Can Chickens Eat Flies

Can Chickens Eat Flies? A Bug Bounty Your Hens Will Love



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As I was tending to my flock one sunny afternoon, I watched in amusement as one of my hens snatched a fly right out of the air with lightning quick reflexes.

Her sisters hurried over, clucking excitedly, hoping she’d share her crunchy snack.

That got me wondering – can chickens eat flies and other insects? And are bugs actually good for chicken health?

Well, let me tell you, after keeping chickens for over a decade now, I’ve learned that our feathered friends are bonafide bug terminators!

Not only can chickens eat flies, they absolutely love chasing down and devouring any insect unlucky enough to enter the coop.

And the benefits of an all-you-can-eat bug buffet go beyond simply providing a tasty treat.

Insects can give your flock a nutritious boost!

Chickens Are Natural Insectivores

In the wild, jungle fowl (the ancestors of domestic chickens) get over 20% of their daily nutrients from insects and bugs.

Can Chickens Eat Flies

So over the millions of years of evolution, chickens have become excellent hunters, engineered to catch and consume insects.

Your backyard chickens retain these natural foraging instincts.

Give them access to a lawn or pasture, and they’ll happily spend hours nibbling grass, scratching up bugs, and gobbling down any creepy crawlies they find.

Let me tell you, it’s endlessly entertaining to watch your ladies scurry after grasshoppers or peck apart a juicy beetle!

I remember one warm summer evening when the fireflies were out in full force.

My chickens went crazy chasing those blinking bugs all over the coop! They leap and dive bombed, snatching mouthfuls of fireflies right out of the air.

It was like watching feathered fighter jets on an insect combat mission. Though they didn’t actually eat the fireflies, just tried to catch them for fun. Chickens love the thrill of the hunt!

Another sign of chickens’ insect-loving instincts – they’ll eat their own eggs if given the chance! Why? Because instinctively they know eggs are a rich source of protein, nutrients and fatty acids.

Much like insects. So an egg snack provides similar nutrition benefits as a bug buffet.

The point is, chasing down and eating insects comes naturally to chickens.

Their ancestry as jungle fowl makes them highly motivated and incredibly capable insect hunters and consumers.

So if you have a backyard flock, be sure to let them forage freely – they’ll happily hunt down protein-packed bugs and pests like flies, worms, beetles and more.

Nutritional Benefits of Bugs for Chickens

Insects are jam-packed with nutrition that benefit chicken health.

Can Chickens Eat Flies

Bugs provide:

  • Protein – for growth and egg production
  • Fat – for energy and vitamin absorption
  • Vitamins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and zinc
  • Chitin – supports gut health

Plus, chickens just seem to thrive when they get to engage in natural foraging behaviors. An insect snack here and there gives them enrichment.

Let’s break down those nutritional benefits in more detail:

Protein – Bugs can contain up to 70% protein, more than chicken feed! This amino acid-rich nutrition supports muscle growth, feather development and egg production in chickens. Mealworms, for example, are about 20% protein. Just a quarter cup can provide 7 grams of protein.

Healthy Fats – Insects provide fatty acids like lauric acid and omega-3s. Fat helps chickens absorb vitamins from their feed. It also provides lasting energy. An added bonus – the omega-3s in bugs can make chicken eggs more nutritious for us too!

Vitamins and MineralsChickens need calcium for egg shells and phosphorus for bone health. Zinc supports their immune system.

Insects can provide ample amounts of these essential nutrients. For example, just 100 grams of crickets contains over 100% RDA for B12, riboflavin, and selenium.

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Chitin – This prebiotic fiber found in insect exoskeletons supports good gut bacteria in chickens. Since 70% of a chicken’s immune system is in its gut, chitin from bugs helps them stay healthy.

As you can see, insects provide a powerhouse of complete nutrition for chickens – protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber. All in a natural package that aligns with their foraging instincts.

The Best Bugs for Chickens

When it comes to insect cuisine, chickens aren’t too picky.

Can Chickens Eat Flies

They’ll snack on most any tiny creepy crawly they can get their beaks on. But some bugs are better for them than others.

Here are the top bugs and insects for chickens:

  • Flies – Full of protein, easy to catch and eat
  • Earthworms – High in protein and omega-3s
  • Crickets – Packed with calcium and other minerals
  • Mealworms – An excellent source of protein
  • Maggots – Full of calcium and protein
  • Beetles – Provide protein, fat and trace minerals
  • Grasshoppers – Contain calcium, protein and carbohydrates
  • Caterpillars – High in healthy fats and omega-3s
  • Ants – Great source of protein
  • Mosquito larvae – Provide protein and fat

As you can see, insects tend to be high in protein, healthy fats, and important vitamins and minerals like calcium.

