What Does Chicken Feed Mean?

Chicken Feed Meaning

Definition: A negligible amount of something, particularly money.

The phrase chicken feed refers to a small amount of something. It is most commonly used to refer to money or wages. However, this phrase can be used to describe a small amount of almost anything.

Origin of and Ways to Use Chicken Feed

The exact etymology of chicken feed is disputed. Some sources claim it was first used between 1830 and 1840; others claim it was not used until the early 1900s.

The phrase chicken feed has two meanings in English. One is idiomatic and the other is literal. If someone is using chicken feed in a literal sense, he is referring to the food one gives a chicken. Literal chicken feed usually comes in the form of tiny grains. This is likely where the meaning of the idiomatic form originated. Whether this phrase is used idiomatically or literally will be clear in context.

This idiom has the same meaning as another English idiom, peanuts. If Roisin says she was paid peanuts for her work, she means that she was paid a very small amount.

Examples of Chicken Feed

Define chicken feedThis phrase can be used to refer to a small or insignificant amount of anything, but it is most commonly used to refer to wages or money. The sample conversation between a manager and his employee demonstrates the correct use of this phrase.

Matthew: Here’s your paycheck for this week.

Rob: This is all I’m getting paid this week? This is chicken feed! How am I supposed to survive off this?

Matthew: Thank the government for that one. With all of the taxes we both have to pay, we’re lucky to get that much.

More Examples

  • A youngish male, in his moment of ecstasy, propels a hundred million out into the world, so five is peanuts, chicken feed. – The Washington Post
  • He ended his book with a chart of the rise in welfare spending between 1935 and 1964, when it had soared 4,500 percent to $630 million (chicken-feed compared to today’s $14 billion in social services outlays). – NY Post


The English idiom chicken feed refers to a negligible amount of something, especially money or pay. This idiom can be used to refer to a small amount of virtually anything.