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Can Chickens Eat Grass? What You Need to Know!

Kristin Hitchcock

When left to their own devices, many chickens will naturally eat grass, and that’s okay! Grass can be quite good for chickens. In fact, many types of grass are high in protein, which is essential for the health of your birds.

When they eat grass, chickens often eat a fairly small amount. They only nip at the tip of the blade. Usually, they won’t consume the whole blade of grass like some other animals would. Therefore, it doesn’t usually take up much of their diet, even if they seem to be spending a great deal of time eating it.

Grass is high in many nutrients, including protein, iron, and vitamin C. Chickens that eat grass tend to eat less feed. For this reason, letting your chickens eat grass often results in more money in your pocket because you can buy less feed.

Of course, you should ensure that the grass is not treated with anything. Be sure to consider possible contamination from nearby areas. Your grass doesn’t necessarily need to be sprayed with pesticides for it to become contaminated.

Most weeds are also safe for your chickens to eat, providing their own vitamins and minerals.

chicken feet divider

Can I Spread Grass Clippings in the Chicken Run?

Preferably not. While fresh grass is typically fine, you don’t want to throw grass clippings at your chicken. When chickens eat fresh grass, they only eat the tips. This is for a few different reasons, but most importantly, it prevents impaction. If your chickens eat too much grass, it can cause impaction, especially if they’re eating the more mature parts of the grass.

Grass clippings are the whole parts of grass, so they are not suitable for your birds. Also, simply providing them with a pile of clippings may cause them to eat far too much, which can cause other issues.

You also shouldn’t put grass in a chicken coop for the same reason.

chickens in grass
Image Credit: Piqsels

Is Long Grass Bad for Chickens?

While chickens thrive in short grass due to the nutritional value, they do rather poorly with tall grass. For one, they can only properly digest grass if it is still bright green. If it is no longer young, the chickens will lose interest and not eat it. Therefore, you can’t expect them to eat tall grass because it is mostly mature grass.

Similarly, tall grass can also cause impaction. Since chickens can’t digest it properly, it may cause all sorts of problems if they consume it.

Furthermore, tall grass will impede chickens. They won’t be able to get where they want to go, making them frustrated. In some cases, tall grass can hide predators like snakes, which can pose a threat to your chickens.

Generally, you should avoid keeping your chickens near tall grass as much as possible. It doesn’t benefit them in the least and can cause many issues.

What Kind of Grass Do Chickens Like to Eat?

As long as the grass is light green and young, chickens like to eat it. They will only eat the tops of the grass because these are often the only young parts. Eating older grass can cause digestive problems like impaction, so you usually won’t see them do it.

You’ll want to try to provide grass year-round, which can be challenging. Some areas are easier to do this in than others. Either way, you’ll need to plant different kinds of grasses that turn green at different times of the year. This way, your chickens always have some sort of green grass present.

Don’t forget to consider weeds. These are often safe for chickens and provide extra nutrition that is slightly different from grass. Therefore, having a few weeds mixed in with grass is typically a winning strategy.

Black Marans chicken in the grass
Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

Can I Use Grass Clippings for Chicken Bedding?

You should dry the grass clippings out thoroughly first, but yes, you can use them as bedding. Drying them out prevents the chickens from eating them in most cases because they prefer green grass.

You can lay the grass out on a tarp after mowing your yard and let it dry there for a time. You’ll need to flip the clippings a few times, but it isn’t labor-intensive. Once the clippings are fully dry, you can add them to your chicken’s bedding.

Can Chickens Survive on Grass Alone?

Chickens cannot survive on just grass alone. It does not provide them with everything that they need, and they will eventually develop malnutrition and die. Therefore, you’ll need to provide other foods if you want your chicken to thrive.

Bugs provide the extra protein that your birds need and can be foraged for naturally. Just be sure that you aren’t spraying pesticides or insecticides because these will chase the bugs away and poison your chickens.

You can also supplement with a commercial feed. Many people decide to supplement with more natural items, such as corn, beans, and even seaweed. Regardless, just be sure you’re meeting all your chicken’s dietary needs, which grass alone cannot do.chicken feet divider

Conclusion

Chickens can eat grass to a certain point. Typically, chickens can only digest young, new grass. Therefore, they tend to only eat the very tips of grass blades. While grass is nutritious, it does not provide chickens with everything that they need.

Therefore, grass-eating chickens will need to have their diet supplemented with other foods.


Featured Image Credit: Imageman, Shutterstock

Kristin Hitchcock

Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!