If you own chickens, you may notice that ants may cohabit the coop from time to time. Will, your chicken eat them? Is it safe for your chickens to do so? Wondering this myself, I decided to conduct some research on the topic. I would like to share my findings with you here today.
So, do chickens eat ants? Most chickens will eat, and enjoy ants if they are available and accessible to them – just as they would with any insect in their environment. They should be safe and healthy for your chickens to consume so long as they are not carrying ant killer, or are of the red fire ants variety.
As omnivores, chickens naturally love to forage. And it is generally very good for them to be able to do so.
For this reason, when it comes to regular ants, you do not necessarily need to remove them from your chicken coop.
That being said, like any food, individual chickens will have their preferences. It could very well be that your birds are not as interested in these smaller, less wholesome insects.
That is fine also.
Let us now take a closer look at the topic so you can get a better understanding of your chickens behavior around ants and some considerations.
Will Chickens Eat Ants?
Chickens will generally look to eat ants if they can.
If you have a run or a coop, then one of your primary concerns will be around the land it resides on. If ant hills or colonies naturally exist within where your coop has been placed, there is no need for concern.
Chickens will eat ants freely, in fact, they will exhaust and ravage through any colony that comes in their living space.
While this may sound glutenous, there are some intrinsic benefits in doing so.
Ants, like other insects, are a good natural source of protein which chickens require for optimal health.
Ants are usually some of the first insects that chickens will consume through free roaming, and due to their prominence will routinely make it into your chickens diet if you leave them for prolonged periods outside.
However, it is important to note that not all chickens will consume ants. Not all will like or enjoy them and may overlook them when available.
This is not to say there is anything wrong; just that their preferences are slightly different from other chickens.
Some chicken owners have reported that ant consumption is strongly related to the amount of food you provide them and the general hunger levels of the flock.
If your chickens are sufficiently fed, then they may overlook eating ants. However, if you pull back their feed and subsequently, their hunger levels rise, they may turn to the ants to increase their food consumption.
This is a strategy used by some owners to overcome ant hills and as a form of natural pest control.
So ultimately, whether your chickens will consume ants will depend entirely on your location, your chickens preferences, the time of year and local ecology.
Can Ants Kill Chickens?
Ants act in many ways like scavengers, seeking out fresh produce when and where they can. Ants generally cannot harm healthy chickens, but young chicks, injured birds, or older birds can fall victim to red fire ants.
Ants can be a significant pest for your chickens in very large numbers, and it is important to note here the difference between the more harmless black garden ants and red fire ants.
The latter can be more problematic and where chickens experience more problems. So much so, it can be fatal.
Red fire ants are the dangerous ants to be aware of. These can kill your chickens in extreme circumstances and some chicken owners report of their dangers within various forums like backyardchickens.
When Fire ants invade new territory, they are quick to kill other, less harmful ants that reside in the area. So you will soon notice them ‘taking over’ an area.
As their name suggests fire ants are red in color and can be easily detected from regular ants.
Thankfully, healthy chickens will attempt to, and will eat red fire ants like their black garden ant counterparts. That is of course they are of the ant-eating persuasion.
However, if you want to extra cautious and safe, if you suspect that your coop, or the surrounding area has fire ants, then removing their nests and eliminating them when and where you can is a sensible idea.
If there is sufficient space between the nest and your chickens, then you can consider using an ant killer.
These are very effective and killing off ants around your yard/garden. However, due to the chemicals used within these products, never use them inside the coop. This can be immensely dangerous for your chickens.
Bait is great because you can place it far away from the coup/run and lure ants towards it where they are eventually killed.
As a more natural alternative, if you want to use an anti-ant treatment inside the coop and keep your chickens healthy and safe at the same time, you can use an all-natural ktichen cleanser or 1-1 vinegar water solution. This will eliminate the ants without harming your flock.
Ants are also naturally drawn to uneaten fresh food and broken eggs. You’ll therefore want to remove these from the coop quickly if you are looking to reduce the amount of ants around your chickens.
However it is important to consider that correlation does not mean causation. Ants naturally swarm to all potential food sources.
So if one of your chickens was to die within the coop from natural causes or an illness, ants will swarm their bodies.
This does not mean that the ants necessarily killed your chicken(s) but they are there at the death. Sometimes its impossible to know but its something to consider.
For the most part, black garden ants are not harmful for chickens and the majority of chickens can safely enjoy them and consume them. You would be doing a disservice to your chickens by removing them from your property.
However, it is with the red, fire ant counterparts that you need to be more careful and can run into issues. This is where it is advisable to consider getting rid of them.
What Kind Of Bugs Do Chickens Eat?
Chickens are generally not fussy eaters and being omnivores actively enjoy a varied and natural diet. They love to consume insects, whether alive or dead and they offer an important serving of protein.
Some chicken owners even get chickens for the sole reason of controlling pests!
Here are the main kinds of bugs that chickens eat:
- Other small, 6/8 legged insects.
Chickens will also actively seek out insects, and there are reports that they will even attempt to catch flies from the air!
While letting your chickens freely roam in a run/coop, your chickens will actively consume insects that come in their path. Chickens have a strong appetite and are curious to consume new foods.
Free-ranging your chickens will help to promote the hapiness and well-being of your property and will also dramatically reduce the number of insects that you have. Its win win.
However, you can also provide insects and other bugs like worms for your chickens. In fact, you can even get dead and dried mealworms/crickets for a great price on Amazon.
These are great to buy and offer as treats to your birds. They’re very healthy and wholesome for your birds and they will really enjoy eating them!
Chickens will eat ants, and they will do very well in doing so. Standard black garden ants can provide a lot of wholesome nutrients and protein to your chickens so offering them or letting your chickens naturally consume them is a great idea.
It is with red fire ants that you need to be careful. If you suspect fire ant nests then you need to act quickly to eliminate them. This is especially true if you have young chicks, ill or sick chickens.
While it is true that ants will generally not kill chickens, we cannot rule out that it doesn’t happen to some chickens.
For the most part, it will be the red fire ants that are the suspects, or they just arrived at the scene once the death had already occurred.
Be careful if you decide to try and eliminate ants from your property. Products can contain toxic chemicals to your chickens that can harm them.
You’re best using natural alternatives or using products at distances from your flock.
Ultimately, free roaming chickens that get access to insects thrive and live a healthier and longer life.
Just make sure you monitor your property and ensure that the ants and other insects that they consume are not causing any issues.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.