Chickens are eating machines and will spend most of their days scratching and grazing for morsels of food as well as being fed with their usual chicken feed. Because of the way they forage for food, chickens can eat a very diverse range of food if they’re allowed to free-range throughout the day.
Chickens are known for their dinosaur-like appearance especially when they come running up to you resembling something from Jurassic Park! It’s easy to think they could be carnivorous animals.
Although they will eat meat, chickens are omnivores and not carnivores. This means they eat a mixture of both meat such as insects, worms and small animals as well as vegetarian foods such as seeds, grass and vegetables.
Read on to find out more about how chickens get meat in their diets along with more information about feeding chickens meat alongside their normal chicken feed.
What animals do chickens eat?
Although chicken feed is usually made from grain-based ingredients, as omnivores, chickens will also find extra protein in living creatures which are probably their most favourite food groups to go foraging for.
When a chicken finds a living creature they’ll gobble them up as quickly as possible providing it’s small enough for them to swallow. New chicken keepers are often shocked at what their chickens will actually find and eat, here are some of the main ones:
- Slugs and snails – chickens will use their beaks to flick and break a snail shell to get to the snail inside.
- Worms – one of a chicken’s most favourite foods which they will unearth by scratching them up with their feet.
- Insects – chickens will eat pretty much any kind of insect they come across, including beetles, ants and flys.
- Larvae and caterpillars – fly and other insect larvae make a tasty treat for chickens.
- Snakes and slow worms – a chicken will take on and eat a small snake or slow-worm if it comes across one.
- Mice and small rodents – there are many reports of chickens eating mice whole or fighting over them within the flock.
- Frogs and toads – chickens have been known to eat frogs and toads if they’re lucky enough to find one.
Do chickens eat meat scraps?
Although chickens would gladly eat any kind of meat scraps which you give them, it’s important to know the rules surrounding kitchen scraps in your country.
In the UK there are strict rules about feeding any kind of kitchen scraps to poultry, which is kept on a commercial scale or in a backyard situation.
These rules are in place due to possible cross-contamination and risk of disease entering the human food chain.
If you live in the UK and want to know more about what you can’t feed to your chickens you can see the Government guidelines here.
Should you feed chickens meat?
As chicken keepers, it’s only natural that we as humans want to give them the best food possible to keep them strong and healthy, but some treats provide more benefits than others.
Chickens will enjoy meats of all kinds if you feed it to them, however, a good chicken feed contains all the nutrients they need so there’s no need to feed them meat as part of their daily feed. The best way for chickens to consume extra protein is by allowing them to forage for worms, insects etc as they free range.
If you do want to get a bit more protein and goodness into your chickens diet a good way to do this is by treating them with a tin of sardines.
We feed our ex-battery hens with sardines when they’re going through a moult or if we have any laying related issues. Sardines are rich in good oils and also high in calcium and will help to perk chickens up they’re looking run-down.
Apart from protein-rich foods, the best treats for chickens are fresh garden vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, lettuce and broccoli.
For more information on what chickens can and can’t eat, you might find the article in the link below helpful:
Why do chickens eat meat?
Chickens eat meat because they’re natural omnivores who enjoy both vegetable-based foods as well as live food in the form of insects etc. Meat is high in protein and other nutrients which help to keep to keep a chicken strong and healthy.
Although meat is good for them in this respect, it’s better to let your chickens forage for natural sources of live meat rather than feeding them shop bought meat products.
A chicken who eats naturally foraged food will lead a very happy life and will in turn produce rich and flavoursome eggs which reflect their varied diet.
I hope this post has helped you to find out more about chickens eating meat, you might also find the following post helpful:
Our recommended coop
Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.
This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on November 25, 2020.