Chickens are incredible additions to the backyard for a couple of reasons. No one can deny that having fresh eggs throughout the week is a joy, but did you know that chickens can also reduce the number of insects? Although chickens are not going to be enough to rid your home entirely of insects like ants, they will happily eat ants and a number of other insects. Let’s take a look at the different types of ants and insects that chickens eat, as well as some bugs your chickens will naturally steer away from.
Do Chickens Eat Ants?
Yes, chickens do eat ants. In fact, they love them as a nutritious snack. Ants have been reported by researchers to have a high amount of antioxidants, including those that may help prevent cancer. Being that these tiny little bugs are so full of protein and are low in fat, chickens naturally gravitate towards them.
Here are a couple of ant species that are safe and healthy for your flock to consume:
Carpenter ants are larger than most other ant species and can be found in decaying wood and other materials. Chickens will readily eat carpenter ants, which can provide a good source of protein.
Argentine ants are another common species of ant found in North America. They are small and dark brown in color, and are known to form large colonies. Chickens will eat Argentine ants when they encounter them, and may even actively seek out ant hills to feed on the ants.
Chances are you have seen pavement ants around your home, as they are one of the most common species found throughout North America. They are small and brown in color, and are known to feed on a wide range of food sources, including sugary foods, crumbs, and dead insects. If there are pavement ants nearby, your chickens are going to gobble them up quickly.
Harvester ants are a common species found in the western United States. They are known to feed on seeds and other plant material, and are often used as a food source for some reptiles and other animals. Chickens will eat harvester ants when they encounter them.
The Other Different Insects That Chickens Will Eat
Now that you know that yes, chickens do eat ants, here are some other bugs that chickens will happily devour:
- Beetles: Chickens will eat many different types of beetles, including June bugs, Japanese beetles, and potato beetles.
- Grasshoppers: You will see your freely roaming chickens chasing down grasshoppers whenever they spot one. Grasshoppers are an excellent source of protein for your birds.
- Crickets: Like grasshoppers, crickets are a wonderful form of protein and many other nutrients. Let your chickens hunt them down.
- Caterpillars: Caterpillars can be devastating for crops and flowers, so let your chickens have them. Chickens will eat many types of caterpillars, including tomato hornworms, cabbage loopers, and corn earworms.
- Mealworms: Chickens love to eat mealworms, which are high in protein and can be purchased in bulk from many pet stores. You could also compost with mealworms then feed them to your flock as a treat.
- Earthworms: Although earthworms are beneficial to your garden, it is not uncommon for chickens to go scratching at the ground in search of them. Earthworms are a favorite among birds of all kinds.
- Ticks: Chickens will eat ticks, which can carry disease and be harmful to both humans and animals. Reduce the number of ticks by letting chickens and other fowl walk around your yard.
- Mosquitoes: Have your chickens reduce this nuisance.
- Earwigs: Earwigs are a common insect found in gardens and other outdoor areas, and they are known to feed on plant material as well as other insects. Earwigs are not harmful to chickens and can provide a good source of protein.
- Stink Bugs: Hate stink bugs? Your chickens love them.
- Aphids: Chickens will eat aphids, which can be harmful to garden plants.
- Cockroaches: High in nutrients, cockroaches make for a satisfying meal.
- Scorpions: Chickens are adept at hunting down scorpions and eating them before they can become a problem.
- Centipedes and Millipedes: You will see your chickens searching for these common pests in soil and leaves.
- Snails and slugs: These may ruin your garden and leave behind a slimy trail, so let your chickens have them.
- Bees and wasps: Chickens are not scared of these stinging insects and will snatch them off the ground or out of the air. Be careful about hives, however, that may attract chickens and trouble.
- Termites: Protect your wooden furniture and home. Let your chickens exterminate any potential termite trouble.
- Spiders: Chickens will eat many types of spiders, including wolf spiders and orb-weavers.
Watch a flock of chickens deftly eat insects one by one in this video:
Bugs Your Chickens Should & Will Not Consume
While chickens can and will eat insects they find around the yard, there are some bugs that should not be a part of their diet. Here are some examples of insects that are unhealthy for chickens:
Even though chickens will eat ants, they should not be allowed near fire ants. The problem is that while fire ants look appealing to chickens, these ants are incredibly harmful when touched. Fire ants bite and sting, causing irritation, pain, and in some cases, allergic reactions in both humans and animals.
While ladybugs are beneficial insects in the garden, chickens should not be allowed to eat them. Ladybugs can excrete a yellowish fluid when threatened, which can cause skin irritation and eye damage in chickens.
Chickens may be attracted to the bright red and black coloration of boxelder bugs, but they should not be allowed to eat them. Boxelder bugs can release a foul-smelling odor when disturbed, and consuming them can cause digestive upset in chickens
Do you have flowers that invite beautiful monarch butterflies into your yard? Be careful. Chickens should not be allowed to eat monarch butterflies or their caterpillars, as they are toxic due to the milkweed plant they consume. Ingesting monarchs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even death in chickens.
Also known as roly-polies or sowbugs, pill bugs may be harmless to both humans and animals, but chickens generally do not like these insects and will not be tempted to eat them.
Spotted lanternflies are an invasive species that can cause damage to crops and trees, but they should not be consumed by chickens. Spotted lanternflies are toxic to chickens and can cause digestive upset. Most chickens will give them a nibble then spit them out.
Cicadas with Fungal Infections
If you have seen The Last of Us, you know where this is going. Cicadas that have been infected with a fungal disease called Massospora cicadina should not be eaten by chickens or other animals. This disease causes cicadas to become zombie-like, with parts of their body falling off and being replaced by fungal spores. Consuming infected cicadas can cause digestive upset and neurological symptoms in chickens.
The good news is that chickens, despite pecking at everything they have an interest in, will most likely spit out whatever they don’t like.
Any Dangers of Chickens Eating Bugs?
There is one thing you want to consider while watching your chickens hunt down ants and other insects. Sometimes those bugs can pass intestinal parasites on to your hens and rooster. One of the most commonly passed on parasites are worms, which may come from flies that your chickens catch. Tapeworm, roundworms, and cecal worms can all be transmitted from one host to the next easily.
Also, some species of ant can be dangerous, even if they are not poisonous. For example, the common garden or sugar ant may carry salmonella and other bacteria.
Final Thoughts on Chickens Eating Ants and Other Bugs
Do chickens eat ants? Yes, they certainly do. In fact, there are a number of creepy crawlies that your chickens will have no problem dealing with for you. That said, while there are a wide variety of insects that birds of any feather will devour happily, others may leave your chickens feeling unwell, including fire ants. If you have dangerous ants or insects around your home, consider calling professional extermination services instead of having your chickens take care of it.
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.