If you've ever wondered, "What do chickens eat?" then wonder no more, because here is the answer.
It doesn't take much study around my chicken yard to figure out that chickens aren't that picky about what they eat. For the most part, chickens are omnivorous, and they're also blood thirsty. They love blood. Yuk!
One thing they don't eat is onions.
There are a few other off limits items, but otherwise just about everything is fair game for a chicken - even dirt and pebbles.
Let's take a look.
Naturally grown food is just fine for your flock of chickens. My preference is to feed my flock that which I grow. What could be easier and more economical?
Grass is a favorite of chickens. If you have a patch of grass that you want removed, just fence in a bunch of chickens, and you'll have bare dirt in a couple of days - stems, leaves, roots and all. It's also excellent food for them.
Green leaves are soon devoured if you surround them with chickens. Weeds, flowers, vegetables, bushes and low hanging tree branches are all fair game for chickens. If it's green, they'll at least try it.
Vegetables can satisfy a chicken's interest in food. They like summer and winter squash just fine, and will generally try to eat any vegetable that can be pulverized or torn apart easily. Photo left shows a few of our girls enjoying vegetable discards from a local organic food store.
Kitchen scraps are also
a favorite for my chickens. They'll strip the meat off of a carcass or
bone, clean up whatever you left on your plate, and eagerly devour
vegetable peelings and cuttings from the kitchen. They are two-legged garbage disposals and compost makers. Photo right shows chickens eating scrap potatoes, cooked.
Seeds are the main diet of chickens largely because that's what we have decided to feed them. If you asked someone what do chickens eat, they'll likely say "grain" as their first response. It's true, chickens will naturally find seeds (grain) on the surface of the soil and just under the surface when they scratch things up, but they eat much more than just grain.
When we think about what do chickens eat, we usually consider stationary foods like what we might feed them out of a bag, but their natural animal instincts can have them chasing down their dinner as well.
Mice can be eaten by chickens. If it scurries across the ground, chances are good that a chicken will be right behind it looking to turn it into a meal.
Worms are a favorite of chickens. It's one of the reasons they scratch at the ground, and it's the main reason they enjoy a nice patch of freshly tilled earth.
Bugs are spotted by the watchful eye of the chicken and sampled for taste. If the bug isn't a large hard shelled beetle, it probably won't last long with a chicken.
When considering what do chickens eat, we're likely to think about food items...things we'd consider to be food. Well, that's not always the case with chickens.
Blood seems to be an odd thing for chickens to eat, but they do. They love blood. If you butcher an animal with chickens nearby, they will come over to drink the blood and eat the ground that the blood has soaked into.
Even if it's the blood from one of their buddies, they don't care - they're there to feast on it.
Chickens are blood thirsty and can be cruel to one another. They will peck another chicken and basically eat it alive. You want to know what do chicken eat? I'm here to tell you that sometimes it's their own kind and even one of their kin. If the wounded bird is still alive and bleeding, they will continue to peck at it and eat it's flesh and blood.
Grit and soil are also part of a chicken's diet. It doesn't seem natural, but chickens eat small stones and pebbles so they can grind up seeds/grain in their gizzard. When you butcher a chicken and cut open it's gizzard, you are bound to find small stones and pebbles in there.
Notice the denuded soil in the photo above. Outside the chicken yard there is plenty of vegetation, but inside it's been stripped and scratched down to nothing at all. There should be no question about what do chickens eat, this photo makes one of their favorite meals very clear.
As far as I can tell, there are only a handful of things that chickens don't or won't eat. Here they are:
a pretty short list, but that's been my experience as I have raised
many a chicken to provide meat and eggs here at Best of Both Worlds. As you can see, when you think about what do chickens eat, it's easier to list what they don't eat.