Do Chickens Eat Ticks? Could you use your chooks for tick control?
You’ve decided to raise chickens. You’ve heard of the benefit of raising chickens and can’t wait to get started. Whether for a profit, eggs, or just for fun, you’re all-in.
Since you’ve decided to use the free-range method of chicken farming you’re now wondering if chickens eat pests naturally found in the backyard – including ticks. You’re probably also wondering if it’s safe for them to eat.
What Pests Do Chickens Eat?
Guess what? Chickens are omnivores, so they’ll eat foods of all sorts, including many pests like ticks. Ticks are carriers of disease and happily latch onto us and our pets, which means that chickens that eat carrier ticks can get sick too (1).
Your chickens will happily gobble up fleas they come across (2). Not a lot of meat on a lone flea, but packed together, they make a tasty chicken treat. Just as with ticks, if they are carrying a disease, the chicken-eating one is at risk.
Hookworms are parasites you don’t want in your back garden. And while there are many worm-type parasites chickens can get and pass to humans and our pets, hookworms aren’t one of them (3).
These hungry little vampires won’t know what hit them when your free rangers get to them; chickens also snack on mosquitoes (4).
Yep, even spiders; another benefit of raising chickens. This creepy-crawly arachnid that stars in our nightmares is no match for the mighty chicken.
The chicken will eat almost any insect they come across. Unfortunately, that also means butterflies, moths, and other helpful insects — even bees. So, try not to grow too attached to backyard insects; they may not be with you much longer with chickens on the loose.
But here’s something you should never feed to a chicken (or any other family pet): chocolate. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which many animals’ livers cannot digest. Each of these chemicals can harm or even kill a chicken.
How Many Ticks Can a Chicken Consume safely?
There are differing theories on this question, and pest control companies will weigh in with the reasons to hire them over your chunky birds (5). You’ll want to know the answer if you’re planning on using chickens as a natural form of pest control.
1991 Study on chickens and ticks
In 1991, Elsevier conducted a study to see just how many ticks a chicken can realistically eat (6). A flock was allowed to roam in a tick-infested cattle field for thirty to sixty minutes. The hungry chickens ate between three and three hundred thirty-one. The average number of ticks per bird equaled eighty.
A chicken can eat up to 331 ticks in 1 hour!
While that IS the upper end of the spectrum, you can expect the average chicken to eat 80 ticks in an hour. Cool!
Best Chickens for Tick Control?
We’re glad you asked. There are hundreds of types of chickens to choose from. Which ones are the meanest, baddest birds for getting the job done? Here are 3 mean tick eating machines:
The guinea often ranks as the best fowl to eat ticks; they are both great at reducing tick populations and forcing windows closed to minimize their chatter. Their eggs also tend to be less tasty.
Guineas can reduce keepers’ risk of Lyme disease by consuming deer ticks, which carry the disease.
Known as a great forager, this 1970’s mix, originally from Chile, has a stunningly long laying season and produces a bluish egg.
This rugged chicken also forages exceptionally well. Originally from Spain, the hen lays rather large eggs but not as often as other breeds.
This chicken, originally known as the “Italian,” is a trim, fit-looking bird that lays many white eggs each year.
No matter which type you pick, and often a mix is best, each will be more than happy to help with tick control. Check out the below video of happy chicken-loving folks who discovered the side benefits of having a coop.
The Verdict: Yes. Chickens Eat Ticks.
Well, there you have it. Chickens are great at munching on a few ticks. Or more than a few, as we’ve seen.
However, eating disease-carrying ticks puts your hens at-risk of getting sick. So, while they help with tick control, that shouldn’t be their sole purpose.
Yes, chickens will eat plenty of mosquitoes, but not enough to protect you and your family from being bitten. Consider helping your chickens out by putting up a bat house. A bat can consume up to 1000 mosquitoes per hour (8).
Keep the coop clean, bring in natural fly-repelling herbs such as sweet basil, and introduce traps.
Put up some beehives, which will protect them from the elements as well as your hungry chickens.
There certainly are predators that like chicken. While animals usually kill for food or territorial reasons, some will kill and leave the dead chicken behind — such as a weasel, a possum, or a raccoon.
- Chickens – Natural Tick Control. Retrieved from: https://thecapecoop.com/chickens-natural-tick-control/
- The Bugs Your Chickens Love—And Hate!. Retrieved from: https://www.hobbyfarms.com/the-bugs-your-chickens-love-and-hate/
- Can Chickens Get Hookworms?. Retrieved from: https://animals.mom.com/can-chickens-hookworms-6687.html
- How Backward Chickens Can Help Keep Mosquitoes Away!. Retrieved from: https://www.mosquitosquad.com/greater-st-louis/about-us/blog/2016/may/how-backward-chickens-can-help-keep-mosquitoes-a/
- What Eats Ticks?. Retrieved from: https://www.terminix.com/blog/diy/what-eats-ticks/
- Predation on livestock ticks by chickens. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1858289/
- Garlic for Tick Control in the Yard. Retrieved from: https://www.hunker.com/12526344/garlic-for-tick-control-in-the-yard
- How to Attract Bats to Your Yard. Retrieved from: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/a20706363/how-to-attract-bats/