If you own a flock of chickens then you may be wondering whether or not they can, or even should, eat grass. Perhaps you’ve even seen one of your birds peck down at the ground and are wondering if it is the grass they are going for. Nevertheless, this is what you will want to be aware of.
So, can chickens eat grass? Chickens can generally eat grass. Most non-treated grasses are safe and full of bugs, grubs, and nutrients that a chicken needs to obtain in its diet. However, you need to ensure that your birds are not eating any treated grass; chemicals such as roundup can be fatal when consumed by your birds.
Chickens are omnivores and greedy ones at that; there are few foods that these birds will not eat from either plant or animal sources.
If your chickens want to eat something you’d prefer they left well alone, there is little you could do to stop them.
It must be stipulated that it is not safe for chickens to eat only grass, as they are not single stomached like sheep and cattle.
These birds need a balanced diet consisting of plants and meat, but nutritionally balanced poultry feed must make the bulk of their diet.
Let us now take a closer look at the grass as a food source.
We’ll be answering such questions as whether too much grass can be eaten along with whether you should ever look to stop your birds from doing so.
Do Chickens Eat Grass?
Most chickens allowed to free-range will indeed eat grass. Chickens are omnivores and grass counts as greens, packed with a balance of nutrients necessary for good health.
However, grass doesn’t contain enough nutrients, so while chickens may love nothing more than foraging on grass, you must not allow your birds to eat only grass.
Chickens are incredibly discerning as to what type of grass to eat; they tend to avoid poor-quality grass.
How much grass your birds eat depends on their environment and what kind of grass is available.
If there are certain types of grass, you’d prefer your birds avoided, make sure to put a fence around the area to keep your birds safe.
Many people assume that when they see a hen with blades of grass in her beak that shes gathering it to make a nest for her chicks.
However, grass in the mouth is usually a sign of hunger.
Being something that is widely available to them; its no real surprise that they turn to the ground for sustenance.
This is why it is important as a chicken keeper to ensure your birds are adequately and appropriately fed.
In doing so, grass-eating behavior may just be an attempt to supplement their diets with the nutrition grass can afford.
Although hens do gather grass to support nest building for their chicks, you will know when they’re brooding and when they are hungry by their behavior.
A broody hen will find a spot that suits her and make a nest that is more of a depression in the grass than a construction.
Can Chickens Eat Too Much Grass?
You could say that chickens can eat too much grass if they eat nothing else, but that is rarely the case.
It’s fine for your chickens to eat grass as long as they have a balanced diet.
A significant concern for grass-eating chickens is crop impaction and sour crop, but this is usually the result of eating hard or stringy grass.
Crop blockages are the cause of overeating food as well as eating stringy grass.
A chicken’s crop must be full at bedtime and empty by morning.
If the crop still feels full in the morning, you must take the necessary steps to clear it.
Once you have detected that your chicken has an impacted crop, you must limit the food intake and keep your bird well hydrated.
From there, you may even need to contact an avian vet who specializes in chickens.
They will help recommend the best course of action and support your birds through this time of distress.
What Types Of Grass Will Chickens Eat?
Your birds are likely to eat most types of grass once it’s tender enough for the bird’s beak to tear into pieces.
You must avoid feeding your birds dry tough stalks as they can get stuck in your bird’s throat.
Grasses like rye and wheat are suitable for chickens to consume as long as they are green and growing in the ground.
The grass’s roots should provide enough resistance for chickens to tear off into little pieces.
Certain types of bushes are suitable for chickens to eat.
Chickens also enjoy eating lettuce as long as it’s tender enough for your bird to tear apart.
Your chickens will also enjoy eating lawn clippings, although they may not eat all of the lawn clippings that may prefer to root around for bugs picked up by the mower.
A pile of lawn clippings will provide your chickens with hours of entertainment as they enjoy kicking and spreading things around.
Should I Ever Stop My Chickens From Eating Grass?
You must not worry too much about the amount of grass your free-range chickens consume as they usually work at something until they are bored and there is little you can do to stop them.
Ample space means that poultry birds have enough room to run around eating only the grass they like, they won’t eat to the point where it harms their health.
Certain types of grass are not suitable for your chickens to eat, but chickens usually know the types to avoid, they have good taste, generally speaking.
If you would prefer to keep your birds from some areas, you should put a fence around that specific area, and that will help to prevent them from eating the grass from that location.
Chickens must not consume hard and dry stalks as they can get lodged in their throats. Landscaping plants and berry bushes are an obvious no-go area for your birds.
There is no doubt that chickens eat grass, and it does them no harm.
Just to recap, chickens are very discerning and will work on the grass they like leaving behind grass that isn’t to their liking.
Grass clippings are no problem for these birds, but again, you will notice your chickens sorting through the clippings to eat the grass they like, any bugs caught up in the lawnmower also make a tasty snack.
There are, of course, certain types of grass that are not good for chickens mainly because they cause blockages in the crop, so avoid anything hard and stringy.
You won’t want your birds to go after any landscaping plants or bushes on your property; you are wise to fence these off to deter your chickens from going at them.
It is believed that chickens can mow lawns, especially if you have a sizeable flock in your backyard.
You will often see pens without grass because the bird’s peck at the grass, reducing the ground to bare dirt, this behavior never goes away, but you can use it to your advantage.
Many gardeners use this pecking behavior to prepare an area for new planting.
Chickens will eat and generally enjoy eating lawn clippings. They are likely to be entertained by it and seek around the clippings in the hope of findings bugs and other insects. However, some clippings may be left if they are hard or unappetizing. Equally, you should never provide lawn clippings to your birds if your lawn has been treated with any products or has any chemicals such as herbicides, roundup, etc.
You can put a chicken coop on the grass. However, you will likely find that the grass does not last long and your chickens will somewhat destroy this area. Therefore, a lot of chicken owners will put wood chippings and another substrate down in the coop to prevent the ground from getting muddy and messy.
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.