Chickens are one of the most beneficial backyard pets you can keep. Not only do they provide food from the eggs that they lay, but they are known to eat almost anything that they can fit in their mouths. While this may seem like a helpful form of pest control, you may be concerned about some of the critters your chickens are pecking up, like slugs.
As a general rule, slugs, snails, and other insects are a natural part of a chicken’s diet in the wild. However, slugs lack the full range of nutrients that chickens need. They can also carry harmful toxins and parasites, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on chickens that are eating slugs regularly.
It’s not always easy to monitor everything your backyard pets are doing. Below, we’ll give you a breakdown of how often chickens eat slugs and what you need to watch out for if they do.
For the most part, chickens are considered some of the least picky among birds. They will generally eat anything they come across, as long as it can fit in their mouth.
Many gardeners and homesteaders do consider this a good thing, as it can help with pest control in the garden. However, this isn’t always the case.
Both in the wild and in captivity, chickens are known to feed on slugs that aren’t too big in size. However, because of their size, eating too many slugs can become an issue for your little backyard birds.
It is essential to provide a balanced diet to your chickens so that they are receiving all of the amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that they require. (source: uga.edu)
Slugs are a great source of protein for chicken, but they don’t offer much else. Therefore, if your chickens are filling up on slugs, they won’t be getting the right nutrition.
Not only that, slugs are known to carry various parasites that can be harmful to chickens. This is because slugs often feed on parasitic eggs. (source: usda.gov)
The parasite starts to develop inside the slug, turning it into an intermediate host. Once the chicken eats the slug, it acquires the parasite, and, depending on the type of parasite, it can develop a slew of other issues.
While the idea of your chickens acquiring parasites can be a bit offputting, there are some benefits to adding slugs to your chickens’ diet:
- Slugs are a good source of protein
- Chickens see slugs as a tasty snack. They can often be used as a special treat, as along as they are acquired safely.
- Chickens are a great natural control measure. Many gardens will use chickens and ducks to keep slug populations in check.
Keep in mind that any chemicals you spray can be transferred to your chicken through the consumption of slugs as well. So, if you are going to use your chickens for pest control in the garden, make sure that you are not spraying your yard with chemicals that will harm the birds.
Here’s a video of a chicken eating slugs, with more info below:
If you see slugs in the yard, chances are you will have snails as well. Many owners have concerns over their chickens eating snails for fear that they might choke. So, you might be wondering if this is something you should be worried about as well.
As a general rule, snails are safe for chickens to eat. In fact, they may even be safer to eat than slugs since they tend to carry fewer parasites. Just like slugs, snails do provide some of the essential nutrients required for a healthy diet, but not all of them.
If you are concerned about your chicken choking on a snail shell, there is no need. While the shell may be a bit tough for young chicks, adult chickens can eat them up with no problem. Plus, eating the shells comes with a few benefits, especially for laying hens.
Snail shells are made up of mostly calcium, which is an essential nutrient that layers require. On top of that, shells can help with digestion and improve egg quality. (source: lrrd.org)
When deciding what to feed your animals, it’s important to understand the risks. The biggest concern when it comes to eating slugs and snails is the risk of getting a gapeworm.
Grapeworms are red parasitic worms that attach themselves to the trachea of birds. This can cause difficulty in breathing, sometimes even obstructing the airway completely, leading to death.
Luckily, there is a way to treat gapeworm if caught in time. Some of the things to look out for include:
- Breathing with the mouth open
- Extending neck
- Head shaking
- Loss of appetite
It’s essential to take your birds to the vet if you feel they are showing any signs of gapeworm so that they can be treated with a dewormer.
If you are worried about your chickens eating the slugs in your yard, there are a few safe ways to get rid of them without using harmful chemicals.
- Pellets: These are made from iron phosphate, so they can eliminate slugs and snails without causing harm to chickens, pets, and other wildlife.
- Copper mesh: Copper creates an unfavorable reaction in slugs and snails. However, it will need to be replaced from time to time.
- Slug traps: these enclose the slug in a trap that the chickens can’t get to.
It’s also a good idea to remove any standing debris so that they have fewer places to hide and gather. Rough terrain such as gravel or sand can also act as a deterrent.
Hopefully, this article gave you a few ideas of what to look out for if your hens are eating slugs. Not only can chickens eat slugs, but they love them. However, this may not always be the best thing for your feathered backyard friends.
One of the issues with slugs and snails is that it isn’t always easy to get rid of them safely. While they are considered safe to eat for chickens, they can carry potentially harmful parasites that can hurt them in the long run.