Even if you’re new to chickens, you’ve probably seen them walking in the yard or a field on a farm, head down, constantly pecking at the ground as they go. Sure, they are eating bugs, seeds, and anything else they can find, but what about grass?
Can a chicken eat grass?
Absolutely, chickens enjoy eating grass! Fresh grass is an important component of a chicken’s diet, and it’s one of several reasons why free-range chickens are typically healthier than caged birds.
You may be surprised to hear that fresh grass can deliver over a quarter of a chicken’s daily nutrients. It lowers the cost of feed for homestead chicken owners or people who raise chickens in a suburban backyard.
Let’s explore why chickens love fresh grass so much and some other things they eat to stay healthy.
Why Chickens Love to Eat Grass
Grass, though humans can’t eat it, is a great source of food for a lot of animals. Chickens love to eat grass for its iron, vitamin C, vitamin E, and high protein levels. It also keeps their digestive systems working well because grass has a lot of natural fiber in it.
A great thing about chickens is that they also love to eat broadleaf and other weeds in your yard, something people who are meticulous about nice lawns appreciate very much. The darker leaves and flowers of the weeds can add a darker color to their egg yolks when they get around to laying some eggs.
If you enjoy working in the yard and pull a lot of weeds, don’t just toss them in the trash. Instead, give them to your chickens and they’ll appreciate the nice snack. It’s a perfect way to dispose of weeds you don’t want and fill your chickens’ bellies at the same time.
Be Careful About How You Treat Your Grass
Anyone in charge of taking care of a lawn knows that those perfect lawns take a lot of work. Most of the time, it requires chemicals and other lawn treatments that affect the way the lawn looks and how much water it needs to stay looking vibrant.
If you’re planning on raising chickens and having them eat your grass, you should avoid treating it with any strong chemicals that might make them sick or kill them. Things like Roundup and other chemicals used to kill weeds can be fatal.
Additionally, you’ll want to avoid feeding your chicken dry or overly tough grass because it is a choking hazard and is more difficult to digest. If they eat too much of it, that type of grass can kill them.
Rye and wheatgrass are ok for birds, but only if they are rooted in the ground. Then, the chickens can only pluck off bite-sized chunks of the grass that are safe to swallow.
This is another reason why you may want to reconsider feeding your chickens any grass clippings. Depending on how tall they are, they could end up making them sick or killing them.
However, there’s no reason to worry if your clippings are small, and your chickens will love sorting through fresh grass clippings to look for any bugs that were caught up in the mower that they can eat.
Chickens Also Need Other Food Sources
Chickens are omnivores. They eat plants and animals. These are super predators by any means, but a lot of chicken owners love having them around because they eat up all of the ticks and other annoying insects in the yard. They’re a fantastic form of natural pest control.
Bugs are also a great protein source for your birds, so let them have at it!
In general, chickens aren’t picky eaters. They will eat your leftover scraps from dinner, and the things you don’t want to eat from your garden. All you have to do is toss the food items in the general vicinity, and they’ll start pecking away.
Chickens love things like corn, tomatoes, watermelon, and other fruits and vegetables. They also love eggs. Strangely, if you see any eggs you don’t want or that are partially cracked, just toss them on the ground and chickens will slurp up the yolk and egg whites in no time.
Chickens Need Bird Feed
Chickens have multiple stomachs just like cows. This means they need a balanced diet to keep food moving through their organs and digestive systems.
Eating a diet that consists of grass only isn’t safe. They can die if they get too much grass in their stomachs. So, chickens need other food sources, and that’s why almost every chicken owner should be giving poultry feed to their birds.
Most of the commercial feed you will find online or at your local farm supply store will have nutrients the chickens need to grow healthy and strong. The feed is enriched and fortified with vitamins and minerals. This way, the grass they eat is a supplement to their feed and not their only food source.
Just Keep an Eye on Your Chickens
At the end of the day, it’s not like you can stop your chickens from eating grass unless you keep them locked up in their coop. No one wants to raise chickens like this, so they’re going to be eating grass while they’re outside ranging. That’s OK! As we’ve already covered, the grass is a great nutrient source for your birds.
The only thing you should do is check in on your chickens from time to time. Note if they are eating too much grass and if they’re getting sick or throwing up or anything like that. If you spot any signs of potential trouble, you can always contact a vet and talk through what’s happening.
They’ll give you some recommendations on what you can do and tell you whether you need to bring your chickens in for a visit.