If you have chickens, there is no doubt that you have noticed them picking through and picking at the grass when you let them free range.
Lots of folks already know that chickens forage for bugs and seeds in the grass, but they might not know that they regularly take a bite of the grass itself, too. Is that okay? Can chickens eat grass?
Yes, chickens may safely eat grass and grass clippings so long as they have not been treated with any harmful pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals. The grass is generally beneficial but not nutritionally complete, and chickens cannot subsist on it alone.
But, chickens generally know how much grass they need and will often refrain from eating too much unless they are starving.
Grass usually helps the quality of their stools and digestion, so it is totally okay if you allow your birds to trim the lawn for you.
However, there’s plenty more to know when it comes to feeding grass to chickens, so keep reading if you want to learn more.
Nutritional Profile of Grass
The nutritional profile of grass is fairly minimal when it comes to chickens, but it does have benefits.
It has a fair amount of vitamins in it, including vitamin A, vitamin E and a few B vitamins but most of its nutrition is in the form of carbs, namely fiber.
Health Benefits of Grass for Chickens
Grass does give chickens a shot of calories and a few vitamins as mentioned above, but its primary benefits come from aiding in digestion.
Eating grass will help bulk up a chicken’s stools and clear out its intestines.
Is also totally normal for chickens to seek out more grit after eating grass, and many owners have reported seeing their chickens pick up tiny pebbles and other things after munching on it for a while.
Can Chickens Eat Grass Raw?
Yes, your chickens can eat raw grass growing right out of the ground. If you leave them to this behavior and watch closely, you’ll probably notice that they actually snip off the youngest grass near the top and generally don’t swallow an entire blade at a time.
Can Chickens Eat Grass Clippings?
Yes! Contrary to certain popular opinions chickens may safely eat grass clippings.
Although this does change the dynamic a little bit since they will be more likely to swallow an entire blade or piece of grass instead of just a little nibble off the tip.
It’s usually nothing to worry about, but this does slightly increase the chances of crop impaction. See below for more details.
Can Chickens Eat Grass Cut with a Power Lawn Mower?
I don’t know where the rumor got started that you cannot feed grass clippings cut by a power lawn mower to chickens but we need to put it to bed, right now.
To be totally clear, yes, your chickens may safely eat grass clippings cut from your own lawn using a power lawn mower, electric or gasoline.
How did this rumor get started? I don’t really know, but, like most rumors of this type, it probably started from a place of good intentions.
I believe the idea that grease, fuel, exhaust residue or something from the passage of the mower could somehow be present on the grass in quantities sufficient enough to cause harm if fed to chickens is the source of this rumor.
In all practical instances, this is nothing to worry about, though if your mower was notoriously leaky when it comes to fuel or oil you might want to rethink it. See you the next section for more on this topic.
Beware of Pesticide and Fertilizer Application on Grasses Where Chickens Graze
You should never, ever allow chickens to graze on grass or eat grass clippings that have been treated with pesticides, herbicides, recently treated with fertilizers or otherwise contaminated with any other sorts of chemicals, including from a fuel or oil spill.
Grass will readily absorb and hold on to many chemicals, and this can spell disaster if you allow your chickens to eat it.
If your lawn is regularly treated with pesticides or herbicides, your chickens shouldn’t be allowed to eat the grass and frankly, you shouldn’t be treating it as much if you have chickens since they generally live out on the grass!
How Often Can Chickens Have Grass?
When chickens are allowed to free-range and roam, you won’t be able to stop them from eating grass whenever they want.
Happily, they seem to know when enough is enough and rarely overindulge unless they are starving.
But, if you plan on giving your chickens a big load of grass clippings or you procure grass for them as a treat they should only give it to them once or twice a week as part of a well-rounded and nutritionally complete diet.
Remember, chickens don’t live primarily on grass like horses and cows and should be eating chicken feed as their primary diet 90% of the time.
Potential Problems Associated with Eating Too Much Grass
Some owners report problems with crop impaction when their chickens are allowed to eat grass and clipped grass in particular.
However, these concerns seem to be somewhat overblown with the vast majority of owners reporting anecdotally that even regular ingestion of live grass and grass clippings causes their birds no ill effects whatsoever so long as they aren’t eating it all the time.
Furthermore, the evidence seems to suggest that wet grass clippings are the primary culprit.
Remember that chickens generally want to eat dry food and wet food, especially wet food eaten regularly, tends to cause problems for them in time.
So long as you are allowing your chickens to eat live grass or dry grass clippings you should not expect any issues.
Preparing Grass for Your Flock
There really isn’t much to say about preparing grass or grass clippings for your chickens. If you want them to eat grass while free-ranging, just turn them loose and they will take care of the rest!
However, if you want to give them grass clippings to eat, simply make sure that they are dry and free of any chemical, fertilizer or pesticide residue as outlined above and then hand them over.
You can even pour out grass clippings from a mower catch basket or bag into a pile and let your chickens go crazy.
As mentioned, chickens will eat grass pretty much whenever they want and will stop when they’ve had enough, so you shouldn’t worry about them overeating as long as they are getting other food regularly.
Can Baby Chicks Have Grass, Too?
Yes, baby chicks may have grass and will often start eating it when they are ready. You don’t need to make it a point to give them grass clippings as a treat or an effort to supplement their diet most of the time.
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.