When you let your chickens roam where they will, it never fails that you’ll see them pecking, picking and scratching all over the place in a quest to find the tastiest morsel of food.
Chickens eat all kinds of things, and one minute they could be grabbing a bug, and a few bites from a flower or other plant, then a worm, and then maybe a few berries.
It is this wide-ranging and adaptable diet that has made chickens so easy to keep and care for…
In fact, they eat a lot of natural vegetation that you wouldn’t expect. How about moss? Can chickens eat moss, and is it safe?
Yes, chickens may eat moss safely, but moss doesn’t contain much in the way of nutrition. If your chickens want to take a couple of bites of moss, though, it won’t hurt them.
You will rarely, if ever, hear moss mentioned in the context of domestic animals and livestock as a source of food. And this is because it really isn’t one, despite being edible.
Moss has very little in the way of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals but on the other hand, it won’t hurt your chickens and it might even help keep them hydrated thanks to its high moisture content.
There’s a lot more to know about moss as it concerns your chickens, and I’ll tell you about it below.
What Benefits Does Moss Have for Chickens?
Moss won’t do very much for your chickens at all if they eat it, and in the best-case scenario, it might give them a few calories for energy, some moisture that can help keep them hydrated, and a little bit of fiber.
Moss Nutritional Info
There have been hardly any proper laboratory studies of moss conducted as it relates to nutrition for chickens or other animals.
But we do know based on extrapolation that moss has very little to offer most animals.
Moss in all likelihood contains a few trace minerals and vitamins, a tiny bit of protein, and a little bit of fiber. That’s really it.
It’s only other real resource, though not really a nutrient per se, is water. Most kinds of moss tend to be very moist and they can lock away a surprising amount of water inside its structure.
Moss Might Attract Chickens, but Not for Reasons You’d Expect
One thing that should be pointed out is it some chicken owners report that their flocks seem unusually attracted to moss, wherever it happens to be growing. Why is this?
Chickens are highly motivated by food, and if the moss itself isn’t nutritious why are they so drawn to it? Does it exude some exciting effect on chickens the way catnip does on cats?
Not exactly: moss, as it turns out, often hosts all sorts of insects and other tiny animal life, including snails, slugs and other tiny creatures that chickens do like to eat.
You can see where this is going, now! Chickens might instinctively know this, and be drawn to large formations of moss because they know they will find good food in and around it.
Another possible explanation is that chickens are drawn to moss for its material qualities, namely the fact that it is soft and fluffy.
They might use this to line their nests with, or at least they might have used it in the wild, and so they still instinctively gravitate towards it as a potential resource.
For either reason, it isn’t out of the question that chickens might take a nibble of moss as they inspect it, but they generally won’t go out of their way to eat it.
Is Moss Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, moss is completely safe for chickens when eaten raw. In fact, more often than not this will be the way that chickens find moss: raw, growing naturally in the wild or around your property.
Can You Cook Moss to Give it To Chickens?
Yes, at least in theory: there’s almost no information to be had concerning the cooking of moss, for humans or animals.
However, there is no evidence that we know of to suggest that cooking moss will somehow make it harmful so you could cook moss if you wanted to serve it to your chickens though there is absolutely no reason to waste time or resources doing so.
Not for nothing, whatever scant nutritional resources moss has will be utterly destroyed by cooking, so there’s another good reason not to do it.
Is Moss Still Safe for Baby Chicks?
Moss is safe for chicks, but you really shouldn’t feed it to them in any case. Moss isn’t overtly harmful to baby chicks somehow, but it will take up room in their stomach that is better served by eating nutritious foods that they do need instead.
If chicks are allowed to fill up on moss, they’re going to be missing calories and nutrients that are vital for their growth and development.
Because baby chicks have such a high metabolism and grow so quickly even a small shortfall of nutrition could make them sick.
The bottom line is that moss simply plays no part whatsoever in a well-rounded, nutritious diet for chicks or for adult chickens.
Let your chicks live on their diet of starter feed until they reach adulthood, and then you can let them experiment with other wholesome foods, including strange ones like moss.
How Often Can Moss be Fed to Chickens?
Chickens should not be allowed to fill up on moss because, as with chicks, they will be missing out on nutrients that they actually need from other food.
That being said, if one of your chickens goes crazy and eats a lot of moss, nothing will probably happen to them, but you shouldn’t allow them to do it again.
If you allow your chickens to free-range and they get to swipe a few bites of moss as they wander to and fro, that’s nothing to worry about…
If, for whatever reason, you were going to harvest moss and give it to your chickens because they love it so much, try to only give them a small quantity once a week.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Moss to Your Flock?
The very best way to give moss to your chickens is simply to let them eat it where they encounter it when they are free ranging.
They’ll take a few bites and move on most likely, assuming there is anything at all to eat in the immediate area, and remember that they are more than likely simply investigating the moss for bugs, slugs or snails.
Alternatively, if you want to harvest moss to give to your chickens simply gather it from wherever it happens to be growing, taking care to remove any slime, rotting wood, or other detritus, and then give it to your chickens right away.
Once moss has been removed from the surface it was growing on, it will start to dry out and spoil quickly…
Try to Only Feed Moss to Chickens if it is Pesticide-Free
One thing to be worried about if you are going to let your chickens eat moss, or if you’re going to gather it and give it to them, is the potential presence of a pesticide or even herbicide.
If moss is growing on a tree or any other surface where it is considered a nuisance (or ornamental) it might be treated with various chemicals like other plants are from time to time.
Whatever they happen to be, these are bad news for chickens if they eat them, and could be linked with serious health problems in birds.
For this reason, never let your chickens eat any moss that you are not sure is 100% chemical-free.
Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.