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Do Chickens Eat Ants

For the longest time, I delayed starting my chicken farming adventure. I could not gather enough motivation to keep chicken because I had no idea what to feed my chickens.

I decided to go on a hunt for information and ideas about how to treat my chickens. I found a few surprising facts about what chickens feed on in a day.  As it turns out, they can eat almost anything. That includes insects and plants.

I found out that chickens have favorites. They love eating ants. A thought crossed my mind that perhaps chickens love to eat ants just as humans love nuts. When I finally started chicken farming, I noticed that the chickens often pecked into their bedding.

So I decided to take a closer look at what they bit at all the time. I noticed that there are small ants under there.  I am glad that my chickens have found a way to supplement their diet by themselves.

I cannot count the number of times I have tried to push my chickens to eat regular chicken food. However, I always find them pecking and scratching around for ants in place of chicken food. Sometimes I think that they are testing my will; they even look as if asking who the master is. I have decided that I will let them have whatever they want from time to time. 

I like to let the chickens roam free occasionally. Once I had a little ant problem within my compound, but once I let the chickens loose, there were no more ants to menace me the next day.  Ants are a source of essential nutrients. The chickens, of course, do not know this; they find them delicious.

 According to experts, ants are a great source of protein. Protein plays an integral part in a chicken’s diet for their health and producing good eggs. Ants are the most common food that chickens will have, especially when roaming. Most owners are often concerned about ants being harmful to chickens. As much as chickens love eating ants, I have noticed that some of my chickens prefer to watch from the sidelines as other chickens feed on them.

Types of Ants That Chicken Find Edible

Fire Ants

Anyone who has ever had a run-in with fire ants can tell you that their stings are excruciating.   Sometimes they cause harams to chickens as well. However, even pain will not stand in the way of a chicken and its food when feeding. Chickens will eat fire ants, although sometimes they will avoid them. Often I find it easier to get rid of the red ants myself rather than wait for a face-off between them and the chickens.

Fire ants organize themselves in large colonies. That means that they are in a better position to attack at a faster rate than chickens can. One factor about fire ants is that their sting comes deposits venom into their victims. A small chicken, therefore, does not stand a chance against them.

Carpenter Ants

 Carpenter ants are slightly larger than typical ants.  One fascinating feature of them is that they have wings.  They come out during spring and autumn. Their large size means that those chickens love them because they are more satisfying. I think I once spotted my chickens enjoying a carpenter ants feast, but as is usual, some of my chickens preferred to watch as their companions enjoyed their meals. 

 Although I consider ants more dangerous than they are beneficial to my chickens, I have come to accept that they will be around them forever. Ants are attracted to broken eggs and food leftovers. They also know when a chicken is at its most vulnerable state, such as when it is sick. However, never will a chicken give in to their stings without a fight.

It is a Complicated Relationship for Ants and Chickens

I have had altercations with ants a few times. When an ant stings, the feeling is rather annoying. During my research, I found out that ants are fond of attacking young chickens. Most of the time, the young chickens have no idea how to get rid of the ants, especially when they bury themselves deep in their feathers. That is why sometimes, chicken owners will hear a chick making sounds like they are in discomfort but fail to understand what the issue is.

 As a chicken grows, they learn more and more how to deal with ants. It is often a poetic justice situation since chickens start to peck at the ants whenever they come across them. When there are anthills around, it will always be the first place that chickens stop when they go out of the coop.

The most dangerous species is the red fire ants. I have had my experience with this variety of ants. Several chicken owners have often reported that red ants have harmed their chickens, especially the younger ones. They alienate other species of ants that are less harmful. They get their name from their red-brown. I think that the power in their bite also contributes to their name.

As dangerous as fire ants are, chickens are worth adversaries. They continue to peck on them no matter how hard they bite them. There is always the danger of ants overwhelming chickens. For this reason, I make a point of getting rid of new fire ants nets. If they are too many, they could kill the chickens. Also, to keep the numbers low, I ensure that I get rid of any dead things like worms or foodstuffs that my chickens fail to eat.

Black ants are a better alternative to fire ants as chicken food. Chickens enjoy feeding on them more than they want fire ants. Black ants rarely attack the chickens unless they are retaliating to attacks. Their stings and bites are just as vicious as fire ants’. However, most of my chickens find fire ants more delicious and fun to forage than black ants. 

Nutritional Values of Ants

Ants, like many other insects, are a source of protein for chickens. Protein is essential for the production of healthy eggs. After feeding my chickens other meals, I allow them to roam freely and forage because some insects such as ants that they consume provide them with other vital nutrients besides proteins.  They have about 44.64% proteins and 42.07 % of fat. It all depends on the part of the ant that chickens consume the most. Other minerals that ants provide are 

  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus

When a chicken has enough protein content in their bodies, they can produce enough feathers to provide them with warmth, especially during molting season, which often occurs during autumn and spring seasons. That is parallel to when carpenter ants start to show up from their underground nests.

When I leave my home to run errands, I like to allow my chickens to roam to grab an ant snack while I am out. They can last a while without feeling hungry, which keeps me at ease. I think my chickens enjoy the work involving looking for ants underground too.

Since ants are fond of hiding under my chickens’ bedding, they turn my chickens into my little helpers as they turn the beddings. They do so when they always scratch into it to look for the ants. If I could, I would scatter the less dangerous ant species into the coops so that my chickens could do more work for me.

Risks in an Ant Diet

Some ants, such as red fire ants, are quite vicious. That is not all; there is a possibility of then sticking the chicken inside the throat. Chickens find it hard to spit out food; therefore, they must endure the stings’ pain. They attack the most vulnerable parts of a chicken.  When not attacking inside the throat of a chicken, the ants can attack small chicks.

In extreme cases, the chicks die.  I cannot let my chickens be on an exclusive ant diet because it might not be enough.  The last thing I want is to think that my chickens have had enough to eat all while they are starving.  I decided to allow my chickens to have ants as a little snack. I supplement their diet with other forms of chicken food to keep them at optimum health conditions.

How to Reduce Ant Population in Chicken Environments

Chemicals

 As much as I appreciate that some of my chickens like eating ants, I have witnessed firsthand how dangerous red ants can be to my animals. I have not faced a difficult situation of ants’ invasions yet, but I know how to handle it as soon as it happens. 

I have come across people who recommend using chemicals; however, the downside of these chemicals is that they can do more harm than good.  Therefore, if I use the chemicals, I will use them in areas where my chickens never reach. Spraying the substances in the coops is not an option because my chickens and their chicks reside there.

Homemade Solution

There is the option of coming up with a homemade ant repellant. The advantage of this option is that it will not harm the chickens but keep the ants away. The method involves a vinegar and water solution that I can sprinkle inside the coop.

Apart from those two methods, I have discovered fewer and fewer ants invade the chickens’ coop when I clear broken eggs and uneaten food. All these measures strive to eliminate the red ants from the chickens’ vicinity. Having chickens has been quite an adventure for me.

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