So they make the perfect supplement to a balanced chicken diet.

Let’s explore why each of these bugs makes excellent chicken treats:

Flies – Houseflies and bluebottle flies are favorites of chickens. These provide ample protein for growth and production. Plus they are easy to spot and catch as they buzz by.

Earthworms – A classic chicken delicacy. The squirmy texture and protein content make them a beloved treat. Their omega-3 fatty acids boost chicken health.

Crickets – These hoppers are packed with nearly double the calcium of milk. Great for proper bone development and egg shell strength. Their chitin also supports gut health.

Mealworms – One of the best sources of insect protein available. Dried mealworms are over 50% protein. Sprinkle them in your flock’s run and watch those worms disappear!

Maggots – Chickens go nuts for these wiggly larva. They provide a huge protein and calcium boost. I regularly let old fruit and veggies decompose to cultivate maggots as chicken treats.

Beetles – Crunchy and nutritious. Beetles like June bugs provide essential amino acids chickens need. Plus the shells are rich in trace minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc.

Grasshoppers – These high jumpers are packed with protein, minerals and bone-strengthening calcium. Chickens get great exercise leaping to catch their powerful hind legs.

Caterpillars – All that creepy crawly goodness provides an excellent fatty acid profile. Many are high in omega-3s for improved brain and immune function.

When giving your flock insect treats, I recommend sticking to these natural, nutritionally-dense bugs found in the garden ecosystem. Avoid feeder insects from bait shops, which can carry disease.

Avoid These Bugs for Chickens

While most insects are fine for chickens to eat, there are a few bugs you’ll want to avoid exposing your flock to:

Here’s more detail on insects to keep away from your flock:

Fire Ants – These aggressive ants will defend their nest by repeatedly stinging chickens. Their venom can cause swelling, infections, even death. Be vigilant removing fire ant mounds from your property.

Feeder Insects – Mealworms, crickets and other insects sold as bait or chicken feed may harbor Salmonella and other diseases. Always source bugs naturally from your backyard instead.

Toxic Bugs – Certain insects like wasps, yellowjackets, and some caterpillars have venom or secrete toxic chemicals. While a nibble may not hurt chickens, consuming enough can make them ill.

Ticks – These parasitic bugs can transmit diseases like Lyme through their bite. Chickens should not eat ticks they pick off their own bodies.

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Spiders – Most are harmless but accidentally eating a venomous spider like a black widow could be deadly. I remove any spider webs around the coop.

Be vigilant keeping these potentially harmful insects away from your flock. But otherwise, most backyard bugs are fair game and provide excellent nutrition!

How to “Bugify” Your Chicken’s Diet

If you want to provide more bugs for your backyard flock, here are some tips:

  • Let the flock forage freely in grass and dirt
  • Scatter mealworms, crickets or larvae in their run
  • Put out shallow dishes of water to attract mosquitos
  • Compost straw and manure to encourage insects
  • Create a “chickens only” compost pile they can scratch through

Here are more details on attracting and cultivating beneficial bugs:

Free Foraging – Allowing chickens to roam and graze ensures they get insects naturally. Rotating pens over grass and soil helps disturb and uncover creepy crawlies. Their scratching will find worms, beetles and larvae galore!

Added Mealworms – I routinely sprinkle dried mealworms into the run to supplement. Chickens gobble them up within minutes. They’re one of the easiest insects to cultivate yourself too.

Mosquito Trap – Simply shallow dishes filled with water and a little hay or straw attract mosquito larvae. The water attracts the mosquitos, they lay eggs, and chickens devour the wiggly larva. Win-win!

Compost Pile Access – Letting your chickens turn and sift through composting manure and straw encourages insects to gather. Beetles, grubs and other beneficial bugs will flock to the compost which chickens then feast on.

Chicken-Safe Compost – Build a separate compost pile just for your flock. Add household veggie/fruit scraps to decompose and cultivate maggots, mealworms and other insect “livestock” they can forage.

With just a little encouragement, you can turn your backyard into an all-you-can-eat insect buffet. Your flock will be healthy and happy enjoying the bug bounty!

Supplementing Feed with Bugs

While insects can provide ample nutrition, chickens still need a balanced diet. Bugs should supplement their basic feed, not fully replace it. Here are some tips on incorporating insects into a healthy feeding regimen:

– Offer bugs as treats 2-3 times per week – Scatter 1/4 cup of mealworms in their run or coop as a protein booster. Let them scratch through compost piles to hunt up grubs and flies. This gives chickens something fun to forage for without overdoing insect protein.

