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Do Chickens Eat Ticks? What You Need To Know!
If you’ve gotten onboard with raising and keeping chickens on your farm or homestead, you may be wondering if they provide natural pest control for disease-carrying insects like ticks and mosquitoes. After all, birds eat all kinds of insects – including ticks.
So, do chickens eat ticks? Yes, chickens are omnivores and eat ticks and other pests. Chickens do not feed exclusively on ticks, however, so they may not be the most effective choice for natural pest control.
Are Chickens Good for Pest Control?
Chickens are omnivores, meaning they eat both animal and plant material. This includes pests like spiders, fleas, worms, mosquitos, and ticks. Chickens will eat just about any insect or arachnid they come across, which means they’ll also consume beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.
Chickens may eat ticks, but they usually don’t eat enough to provide effective pest control. In 1991, a study was conducted to see how many ticks a chicken would eat. A flock of chickens was given free roam in a tick-infested field for 30 minutes to one hour. In that time, the chickens consumed between 300 and 331 ticks, roughly 80 ticks per bird.
That’s a lot of ticks! But it was also a flock of chickens in an infested area. Your chickens will encounter all kinds of pests, so it’s not reasonable to assume they’ll consume 80 ticks each hour consistently.
What Should Chickens Eat?
Free-range chickens often find all kinds of protein and vegetation to feed on. In fact, a chicken may eat toads, small snakes, or skinks if it comes across them. Regardless, you should support your chicken’s diet with layer feed to ensure it gets the nutrients it needs.
The primary food for chickens should be pelleted or crumbled layer feed, which contains protein, calcium, and a range of vitamins and minerals. In cold weather, you should supplement their diet with foods like leafy greens, corn, non-sugar cereals, berries, apples, and cooked (never raw!) beans.
Foods Chickens Should Avoid
Just because a chicken will eat anything doesn’t mean it should. Plenty of foods are unhealthy, or downright dangerous, for chickens, including citrus fruits, avocado, potato skins, rhubarb, raw beans, and high-fat foods.
If your chicken produces eggs, be sure to avoid pungent foods like garlic and onion, which can impact the flavor of the eggs.
You can add table scraps to your chicken’s food but be careful to avoid any of the dangerous foods mentioned. Chickens can even have meat scraps, but it’s up to you to decide if you’re comfortable feeding chicken to your chickens.
Keep in mind that overindulgence of any food isn’t a healthy choice for your chickens, so feed table scraps in moderation. The commercial layer feed will provide your chicken with all the nutrients it needs, so a small amount of table scraps is intended to enrich them, not sustain them.
Chickens are practical “garbage disposals” that will eat most anything they find, such as abundant pests like ticks. Your chickens may help you eliminate some of these bloodsuckers from your yard, but they shouldn’t be your sole source of pest control. If you’re concerned about ticks – or any other yard pests – hire a pest-control professional to develop a customized treatment.
Featured Image Credit: Dietrich Leppert, Shutterstock
Oliver (Ollie) Jones – A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master’s degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.