You know chickens eat worms and bugs but you might be wondering, do chickens eat ants? Yes, absolutely. Ants are among the top food choices of birds including chickens. It’s perfectly normal if you see your flock scavenging for ants.
Why do Chickens eat ants?
Chickens are herbivores. Their diet consists of plant-based and animal-based food.
Chickens love to look for their food. Don’t be surprised to see your flock eating a variety of insects and worms even after feeding them. Their excellent eyesight and 300-degree vision enable them to hunt for micro animals.
Now that we’ve dealt with your question: Do chickens eat ants, let’s move on to other interesting facts about chickens and ants.
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Are Ants Safe for Chickens?
Ants are fresh food for foraging chickens. Like other insects, they have high protein content. Chickens need protein to remain healthy and they also need it in laying good quality eggs. Protein is also helpful in the growth of their feathers. With enough protein, your chickens will have healthy feathers to keep them warm.
Chickens mainly eat ants because of their delicious salty flavor and crunch. But there are loads of nutritional benefits when chickens eat ants that your bird pets do not know. Ants also have high magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, potassium, and iron contents.
What are the Risks When Chickens Eat Ants?
By now, it might have crossed your mind to use your chickens to get rid of unwanted pests. Yes, your chickens will do a great job as natural pest control and sort out your ant problem. However, there’s a catch.
While ants are delicious and nutritious snacks, they may pose some health risks. Eating ants carrying toxic products can result in sick chickens. Ant killers and other pest control products can be ingested by chickens when they eat ants.
If you are using chemicals around your house to rid insects, make sure to read and stick to the instructions. Doing this will keep your chicken and other animals safe.
Ants are also carriers of several types of nematodes. When chickens ingest infected ants, they contract the same parasites. Secondary infections can cause the chicken to lose appetite and lose weight. In severe cases, they can die. Chicks are more susceptible to these parasites because their bodies haven’t yet developed the immunity to fight foreign invaders.
Aside from parasitic infections, fleas, mites, and ticks can also cause problems. Infestations can cause restlessness to your chickens and can result in fewer eggs.
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What Types of Ants do Chickens Eat?
Here is a list of favorite ant snacks for chickens.
Carpenter ants are slightly larger than other species of ants. Their size makes them more satisfying meals. Winged carpenter ants are called swarmers and come out during the spring and autumn seasons. To the delight of the chickens, swarmers are attracted to light and will come flying in their coop at night. Chickens can also find carpenter ants on damp and decomposing logs and tree stumps.
Not all chickens will eat fire ants. If you experience being bit by red ants, you know that it hurts a good deal. A fire ant is very vicious. But other chickens will not let the painful bites of red ants get in the way of a delicious meal. These chickens will soon learn that red fire ants are not easily intimidated by their size.
Fire ants tunnel into the ground to build their nests and push out the soil creating mounds. Fire ant mounds in the backyard are serious problems both for humans and animals. When fire ants invade a territory, they get rid of all other small ants. They are very protective of their ant hills and will attack any perceived threat.
Just as the chickens will fight to eat, red fire ants will fight to the death to live. They can even bite the inside of the chicken’s throat.
Younger and smaller chickens can be overwhelmed if the fire ants attack in groups. The bite of a fire ant is excruciating and young chicks may not be able to fend off an attack.
Black garden ants serve as one of the common sustenance for backyard chickens. They are not as vicious as the fire ants and chickens can easily peck on them.
Leafcutter ants are a pest to gardeners and farmers. They can destroy a lot of crops. Leafcutters do not eat the leaves but instead feed them to farmed fungus. To solve their ant problem, some farmers had the idea to train their chickens to eat leafcutters. In retaliation, these ants will attack enemies in armies but sadly they are no match for a hungry chicken.
Flower and fruit gardens are full of sugar ants. This ant species like to eat sweet and sugary objects including nectar from plants. Chickens will eat ants climbing up a tree or under a plant’s leaf in search of nectar.
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What Other Insects are Safe for a Chicken?
Chickens like to forage and look for other meals aside from chicken feed. Chickens that roam freely are so much healthier and happier.
If you’re wondering what other insects chickens will eat, here they are:
What are the Dangers of Eating Insects
Chickens are also at risk of health problems when they eat other kinds of insects. Below are common types of worms that chickens can contract from eating bugs.
Cecal worms are internal parasites that live in the chicken’s cecal pouch. The infestation alone will not hurt the chicken. But these worms are known to carry the blackhead disease that is also common in turkeys. Balck head disease can cause the ceca and liver to inflame and result in ulcers. Smaller chickens can die in a few days after contracting this parasite.
Tapeworms infect humans, animals, and bugs alike. They are white tape-like parasites that range in size. Some are barely visible but they can grow up to 12 inches in length. These worms live in the chicken’s digestive tract. Tapeworms are common in a lot of insects.
Roundworms can be large or small. They are very damaging to the poultry business. Chicken contracts them from bugs. Roundworm infestation can cost the lives of a whole flock if not taken care of immediately. Like the tapeworm, roundworms also inhabit the digestive tract and can cause problems with egg production.
If you suspect or see signs of infection, you must call or visit the vet immediately.
What is a well-balanced diet for a chicken?
Raising chickens can be a challenge at first. But you will soon learn that they are easy to take care of. Chicken food can come from your kitchen. You can maintain a balanced diet for chicken by giving them fresh produce or cut-up fruit and veggie peelings and other scraps from the kitchen. Chickens will even eat meat. This helps you save on the cost of feeding and lessens food wastage. It’s a win-win.
How to Reduce Ant Population Near the Chicken Coop?
Chicken coops are a feast hall for ants. Ants are scavengers. They are attracted to a wide variety of nutrients including broken eggs and leftover chicken food. Even flies are attracted to chicken dwellings because of their feces.
If you’re raising chicks, larger species of ants and other insects and rodents can harm them.
There are several homemade solutions to ensure a safe environment free from ants and other pests and keep your chickens at the same time.
Homemade ant repellant is so simple to make. Mix one part water and one part white vinegar and sprinkle them inside, under, and around the coop. The strong smell of the vinegar will keep ants away without causing any harm to your flock.
Another homemade solution is a mixture of dishwashing soap and water. Spray this on ant hills and nests and it will instantly kill the occupants. Some chicken owners pour boiling water to get rid of insects. Of course, owners have to be careful not to scald their flock.
There are many pesticides and chemicals available in the market to effectively eliminate ants and kill pests. But pesticides do more harm than good. Spraying pesticides inside the chicken coop can cause health problems.
You cannot stop your chickens from eating ants. It is a natural food source for all kinds of birds. Chickens are voracious creatures eating just about anything. They will spend most of their day pecking on the ground’s surface looking for ants, bugs, spiders, and flies. In some instances, eating insects can give your chicken parasitic diseases. But with proper care and immediate action, you can raise healthy chickens.