It’s common knowledge that a lot of different farm animals eat grass, but what about chickens? Many people don’t know the answer to this question, but you’ll know in a matter of minutes. This article will discuss chickens, grass, and what happens when you combine them.
Yes, grass is completely safe for chickens to eat. In fact, you’ll find a lot of chickens in the wild use grass as their go-to food. In fact, studies suggest that grass-fed chickens produce healthier eggs.
Let’s learn more about how grass and chickens go together.
Do Chickens Eat Grass Naturally?
If you have a flock of free-range chickens, you already know the answer to this question.
Yes, chickens will naturally feed on grass. Biologically, chickens are foragers. They’ll hunt for berries and green foliage to eat for sustenance. You’ll actually notice that your chickens fall into a routine after a while.
They’ll graze on the grass during the day, and they’ll go into their enclosure when it gets close to sunset.
You can tell by looking at a chicken that they’re made for grazing like this. They are low to the ground, and their neck can telescope downward easily. Their beaks are made for biting little pieces of foliage for consumption. Even their internal organs are optimized for eating grass.
The Hidden Benefit of Eating Grass
There is a hidden benefit for your chicken to graze on grass for food. In fact, it’s so hidden that you almost can’t see it with the naked eye. That’s right, and we’re talking about bugs!
Bugs are filled with proteins and nutrients that chickens love. By eating grass, chickens are subsequently eating bugs and getting more nutrients from their meal.
Does Grass Lead to Healthier Chickens?
There’s a lot of data that suggests grass is amazing for chickens. There is a notable study that took a look at the eggs between grass-fed and feed-fed chickens. The results were very favorable in the grass-fed chickens.
Their eggs had less saturated fat and cholesterol. They also had more vitamin A, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and beta carotene.
This means that their eggs are healthier for human consumption, too.
The term “free-range chicken” refers to how much time the chicken is allowed in pastures. These pastures are filled with grass. The grass is believed to be the reason why free-range chickens are healthier.
Problems with Letting your Chicken Eat Grass
If you choose to let your chickens eat grass from your lawn, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Too Many Chickens, Not Enough Grass
The big problem with letting your chicken eat grass comes down to how your lawn looks aesthetically. You’d be surprised how much grass a flock of chickens can eat. A lot of farmers will think that they have plenty of grass, and they’ll wind up with a patchy and uneven field due to the chickens.
This problem only arises when farmers don’t consult with experts before creating a field for their chickens.
The Chickens Will Pollute
When chickens eat, chickens poop. There is a lot of nitrogen in chicken droppings, and grass hates nitrogen.
Within the span of a week, a flock of chickens can lay enough of a layer of droppings to kill all the grass. It smothers the grass, killing the current grass and preventing future grass from sprouting.
This is a strange paradox because a small amount of chicken droppings is actually a fertilizer, which makes the grass grow stronger and faster.
The solution to this problem is to make sure you have plenty of space for the chickens to roam. As long as there’s more than enough grass, you won’t have to worry about poo piling up in certain locations and killing the grass.
Chickens Could Kill Unsuitable Grass
There are certain types of grasses that are especially good for chickens to eat. Besides that, the length and healthiness of the grass matter a lot.
Short grass that is close to dying stands no chance against chickens. They will peck the blades even shorter, and the grass will all dry up and die.
You want to make sure your grass is healthy and extra long. This means that even as the chickens peck the grass down, it will still be long enough to get the sunlight and nutrients that the grass needs to survive.
Chickens Will Scratch the Grass Roots
Something you might not realize about free-range chickens is they scratch the grass as they eat. They will use their talons to claw at the roots of the grass.
If your grass isn’t healthy or long enough, the chickens could disturb your lawn and rip out sections of the field.
What About Grass Clippings?
After trimming the lawn, is it okay to repurpose the grass clippings? If you’re looking to feed these to your chickens, you can’t.
This might seem counterintuitive. Sure, chickens can safely eat grass – but it’s all about how they eat the grass.
When chickens eat grass, they will peck at the tip of the grass. They’ll eat little bites, and they’ll slowly work their way down the piece of grass.
By giving a chicken clippings of grass, you’re forcing them to eat it whole. The problem that arises is that these long, fibrous pieces of grass are really strong and hard to digest. It winds up tangling up inside of the chicken and can lead to blockages. In severe cases, grass clippings can be fatal to chickens.
The other problem with dumping lawn clippings into a chicken’s feeding area is the quantity. Chickens are very bad at limiting how much they eat. Their bodies don’t tell them to stop eating when they’re full. For them to see a pile of grass clipping, they will think they’re supposed to eat it all. They can wind up overeating and die.
It’s always best to let the chickens graze on their own and peck and pieces of grass that grow naturally.
Feeding Your Chickens Bulk Grass
There is a way to feed your chickens your lawn clippings, though. If you’re looking to save money and promote healthier chickens, you can feed them grass that was cut from your lawn.
The crucial step here is to make sure the grass is mulched and finely chopped up. This removes all the dangerous parts of feeding your chicken’s full-lengths of grass.
You are making it a lot easier for the chickens to eat the grass at this point. Rather than foraging and pecking at your field, you can supplement the chickens with mulched grass in bulk.
It is very important that the grass is finely cut, though.
Mind the Local Code
If you are going to let your chickens be free-range, make sure you understand the local code in your area. There are laws that limit the number of chickens you can have in a set acreage.
A big reason for the codes is because the toxic buildup from chicken droppings can wind up killing them. It can become toxic for the chickens to live in. The local ordinance will make sure you are safely raising your chickens.
What Type of Grass Should Chickens Eat?
Any type of grass that is tender is good enough for a chicken. It needs to be tender so their beaks can pull apart the grass to eat it.
There is no set list of grasses that chickens can or can’t eat. They like green, lush, soft grass. As long as the roots are strong enough to hold the grass, the chicken will enjoy eating it with no problems.
In most cases, chickens will know which types of grasses to avoid as they’re grazing around. As long as there’s enough space for your chickens, they will continue eating until they’re satisfied or bored. They typically won’t overeat when it comes to foraging grass on their own.
That being said, they will forage across the entire field that they have access to. If there are certain sections you want them to stay away from, you better put up a fence or blockage. Remember that chickens are smart and can maneuver through any impromptu blockage you have.
While chickens are foraging around for grass, they might also peck at the ground. This could seem like a strange trait to you, but it’s actually the chicken hunting for worms and bugs.
This is especially common during seasons where bugs are prevalent. Chickens love the protein associated with these little critters, and they make it their mission to find them and peck them out. This is another reason why it’s great to let your chickens eat grass.
The Danger of Eating Grass
There’s a big danger that exists when chickens try to eat dry grass. The dry grass can get easily lodged in their throat and cause them to choke.
The rule of thumb is to never feed your chicken grass that is brown or browning. If it is dry to the touch, keep it away from your bird.
The other danger was mentioned earlier – if the grass is too long or fibrous, it can get tangled in the chicken’s insides.
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