If you own a flock of chickens, then you may be wondering if they can or even should consume insects like crickets. Perhaps you have a lot of wild crickets in your local area, or you have seen them online or in a store. Either way, it’s important to know for certain if they can be fed. Here is what you need to know.
So, can chickens eat crickets? Chickens can eat crickets, and generally enjoy doing so. There is a lot of nutrition to be had from them – crickets are high in protein along with a number of other important nutrients making them a great treat to offer. However, feeding wild crickets should be avoided.
While wild crickets may be safe, they can easily be carrying pesticides, herbicides, and other dangerous chemicals.
Besides, they live in a highly toxic environment – one in which is keen to eradicate them. They are considered pests by many, after all.
For this reason, it is advised to purchase crickets specifically harvested for consumption by chickens and other pets. Equally, you can look to harvest your own.
Crickets along with other insects are most commonly associated with reptiles and amphibians.
They make a great snack for these kinds of pets.
However, chickens can equally benefit from them and they are actually loaded full of protein and other vitamins and minerals.
Let us now take a closer look at the nutrition of crickets, along with whether they are good for your birds.
Be sure to keep on reading, as you will even learn how you can harvest them yourself to save money and keep up a regular supply for your, always seemingly hungry, flock.
Do Chickens Eat Crickets?
Most chickens will eat crickets if they were available to them. This can be both naturally, through foraging when free-roaming, or when provided as a treat.
Equally, your chickens can eat, and will likely want to eat, both live and dead crickets. Although, live crickets will enable your chickens to fulfill their natural desires and tendencies to forage.
Crickets are not the only insects a chicken will attempt to consume. Grasshoppers, flies, ticks and spiders are just some of the others they will actively seek out.
While chickens will predominantly pluck insects from the ground, they have even been known to snatch flies out of the air.
A lot of chicken keepers report that their flock love to consume crickets. A quick search on YouTube even shows a lot of footage of chickens eating them up liberally.
One news story on a Southern Texas Elementary school reported that chickens were deployed to eat through the crickets that had invaded the campus!
So, we now know that chickens are keen to consume crickets, but are they actually any good for them? Let us now explore this further in the section below!
Are Crickets Good For Chickens?
Crickets, along with other insects, are considered a great source of nutrition in scientific circles. They can therefore be an excellent addition to the diet of your chickens.
Crickets are a complete protein that include all 9 essential amino acids. They are equally packed with vitamins, nutrients and minerals which all can support the health of your birds when fed.
Crickets are packed full of B-Vitamins, particularly B12. They are also high in the biologically active form of Vitamin A and Vitamin B2.
From a mineral perspective, they contain over 5x the amount of mangenisum compared to beef, and over 3x the amount of iron.
They also provide more calcium than milk, and are high in Zinc.
All of these vitamins and minerals are crucial for healthy egg production, sufficient growth, strength and a strong immune system.
Then, crickets also have anti-oxidant qualities which help protect your chickens from cell damage caused by free radicals. In other words, accelerated aging.
Crickets have over three times the antioxidants as orange juice.
And beyond just the healthy levels of protein, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, insects are known to be more easily digested than other protein sources. Especially fr chickens. This means all of which are more easily absorbed and available.
So, as we can see, crickets make a great addition to the diet from a nutritional perspective.
However, when feeding crickets there are some things to be aware of.
First, is that they should be added to a diet of high-quality poultry feed. This should always form the basis of the diet and be the main component of what they eat.
Then, there is how you should acquire your crickets to feed.
Crickets should be purchased from specific and reputable retailers and suppliers to ensure they are safe for consumption.
Crickets should be harvested specifically to be eaten by pets, including chickens, other reptiles and amphibians.
This is because wild crickets can have easily digested herbicides, pesticides and other anti-insect chemicals that have been used/sprayed over the environment. Equally, they may be carrying parasites which can be transferred to your birds.
