Want to give your chickens a healthy snack that you can feel good about? There are many treat options for chickens, including many fresh fruits and vegetables. How about corn? Though corn is commonly seen in commercial bird seed, you may be wondering, “Can chickens eat whole corn?”
Today, you’re going to learn if corn is safe for chickens, as well as mistakes to avoid when feeding chickens corn. Let’s get started.
What is Whole Corn?
Whole corn is any kind of whole corn that has not been processed in some way. This means the kernels of corn you remove from the ears. As long as the corn retains its hull, the hard outer shell, it is considered whole.
Many animals enjoy eating corn, not just chickens and humans. The reason is corn’s nutritional profile, which is chock full of goodness. The issue with whole corn is digestibility.
Whole Corn vs Cracked Corn
Since whole corn is said to be difficult to digest for chickens, many owners will make the swap to cracked corn. As you may have guessed, cracked corn is the opposite of whole corn. The kernels have been dried then crushed into smaller pieces. Cracked corn is often given to birds, as the pieces are smaller, filling, and incredibly easy for birds to peck. Furthermore, cracked is easier to digest than whole corn.
The downside to cracked corn? During the processing, cracked corn loses a lot of its nutritional value. Whole corn retains quite a lot of nutrition.
Can Chickens Eat Whole Corn?
Chickens love to eat corn. It is a hard snack for them to ignore. That said, chickens are adventurous eaters and will try anything once. Corn is a palatable and nutritionally beneficial food for birds, and they seem to recognize that. Most chickens get excited when corn is tossed to them. Were you to give chickens an endless supply of corn, they wouldn’t be able to restrain themselves.
However, while chickens can and will happily devour corn, there is one more thing to consider. Is corn safe?
Can Chickens Have Raw Corn?
Yes, chickens can have maize, or raw corn. There is nothing wrong with giving chickens raw, uncooked corn. Their powerful beaks break apart the tough hull, so the chickens can eat the corn in smaller pieces. Serving up cooked corn also has its perks, but there is nothing wrong with fresh corn, either.
Keep in mind that raw corn should never be flavored or salted. If your corn kernels have any kind of oil, salt, or butter on them, do not give them to your chickens to eat.
Can Chickens Have Corn on the Cob?
Now that you know that chickens can eat whole corn, you may be wondering if corn on the cob is safe. The answer is yes. Chickens will peck at corn on the cob in a frenzy, kind of like piranhas.
Corn on the cob is a convenient way to serve up whole corn. You can string up cobs easily throughout the chicken run. Then, you can sit back and watch your chickens be entertained for hours.
You don’t have to worry about removing the corn husks either. Since the green leaves don’t have much nutritional value and aren’t very tasty, your chickens will tear at the husks to get the corn. Leaving it on would be another excellent source of entertainment for your flock.
Is It Hard For Chickens to Digest Whole Corn?
For those who have eaten corn at least once, you may be aware that corn is difficult to digest. This is due to the pericarp, the tough outer shell of the corn kernel. Chickens do not have the same digestive system as humans, though. Chickens have gizzards instead of teeth that works a bit like the stomach. Inside the gizzard, food from the crop mixes with grit and gets ground up, making it possible for your chicken to digest an omnivorous diet.
So don’t worry about your chickens. Digesting corn is easy for them.
Since chickens are able to process corn without any issue, they also get a spectrum of vitamins and minerals from the corn. High in fiber for digestive motility and health, corn keeps your chickens regular. Corn is also high in carbohydrates for energy, as well as magnesium and vitamins B, E, and K.
Is Whole Corn a True Warming Food?
Ever hear someone say that chickens should be fed corn during the winter because it is a warming food. You may have passed it up as an old wives’ tale, but there appears to be some truth to the claim. Corn warms your chickens not by raising the core temperature during digestion but by providing a large portion of carbohydrates.
Furthermore, corn is an excellent scratch grain that keeps your chickens moving when it is cold out, thus generating more body heat. Other good scratch grains include whole barley, millet, and whole and rolled oats.
How Much Whole Corn to Feed to Chickens?
Even though corn is a naturally beneficial food for chickens, too much of a good thing is never favorable. This is especially true for chickens. Corn is best given as a treat — no more than 10% of a chicken’s diet. Both poultry enthusiasts and veterinarians agree that corn is a supplemental food, as it does not provide the same nutritional quality as chicken feed.
In short, you should only give your chickens about a tablespoon a week. If you have a sizable flock, the amount you feed your birds may be different.
Do not forget to mix in other treat foods, as well. Alternating between treats gives your chickens plenty of variety. It’s the best method for getting your chickens all the nutrition they need to grow and develop well. As mentioned before, the other risk of overfeeding your chickens is that the corn may buildup in their stomach.
Ideas For Feeding Chickens Whole Corn
Scattering whole corn around the chicken run is easy enough, but that means your chickens could also end up swallowing dirt. There are many methods for getting corn off the ground and making treat time all the more entertaining. Here are some ideas for giving your chickens corn:
- Toss some fresh whole corn in with the chicken feeding
- Hang cooked corn on the corn from string
- Make frozen corn treats for the summertime
- Open a can of whole corn and let your chickens have at it (be mindful of the salt content in canned corn)
- Toss your leftover corn from meals in with other scraps
Mistakes To Avoid When Feeding Chicken’s Corn
One of the worst mistakes in owning chickens is giving them too much food or treating them with the wrong thing. Toxic foods have greater consequences for chickens, because the toxins can trigger a number of health conditions. Fortunately, corn is healthy and easy to give chickens as long as you maintain the 90/10 rule — 90% of a chicken’s diet is poultry feed.
Other mistakes to avoid when giving corn to chickens are:
As mentioned over and over, corn should not be a primary ingredient in your chicken’s feed. Corn is excellent for carbohydrates and fiber, but it severely lacks the protein birds need to stay full. Plus, corn has a tendency to build up in the digestive system, leading to obesity issues.
Rotten or Moldy Food
Never give your chicken any food that is unripe, rotten, or moldy. There are many unripe vegetables that contain toxins like solanine or cyanide. Both are poisonous to chickens and should be avoided. Although corn stays fresh for a long time, that doesn’t mean it is always safe, either. Just like unripe veggies, rotten or moldy corn has the potential to make chickens very ill.
Therefore, only feed your chickens fresh whole corn.
Not Tidying Up
After giving your chickens any kind of treat, you should tidy the area. Chickens are not the only creatures who are attracted to the scent of cooked corn. If a bunch of corn remains outside overnight, your chickens could encounter an invader. Raccoons and foxes will come sniffing around for the corn, but they will stumble across the coop — and that spells trouble.
It’s recommended that you clean up the yard a couple hours after giving your chickens corn. The birds get plenty of time to feast on the morsels. If the corn isn’t gone by the time you appear to clean it up, your chickens aren’t going to eat it.
Can chickens eat whole corn? Yes, chickens can eat all kinds of corn, including whole corn, cracked corn, and corn on the cob. Since corn is also relatively cheap and easy to find food, many chicken keepers regularly feed their chickens corn. There is no reason to avoid giving your chickens corn, especially if you want to keep your feathered friends happy and healthy.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.