can baby chicks eat ants

Are Ants Really on Baby Chicks’ Menu?

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When I first got into raising chickens last spring, I had a lot to learn.

One morning, while doing my usual check on the little peepers, I did a double take – one of ’em was chowing down on a line of tiny black things scurrying across the ground! “Huh, I didn’t know chickens would eat ants!” I thought.

But is it really safe for baby chicks? Let me tell ya about what I discovered.

Now you’re probably thinking these lil’ guys just peck at seeds and such.

But as a rookie chicken dad, I wanted to be sure I knew what was really OK for ’em.

So I hit the books – and would ya believe ants can be a decent protein? It seemed nuts at first, since they’re so dang tiny.

But the more research I did, the more it started making sense how nature works on the farm.

I still remember that morning like it was yesterday.

My sassiest chick, Pebbles, was scratching around like chicks do.

That’s when she spied an anthill that had popped up next to the coop.

“Well butter my biscuits,” I chuckled.

Leave it to Pebbles to try anything! I watched her get real curious and before I knew it – gobble gobble! She was scarfin’ down that whole line of ants like popping jelly beans.

It was hysterical but also had me wondering: is this really okay for baby chickens?

So Are Ants Good Eats for Growing Peepers?

can baby chicks eat ants

After digging into some agricultural journals and poultry books, it turns out ants can be an alright occasional snack for chicks.

Like most critters, everything in moderation is key.

Here’s a few reasons why ants might not be so bad in small doses:

Protein is important for babies to grow big and strong.

Since ants are actually pretty high in protein content, a few here and there can give their diet a boost.

We’re talking ideal amino acids too for building feathered frames.

And we all know – the bigger the chick, the better chance they have once mature!

Eating bugs is natural behavior for chicks out in the wild.

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In the great outdoors, they’d be pecking at all kinds of tiny crawlies.

So ants help satisfy their foraging instincts when they’re raised indoors too.

It’s stimulating for their growing minds to hunt and peck at six-legged snacks!

Unless you got fire ants or other stinging varieties, common household ants are often low risk for chicks.

I’m talking the little black carpenter ants you see scurrying around – they won’t do no harm in a pinch.

No fangs or venom sacks to worry about.

Just a healthy bit of protein for lil’ tummies.

Like with any new food, it’s wise to start slow.

I’d recommend just a few ants to begin to see how they react.

Pay attention for signs of stress just to be safe.

But it seems the occasional ants aren’t too different than bugs babies might peck at naturally on their own.

Some Do’s and Don’ts of Ant Feeding

can baby chicks eat ants

If you want to try supplementing with ants on occasion, here’s a few tips to keep it low-key:

The best way is collecting ’em straight from the anthill using your bare hands or a spoon into a shallow container.

That way you know they’re fresh! Look for mounds in sunny areas around the property.

Only go for the common black carpenter variety we discussed.

Those little demons won’t bite or cause harm.

Steer clear of spicy fire ants or any that sting – they’re not worth the risk for lil’ appetites.

Start slow by offering just 3-5 ants per chick to gauge reactions.

You can always increase amounts gradually at future feedings if all is well.

But moderation is key so as not to upset tummies.

Pay close attention to signs like ruffled feathers, excessive pecking, or lethargy after feedings.

Discontinue ant snacks immediately if any issues arise.

Rinse hands thoroughly under running water once ant collecting is done.

This helps remove any pheromone trails you may transfer accidentally to your flock otherwise.

My Experience: Pebbles and the Ant Line

can baby chicks eat ants

When I first saw tiny Pebbles gobbling up that trail of ants like popcorn, I’ll admit I panicked a bit.

As a rookie, I didn’t know what to think.

But she seemed right as rain afterward! Her ant antics got me researching, which helped ease my mind.

Now when I see any of my chickens pecking at the occasional bug or anthill, I just smile.

Nature knows best, after all.

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They’re getting exercise, entertainment, and a lil’ protein boost.

