Corn is one of the “veggies” (actually a grain) that pops up everywhere. It is in every snack and is a fixture at every meal.
It is also a regular ingredient in all kinds of animal feed. This begs the question, can chickens eat corn?
Yes, chickens can eat corn. Chickens are able to digest raw or gently cooked corn, cracked corn, and maize easily and all are filling, nutritious foods. Corn is a good source of carbohydrates and has a fair amount of essential vitamins such as A, B6 and C, and calcium.
No surprises there. Chickens are able to eat all kinds of seeds and other grains, so it makes sense that corn is a viable food source for them.
However, just because they can eat it easily does not mean they should be eating it all the time, or eat the same corn that you had at dinner last night.
Keep reading to get all the info you need for feeding corn to your flock.
Nutritional Profile of Corn
Corn is mostly composed of carbohydrates, with a small amount of protein and fat. It is also relatively high in sugar content.
It also contains a fair amount of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin C, and calcium.
Benefits of Feeding Corn to Chickens
Corn is an economical way to add calories and bulk to your chicken’s diet. It is also a decent source of essential vitamins and minerals.
Corn can be fed to chickens in many different forms, including whole kernels, cracked corn, or as cornmeal.
Corn is often used as a “warming” feed for chickens in cold weather.
This is because it takes more energy for the chicken to digest corn than other feeds, and also because it is mostly carbs, a good fuel source for the purpose.
Birds, compared to most animals, are especially dependent on food so they can raise their metabolisms to stay warm in cold weather, and corn is an excellent option for that purpose.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Corn?
Yes, chickens can eat raw corn, and it will probably be their preferred way to eat it. As separate, fresh kernels or left as corn on the cob, they will love it.
Can Chickens Eat Cooked Corn?
Chickens can also eat cooked corn, but this is not necessary. Cooking corn will make it easier for them to eat, but chickens can digest raw corn just fine.
Keep in mind, that cooked corn will have higher moisture content, and regularly ingesting moist food can cause health problems for your chickens.
If you do choose to cook corn for your chickens, make sure it is not too soft or mushy, as this will exacerbate the problems.
Can Chickens Eat Canned Corn?
Canned corn is not a good option for feeding chickens. Many canned foods contain unhealthy additives like salt, sugar, and preservatives.
If these ingredients are present, it is best to avoid feeding them to your chickens. In any case, the moisture content will be drastically higher and that is not good.
Can Chickens Eat Dried Corn?
“Dried” corn kernels like popcorn are technically edible for your chickens, but they are even harder for them to digest. They are also a bit of a choking hazard.
I recommend crushing dried corn into smaller pieces before giving it to them, and you must be cautious that such corn has not been seasoned or flavored with anything. See the next section.
Never Feed Chickens Corn that Has Harmful Ingredients or Additives
The most important rule when feeding corn to your chickens particularly prepared leftovers from your table or dried popcorn mix is to make sure it does not contain any harmful ingredients.
This means no salt, sugar, preservatives, spices, seasonings, or other additives. You generally don’t want to serve your chickens any of the following:
- Canned Corn
- Creamed Corn
- “Super Sweet” varieties
- Seasoned or Flavored Popcorn
If your chickens ingest any of the above they can get very sick. In some cases, these additives can even be deadly.
The same goes for any other food scraps or leftovers you give to your chickens: Make sure it is healthy and free of harmful ingredients before feeding it to them.
How Much Corn Can I Feed My Chickens?
While corn is a safe and generally healthy option for chickens, it is not particularly nutritious.
However, much like for people it is tasty and fattening, and should only be given to your chickens as a treat or limited dietary supplement.
Corn should never be the only thing they eat, and even if you try to give them plenty of feed with corn, they will tend to fill up on the sweet, tasty corn and lose out on the nutrients in their feed.
For those reasons, corn should only be given to your chickens 1 or 2 times a week.
A good rule of thumb is to offer no more than 10% of your chickens’ calorie intake as corn, and preferably in conjunction with other, varied produce as treats and supplementation.
Preparing Corn to Give to Your Chickens
There are many ways to prepare corn to give to your chickens. Raw kernels can be left on the cob or separated and fed whole.
If you have any older birds, it might be a good idea to lightly mash or crush the corn so they don’t have to work as hard to eat it.
I prefer to leave the corn on the cob, raw, and feed it to them in order to allow them a little fun in pecking it off. It also makes cleaning up after they have finished a snap.
Can You Feed Corn to Chicks?
Yes, but it is recommended to wait until they are at least 6 weeks old. Chicks have a harder time digesting corn, and it is better to wait until they are a little older and their digestive system is better developed.
A Word of Caution on Feeding Corn to Chickens
While feeding corn to your chickens is generally safe, there are a few things to be aware of. First, as mentioned before, corn is not particularly nutritious and should only be given as a treat or supplement, never as the sole food source.
Second, corn is high in sugar and can cause your chickens to become overweight if they eat too much of it. Always offer fresh water and limit the amount of corn you give to them.
Last, as with any food, if you notice your chicken is having trouble digesting corn or acting strangely after eating it, stop giving it to them and consult a veterinarian. It could be a sign of impending digestive issues.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.