So, you should never attempt to catch or feed wild crickets to your birds; you risk increasing their exposure to these chemicals which can be immensely harmful to their health.
While your chickens will naturally eat wild crickets when free-roaming, they will typically not be able to consume enough that will cause an issue.
A small amount of wild crickets should be fine, and there is never a guarantee that they do in fact carry these harmful chemicals. They could be entirely safe.
But it is a risk to be aware of. It is best, and is generally advised to either purchase insects carefully harvested, or to even harvest them yourself!
If you are interested in the latter, which is actually very easy, you’ll learn exactly how to do below.
Otherwise, these are my go to supply from Amazon!
How Do You Raise Crickets For Chickens?
If you want to feed crickets to your chickens on a more consistent basis, then one of the most cost-effective ways to do so is to harvest them yourself.
They are easy to grow and do not require much to do so effectively. Essentially, you’ll be creating your own cricket farm.
To build your own cricket farm, you’ll need to begin with a sufficiently large bin. 14 gallons is recommended as a minimum as this can generally hold up to 500 or so crickets making it worth your while.
Ensure the bin walls are smooth so the crickets are unable to climb up the side and escape. This is the kind of bin you will want to buy from Amazon.
From there, you want to add a mesh to the top of the bin to allow air circulation and an opportunity for the crickets to breathe.
Crickets do best in temperatures of around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, you want to place this bin in a warm environment and place. This can vary; and they are easy to raise in a wide range of places from a cupboard, to a shed, to a barn, to a patio.
At this juncture, you will need to obtain your starter crickets to begin your population. You can get these quite easily from either pet stores (as they are often sold as food for reptiles like bearded dragons) or via mail-order online suppliers.
You can feed the crickets foods such as fruits, gourds and cucumber; they enjoy these and tend to be good foods for growth. Other good foods to offer are grains, nuts, and vegetables.
When it comes to breeding crickets, this insect lays egg in soil. For this reason you will need to place a shallow container of soil into their habitat. You will want to keep this soil moist – and you can do so by spraying a small amount of water onto it frequently.
Having done so, you should soon notice that the crickets lay eggs in the soil; and you will see them as they appear as small white dots.
You’ll then need to incubate the eggs in another container. A heating pad/lamp will be required for additional heat.
Leave the eggs to incubate for a period of 5-10 days. You’ll notice during this time that baby crickets begin to appear.
Baby crickets will need additional protein to grow to a sufficient size where you can feed them to your chickens.
At around the 1/2 inch size, you can harvest them to feed to your flock. Its usually a good idea to keep some back for additional breeding.
“Harvesting” is essentially placing them into a cold environment, such as a freezer, where they enter a long-term state of hibernation where they do not wake.
One thing to note is that crickets only usually live for around 2 weeks. So, you will need to regularly breed them if you want to continue raising them for your flock.
Once harvested, change the soil in the bin so that new eggs can be laid and the cycle can continue.
Chickens can eat crickets, generally enjoy them and there are a lot of benefits in them doing so!
Crickets, along with other insects, are some of the most nutritious foods available for your birds and can provide high-quality protein (all 9 amino acids) along with a range of vitamins and minerals your birds need for optimal health.
However, it is important that you only offer crickets that have been specifically harvested for consumption. Wild crickets can carry pesticides, and herbicides along with parasites which can harm your chickens.
So instead, purchase your crickets from reputable suppliers or opt to harvest them yourself!
Creating your own cricket farm is not actually that much work.
With a small up-front investment and a little bit of time, you can soon have an entire colony ready for snack time.
In fact, it can be a cost-effective way to provide healthy, nutritious treats to your birds for years to come.
Chickens can eat dead crickets so long as they have been appropriately freeze-dried and sourced from respected sources. Wild crickets that have died should not be fed, as they may have died from ingesting herbicides and pesticides in the environment. These chemicals can cause harm to your birds so are best avoided.
Wondering what else chickens can eat? Check out my comprehensive guide below:
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.