I chuckle remembering Pebbles and her escapades – she sure was an adventurous eater from day one!

How to Collect Ants Safely for Your Baby Chicks

If you’re gonna let the chicks snack on ants, you’ll need to collect ’em first.

Head out in the morning or evening when ant activity is highest.

Look for large mounds in sunny areas around the yard and property edges.

The best tool is a long-handled tablespoon – it lets you gently scoop up big piles of ants without disturbing the whole mound.

Alternatively, you can carefully use your bare hands if the ants aren’t an aggressive variety.

Start at the outer edge of the mound and gently rub the soil, allowing ants to crawl onto your hands or spoon.

Transport the writhing masses of ants, which can number in the hundreds, in a shallow plastic container or Pie pan for easier portioning out to the chicks.

Be quick but gentle – excess squishing or spooking can cause ants to release alarm pheromones that irritate skin.

Wash hands thoroughly when finished collecting to remove traces of pheromones before handling the chicks.

With practice, you’ll be able to collect adequate ant portions for feedings in just minutes!

Storing and Serving Collected Ants

After collecting a fresh batch of ants, here’s how to feed them to your chicks properly:

Chill collected ants in their container in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.

This helps the ants become lethargic, calming their movement so chicks don’t get spooked.

When ready to feed, gently empty the chilled ants into a wide, shallow dish or pan.

Non-tipping dishes are best so ants can’t escape beyond the chicks’ reach.

For growing chicks, space individual servings by chick to avoid dominance behaviors.

Offer refreshments of ants two to three times weekly at most as a supplement snack.

Rinse dishes thoroughly between feedings to ensure every chick gets equal access.

Store leftover batches tightly sealed in the fridge for up two days tops before discarding.

With practice, ants can become a fun new activity for curious chicks to forage!

Addressing Common Concerns

When first sharing my ant-feeding experiences, I got asked some common questions.

“Won’t the ants fight back or sting?” was one worry folks voiced.

As mentioned before, you’ll only want to use common household ant species.

Others wondered if disease could spread between ants and birds.

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Most ants pose no issues, though it’s best avoided in young chickens with immature immune systems.

“What if they choke?” was an understandable concern due to ant size.

Start by offering just 3-5 per chick and supervise feedings until you know they’ll chew well.

Occasionally inspecting droppings is also wise to check for full digestion.

“How do I stop ants if the feeding area gets too populated?” was the last issue raised.

Diatomaceous earth spread around problem areas can gently discourage unwanted ant activity without chemicals.

With precaution and common sense, most reservations can be avoided when feeding in moderation.

Selecting the Best Breeds for Ant Foraging

Not all chickens are equally suited for insect hunting fun like ant catching.

Small but active breeds with fast pecking skills tend to enjoy it most.

Top picks are usually Salmon Faverolles, Chantecler, Modern Games, and Cochins.

These ladies tend to be more curious and less flighty around small crawling snacks.

High-strung breeds like Leghorns may get overstimulated by the activity.

Large, lumbering chickens could accidentally hurt tiny chicks pecking alongside them.

Free-ranging breeds like Australorps may lose interest once mature due to independent nature.

Dual-purpose breeds usually strike the best balance of friendliness and natural foraging ability.

Starting with careful insect selections is smart when first introducing ant colonies to any new flock.

Adding Ant Hills to the Coop or Run

For flocks that really take to ant catching, encouraging natural foraging has benefits.

However, only do this once chicks are fully feathered at 6 weeks to avoid hurting tiny ones.

Select an anthill in a sunny corner of the run safe from weather but visible.

Shelter it beneath a flat stone propped up on sticks to protect from scratching/pecking.

The ants can build their nest undisturbed while the chickens hunt at their leisure.

Clearing away chicken dust bathing spots is important to discourage ingesting soil that could harbor infected ants.

Rotating ant patches every 3-4 weeks prevents depleting one colony and disturbing others too much.

It’s an enriching free-range activity on calm days when you can supervise playfulness from a distance.

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