Chickens are seen as easy to care for among most kinds of livestock since they are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter.
Chickens that are allowed to range and forage can be constantly seen pecking and scratching in the grass for edibles and, some say, even eating the grass itself. Pretty interesting.
Does that mean chickens will eat grass voluntarily? Can we feed chickens grass clippings safely?
Yes, chickens can eat grass clippings safely. In fact, chickens generally like eating grass and other green plants. However, it does not offer much in the way of nutrition and should only be a small component of a well-rounded diet for them.
Turns out that chickens can, and will, eat grass clippings. That means we might be able to keep the cuttings from our weekly mowing and repurpose it as food for them.
Whether or not this is worthwhile is for you to decide, but there is more you need to know at any rate. Keep reading to find out!
Do Chickens Eat Grass at All?
Yes, they do. Chickens are foraging animals by nature and in the wild they spend a good chunk of their day looking for food.
Since they are omnivores, chickens can derive nutrients from both animal and plant sources.
A chicken’s diet in the wild would mainly consist of seeds, insects, and other small creatures, as well as some greens and that includes grass.
So Can Chickens Eat Grass Clippings?
Yes. Live or cut, chickens will eat grass that is fresh. If you have a lawn, your chickens will likely be very happy to help you with the mowing by nibbling the live grass or eating the fresh-cut clippings.
Dried grass is not as appetizing to chickens and they are less likely to eat it.
Also, make sure to chop up clippings finely; chickens usually only snip the ends of live grass off when eating it, so small pieces work best for them.
Does Grass Benefit Chickens Nutritionally?
Grass is definitely edible by chickens, but it is not a prime food for them since it is fairly lackluster nutritionally.
The vast majority of their diet (70-80 percent) should be from animal sources like bugs, grubs, and worms for protein or insects for fat. The other 20-30 percent can come from plants like grass, vegetables, or fruits.
Grass contains mostly fiber and very little else in the way of other micro- or macronutrients.
If you are feeding your chickens primarily grass, they will not be getting nearly enough of the other important nutrients they need and will quickly suffer from malnutrition.
That being said, chickens will eat grass of their own volition and they can digest it. Chickens have an organ called a gizzard, basically a muscular pouch that they load with grit and small stones.
The gizzard’s muscles work to grind up the food the chicken eats using the stones and grit to assist with that process.
This is how chickens are able to at least nominally process tough, fibrous grass to get a little bit of nutrition from it.
How Often Can Chickens Have Grass Clippings?
Chickens should only eat grass as a small part of their diet, around 5% of their total calorie intake max.
So long as they aren’t starving, you don’t have to worry about them overindulging on it usually.
A bigger problem is trying to feed them exclusively on grass clippings or using them as the main green component in their diet.
If you have chickens and let them roam on a grassy lawn, there is no harm in letting them graze on the grass. Just don’t let it become the mainstay of their diet.
What Happens if Chickens Eat Too Much Grass?
The most serious risk of eating too much grass is malnutrition; when they fill up on grass, they won’t have room for other things! But what happens if they eat too much grass?
Typically, nothing serious. Chickens are built to digest grasses and other plant material, so they can usually handle eating quite a bit of it.
One of the most commonly cited issues is impacted crop, which occurs when the food debris in a chicken’s crop blocks the normal flow of food further into the digestive system.
This can cause serious digestive issues, and it may even lead to death, though its prevalence from eating grass is badly overstated.
Just make sure that your chickens have access to plenty of fresh water and a balanced diet so they don’t end up eating too much grass and you should not have any issues.
Never Feed Any Clippings to Chickens that Were Treated with Chemicals
It’s tempting to think that any green grass clippings are always wholesome for chickens, but that’s not the case if they have been treated with any chemicals whatsoever.
Whether it’s fertilizer to help it grow or pesticides to keep it safe from bugs, these chemicals can be very beneficial for your grass.
However, you must never feed any clippings to chickens that were treated with these chemicals.
Pesticides and herbicides can remain active in plant tissue for weeks or even months, and ingesting these chemicals can be dangerous for chickens. In some cases, it may even be fatal.
Additionally, these chemicals can end up in the eggs that they lay, which is not good for you if you eat them.
So, when you’re mowing the lawn or trimming your garden, be sure to keep any chemically-treated clippings away from your chickens or use them in some other way.
And if you’re not sure whether the grass has in fact been treated, it’s always better to be safe and hold off feeding them. It’s not worth taking any chances with your flock’s health.
Can Chicks Have Grass Clippings, Too?
Yes, chicks can eat grass clippings also but only when they are around 4-5 weeks old.
They should not have any before then as their digestive systems are not fully developed and they can easily get sick from eating too much grass.
After 4-5 weeks, you can start slowly introducing them to small amounts of shredded grass clippings and gradually increase the amount they eat over time as they mature.
And as with adult chickens, chicks should only ever eat grass as a small part of their diet and never as the main source of food.
Chicks are far more delicate than adults and have sensitive digestive systems, so it’s important to take care when introducing them to any new foods and always be double-sure they are getting all the nutrition they need.
They will get everything from a complete starter feed, so you can feel good about leaving them on that.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.