– Use bugs to encourage foraging behaviors – Bugs motivate chickens to peck, scratch, and engage their natural “jungle fowl” instincts. Even just distributing a few tablespoons of mealworms in straw makes chickens work for their treats.

– Prioritize natural, whole insects – Crickets, grubs and worms straight from the garden supply nutrition without additives. Dried insects often have preservatives. And never feed mealworms from bait shops, only certified organic sources.

– Pair insect treats with greens – Offer bugs alongside leafy greens and vegetation. This balances their nutritional intake. Some of my chickens’ favorite “insect & greens” pairings include mealworms and cabbage or maggots and fresh grass clippings.

– Ensure their feed has proper calcium – Laying hens need extra calcium for egg production, which bugs alone won’t provide enough of. Supplement insect protein with layer feed containing oyster shell calcium.

With a thoughtful approach, insects can round out your chickens’ diets and keep them happily foraging without overdoing the protein.

Feed bugs in moderation along with greens and balanced layer rations.

Setting Up Your Coop to Attract Bugs

If you want to leverage your flock’s appetite for insects, optimizing your coop setup makes it easier.

Here are some tips for attracting more beneficial bugs:

– Situate coops near trees/woods – Old logs and undisturbed wooded areas harbor plenty of insects. Place your coop within foraging range of these bug hotspots.

– Add a compost station – Composting manure and organic material right beside the coop brings insects and larvae within easy reach.

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– Plant insectary plants – Herbs like dill, cilantro and fennel attract flies, lady bugs and other insects chickens love to eat. Grow them nearby.

– Install mesh-screen windows – Screens allow air flow while keeping large predatory insects out. Small flies, gnats and mosquitos can still get in and become chicken snacks.

– Use diatomaceous earth – Sprinkling this powdered mineral around the run and coop kills crawling bugs, for the chickens to eat their carcasses!

– Set out bug habitat – Rotting wood, compost piles, water dishes provide insect breeding grounds. Place them strategically so chickens can readily feast.

– Light the coop – Install a bulb on a timer to attract nighttime insects like moths. Light draws in bugs, chickens eat them up.

With a coop orientation that takes advantage of natural bug habitat, composting, and strategic plantings, you can create an all-you-can-eat insect buffet for your flock!

Common Concerns About Chickens Eating Bugs

Some first-time chicken keepers have concerns when they see their flock gobbling down bugs.

Here are some common worries, explained:

– They’ll fill up on bugs and ignore feed – Chickens may cut back on feed a bit after insect snacking, but their overall nutrition remains balanced. Bugs are a supplement, not sole diet.

– Eating wild bugs will make them sick – As long as bugs come from your own backyard, not bait shops, they’re perfectly safe nutrition sources.

– Too much protein from insects isn’t healthy – As long as treats like mealworms are fed in moderation, extra protein won’t harm chickens.

– Bug-hunting chickens destroy my garden – Keep flower beds fenced off as a safe zone. Use pen rotation and supervised foraging time to protect plants.

– It’s gross that my chickens eat flies and worms! – For chickens, insects are entirely natural, healthy food sources. We just need to adjust our human perspective.

– Will chickens attract swarms of pests? – Allowing chickens to eliminate bugs actually cuts down on insect populations. So they help minimize flies and ticks around your property.

Don’t let worries turn you off the benefits of puttering your flock’s passion for bugs to work! With some management, insect eating is perfectly safe and healthy.

The Verdict on Chickens Eating Flies

So can chickens eat flies? Absolutely! In fact, chickens can and should eat all sorts of insects like flies, worms, crickets, grubs and more.

Bugs provide essential protein, vitamins and minerals. Plus, insect-eating provides enrichment for chickens and allows them to engage in natural foraging behaviors.

Of all the insects chickens love, flies are one of their favorites. Easy to catch and full of protein, flies make the perfect on-the-go snack for chickens. Houseflies and bluebottle flies are plump, slow-moving targets – like chicken candy!

Flies also reproduce rapidly, providing a constant replenishing supply of snacks.

And since flies themselves eat waste and manure, they convert inedible substances into nutritious bug protein! It’s a win-win for chickens and their humans.

Insects like flies and worms can provide up to 30% of a chicken’s nutritional needs. So be sure to offer your flock opportunities to engage their natural insect hunting abilities.

Let them scratch and peck for bugs, cultivate compost piles full of larvae, and sprinkle tasty mealworm treats.

Your ladies will repay you with vigorous good health and bountiful eggs!

Just be sure to avoid potentially toxic insects, and don’t feed bait shop creepy crawlies. Otherwise, any insect bounty your flock can hunt down will provide healthy nutrition and fun!

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