Slugs and snails are everywhere, especially during the hottest months of the summer. And if you have a chicken coop, it’s something that you have to be on the lookout for.
Since they will be prevalent from time to time, do chickens eat snails and slugs?
Unfortunately, chickens will eat slugs and snails and they’ll do it without any hesitancy, not just because they’re underfed or otherwise hungry. Chickens will eat just about anything underfoot if they find it and can get to it.
While snails aren’t such a big deal—they’re loaded with the kind of protein that chickens need—slugs have the potential to be extremely dangerous, even though the potential danger is considered to be pretty rare.
Why Are Slugs Dangerous For Chickens?
The simplest answer is gapeworms. But it’s more complicated than that, not only because of what gapeworms can do if they spread through the entire flock but because slugs are hard to keep at bay and the danger really is not that common. (source)
The problem is, regardless of how rare the danger is, you don’t want to roll the dice when it comes to the health of your chickens.
Another potentially devastating parasite is the rat lungworm. (source)
The rat lungworm finds its way into chickens through a chain effect. A rat has to be infected with the worm for starters. When the rat defecates, the lungworm parasites are inside the droppings. Along comes sir slug who finds rat droppings to be a tasty treat and becomes a new carrier.
The chicken then comes along and eats the slug and has now contracted rat lungworm.
The Danger of Gapeworms
Gapeworms are long, red worms that thrive inside the lining of a chicken’s throat, causing it no end of strife and respiratory problems. If a chicken has been infected with gapeworms it will exhibit a variety of different symptoms:
- Trouble breathing
- Rattling sound during breathing
- Fast head-shaking
- Looking skyward with a (gaping) mouth
- No appetite
Eventually, a gapeworm will kill a chicken because it can no longer breathe or it will die of dehydration because it can’t drink.
Fortunately—as long as you recognize the symptoms in time—you can treat and ultimately cure the condition. There are two types of wormers that will kill off and eliminate the parasite: Flubenol and Aviverm. (source) (source)
Flubenol is added to the feed and has no effects on the ability to lay eggs nor any effects on our ability to consume them. The same is true of Aviverm, except it is added to the water supply rather than the feed.
The Danger Of Rat Lungworm
A chicken that is dealing with a lungworm infection will exhibit many of the same symptoms as they do with gapeworm as they struggle to breathe and take in oxygen.
Since lungworm is far rarer in chickens than gapeworm, the symptoms may be confused with gapeworm. Lungworm in chickens can be treated with the same wormers listed above, Flubenol and Aviverm.
Is There Any Danger from Chickens Eating Snails?
Chickens run the risk of getting gapeworm from snails as well, however, it’s far less common for them to get it from snails than from slugs. The risk is still there but is controllable if you have properly dewormed your chickens.
It’s very difficult to keep chickens from eating snails because in order to kill snails you have to use poison pellets, which are also harmful to chickens. Chickens aren’t brilliant creatures, after all, and they’ll happily consume all of the poison pellets in your yard.
How To Get Rid of Snails and Slugs Safely
You can tackle this through one of two methods, or even both if it suits you. Either rotate Flubenol into your chicken feed for a single week every six months or spread anti-slug/snail pellets throughout the yard.
The problem with the pellets is that you’ll have to spread them in such a way that they get rid of the slugs and snails without contaminating your chickens. Metaldehyde is the active ingredient in slug-killing pellets and it’s poisonous to your chickens, especially in large quantities. (source)
The ingredient happens to be irresistible to slugs and they simply can’t help eating the stuff like crazy before curling up and dying a quick death. The best way to kill them is to spread the pellets completely around your coop, but out of reach of the chickens.
The slug pellets will attract the slugs, so it’s not like you have to put it anywhere within reach of your chickens. As long as it’s out there, the slugs will find it. As an added bonus, the attraction of Metaldahyde will draw the slugs away from the chickens and straight to the bait.
Slug and Snail Traps
Beslands manufactures a neat little slug and snail trap that carries the ingenuous label of “Snail Box.” These traps work well. All you have to do is bury them in your yard—where your chickens can’t access them—and fill them halfway with beer. (source)
You heard that right, fill the snail boxes to the halfway point with some cheap beer. Snails and slugs are raging drunks and will come running (sliding?) to get their fill. The problem is, they fall into the box and can’t get out.
The next day, you come through, check your traps, and remove (kill) all of the happily drunk snails and slugs that happened to entrap themselves over their eagerness to get at the beer. It’s a pretty nifty trap and it works well for ridding your yard of snails and slugs.
All Things Considered
If you stay on top of it, it’s not too difficult to keep slugs and snails at bay or to let your chickens feast on them while you supply them with a routine rotation of the proper dewormer.
The absolute best way to avoid gapeworm, lungworm, and any other side effects that could potentially come with eating slugs and snails, is to both eliminate the slugs/snails and provide your chickens with the appropriate dewormer.