an iron-rich food at each meal.
🌈 - this is a colorful food. You should include a fruit and/or a vegetable at each meal.
🥇 - this food is a great choice for baby's first food.
🌱 - this food is a great choice for plant-based babies.
💩 - this is a food that helps prevent or treat constipation.
🥜 - this food contains peanuts, a common food allergen.
🍳 - this food contains egg, a common food allergen.
🐄 - this food contains cow's milk, a common food allergen.
🌾 - this food contains wheat, a common food allergen.
✳️ - this food contains soy, a common food allergen.
💮 - this food contains sesame seed, a common food allergen.
🌰 - this food contains tree nuts, a common food allergen.
🐠 - this food contains fish, a common food allergen.
🍤 - this food contains shellfish, a common food allergen.
⚠️ - this food is a common choking hazard. Make sure to follow age and preparation guidelines.
★ - tips, tricks, and hacks.
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Choking Hazards. (2021, September 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 9, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/choking-hazards.html
Eat Wild - Health Benefits. (n.d.). Eat Wild. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm
Fletcher, J. (2018, September 14). What to know about chicken allergies. Medical News Today. Retrieved March 8, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323070#are-chicken-allergies-common
Misleading claims of “Hormone Free” or “Antibiotic Free.” (2017, June 8). The Meat We Eat. Retrieved March 8, 2021, from https://meatscience.org/TheMeatWeEat/topics/article/2017/06/08/misleading-claims-of-hormone-free-or-antibiotic-free
National Chicken Council. (2011, September 30). National Chicken Council | Chickopedia: What Consumers Need to Know. Retrieved March 8, 2021, from https://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/chickopedia/
Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means. (2012, March 22). USDA. Retrieved March 8, 2021, from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means#:%7E:text=Produce%20can%20be%20called%20organic,most%20synthetic%20fertilizers%20and%20pesticides.
Poultry | Food Source Information. (2022, March 10). Food Source Information. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://fsi.colostate.edu/poultry/
Sales, J. (2014). Effects of access to pasture on performance, carcass composition, and meat quality in broilers: A meta-analysis. Poultry Science, 93(6), 1523–1533. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2013-03499
Whelan, C. (2018, May 5). Do You Have a Chicken Allergy? Healthline. Retrieved March 8, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/chicken-allergy