The other day I noticed one of my hens had, what looked to be, a single blade of grass in her beak. It’s not uncommon for a chicken to try and eat something it shouldn’t so I paused to watch. Sure enough, she was deliberately snatching single blades of grass and gobbling them down. This surprised me. I’ve seen cats eat grass, which always seemed counterproductive to me as they generally come back into the house and puke it all back up. But I had to wonder, do chickens eat grass?
Turns out, they do.
Turns out, they do Chickens are omnivores, meaning they can eat both plants and animals for survival. It is good to note however, that a chicken eating only grass would most likely not get a full balance of nutrients needed for good health. But don’t be to alarmed if you see your birds pecking at the greens. It’s good for them.
What Types Of Grass Will A Chicken Eat?
You can feed your chickens pretty much any kind of grass that’s green and tender enough for the bird’s beak to tear apart. Be very careful about feeding them tough and dry stalks as these types of things can get lodged in their throats. I once saw a chicken try and gobble down an untied shoestring. That did not work so well for the bird as the other half of the shoestring was still attached to my foot!
Things like wheat and rye are okay for them to eat, provided the plant is still in the ground; green, juicy and growing. The plants root should provide enough resistance for the bird to tear off bite sized pieces.
Soybeans, with their high protein content, are a great plant for chickens to snack on.
A number of bushes also make for good bird consumption. But be wary of landscaping plants or berry bushes, particularly ones that you’ve paid money for. If your feathered friend decides it tastes good, then it could be gone quickly. I had 3 raspberry bushes that my birds pecked every single leaf off, killing the plants and leaving me with dead prickly stalks to deal with.
You can also give your chickens big leafy things like leftover lettuce, provided it’s tender enough to be pecked apart. Just make absolutely certain that it has no salad dressing on it as this is not good for the birds.
Will A Chicken Eat My Lawn Clippings?
Yes, a chicken will absolutely eat your lawn clippings, so feel free to dump a mower bag full somewhere at their disposal. They will definitely eat some of it, but don’t expect them to eat all of it. They are much more likely to pick through the greens looking for the bugs that might have gotten picked up by the mower.
Also, a pile of grass clippings will provide your birds with hours entertainment as they love to kick and spread things around. So drop it in a place that’s beneficial for you. If you have a lifted coop where the bird’s droppings can fall through to the ground, then directly underneath the coop is a great place to do this. In time, the leftover grass that’s been spread will dry, absorbing the waste from the birds. Gather this up and put it on the compost pile. Come next spring, you’ll have some great fertilizer.
Can A Chicken Mow My Lawn?
An extremely high density of chickens not withstanding, you will most likely still have to mow your lawn.
It’s not uncommon to see chicken pens without any kind of grass or greenery. The bare dirt is the result of the birds pecking and scratching at everything until it is all gone. This is a behavior that starts very early and will continue all their lives. Point of fact, chicks as young as 1 day old will give an inquisitive peck at something. Scratching comes not too much later.
Clever backyard gardeners will use this behavior to help prepare a space for new planting. Just put some poultry netting around the desired area and turn the birds loose. In an amazingly short amount of time, every loose leaf or piece of grass will have been turned over, every nuisance bug gobbled down and every mouse or gopher vacated, all while adding a chicken’s personal blend of nutrients back into the soil.
Should I Ever Stop My Chicken From Eating Grass?
When given the opportunity, chickens will generally only work at something until they lose interest. So for your free range friends, who have ample space to run around in, they’ll eat the grass they’re interested in and then move on to something else. It’s very unlikely they would eat to the point where it was detrimental for their health.
However, for birds raised in pens, the limited amount of distractions means they’ll spend a lot more time working on what’s available. In this situation, the birds will eat more grass. And as was mentioned above, grass doesn’t have all the nutrients they need. So without supplements such as a good quality feed, you could see a drop in egg production or even a loss of weight. For this reason, I recommend the free-range approach for your flock if at all possible.
A word of warning though, to those considering the free-range method. Chickens can be remarkably focused when they do find something that piques their interest.
There was a 4 by 20 foot raised bed in my backyard that I had used to grow early summer veggies. After harvesting my produce, I cleaned the bed out and planted clover, hoping that this green manure would improve the soil for next season. The clover sprouted and grew well to about an inch tall when the birds discovered it.
In just two days, those six hens managed to eat every single piece of clover – and I do mean every single piece! All that they left me was a 4 by 20 foot piece of bare disappointment. Fortunately, the birds never displayed any signs of bad health after eating all of that. But what a colossal waste of time and money on my part!
Do Chickens Gather Grass For Nesting?
When a hen is looking to be broody (the behavior exhibited when sitting on a clutch of eggs), she will find a spot that suits her. Generally, it will be a cozy kind of enclosure, sometimes far away from the rest of the flock. But unlike a lot of birds you see in the backyard, chickens don’t construct a nest by weaving twigs and string together. The hen will definitely ‘tidy up’ but this is not the same as say a robins nest that you’d see in a tree. A chicken’s nest would be more accurately described as a depression and not a construction.
So don’t jump to conclusions if you see a chicken with a piece of grass in her mouth. She’s not preparing to rear chicks. She’s probably just hungry.
Do Chickens Eat Grass : Answer YES!
Chickens most assuredly eat grass. How much and what kinds, depends on their surroundings. If kept in a pen, they’ll eat everything that is available; ultimately leaving the ground bare. If they’re able to wander in a free-range environment, you’ll generally never notice what they take. If however, you’ve got something that you definitely don’t want them eating then be sure to put a fence around it. They could ignore it for weeks or even months, and then one day they’ll discover it and then proceed to annihilate it, leaving you with a bare patch of disappointment.