Raising a flock of chickens is seen as something of a rite of passage for homesteaders, and one with many benefits.
From baskets of fresh eggs to effective fertilization of crops and even the control of harmful insect populations.
Regarding this last benefit, some homesteaders report that they see a plunge in tick numbers on and around their property after letting their chickens roam for a while. Others say it is a myth.
This begs the question: Do chickens even eat ticks?
The answer is yes, chickens do eat ticks, and sometimes in great numbers. All common commercial and heritage breed chickens are omnivorous and will eat a variety of insects, including ticks. Considerable anecdotal evidence suggests that chickens are actually quite effective at tick control.
This is great news if you live in an area infested with ticks, or have been experiencing recent problems with the little bloodsuckers.
Chickens might be the ideal solution to the problem but there is more you should know before buying a flock and plunking down the cash for a coop or tractor. I’ll tell you everything you need to know below.
Chickens are Expert Hunters of Insects
One of the main reasons chickens are such effective hunters of insects, including ticks, is that they are expert foragers.
This means they spend a great deal of their time scratching around in the dirt and leaf litter or poking around plants looking for something to eat.
Chickens, like many birds, have a certain amount of natural curiosity but in their case that curiosity is regarding where their next meal is going to come from!
In the food chain, chickens are far above pretty much every insect that there is. Anything that they can catch and either swallow whole or peck apart they are likely to eat.
That means that when you watch your birds moseying around on your property pecking at the dirt they are likely striking at prey at least half the time.
Chickens will also eat just about any type of insect they can find, and includes not only ticks but also grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, and caterpillars.
In fact, some farmers will purchase chickens specifically to help control crop-damaging insects. This means you can depend on your chickens to eat ticks whenever they are found.
Ticks are Definitely on the Menu for your Chickens!
While you might not want your chickens eating ticks because of the perceived potential for disease, they likely won’t get sick from it at all.
Chickens have a different digestive system and biology than mammals, so they can easily consume things that would make us or other mammals sick.
More importantly, your chickens will not contract diseases from the ticks that they can retransmit to you, at least the most severe ones like Lyme disease.
This means that you shouldn’t worry about any second-order effects of your chickens dining regularly upon ticks.
If you’ve got tick problems on your property that means that ticks are definitely on the menu for your chickens!
A Chicken May Eat Upwards of 75 Ticks an Hour
Chickens are natural insect pest controllers. If you have a problem with ticks, letting your chickens free-range across your property might be the only thing you need to do to stop them.
A chicken can eat upwards of 75 insects, including ticks, in just one hour.
If you have a lot of chickens, that means a whole lot of ticks are being eaten every hour, and potentially thousands of nasty buggers are disappearing from your property (or at least where the chickens can reach) every single day.
Even the largest tick population could be rapidly depleted by a flock of “yard birds”.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that chickens are effective at reducing tick populations on properties where they are allowed to roam freely.
A simple Google search shows that a great many homesteaders report a significant decrease in the number of ticks on their property after getting chickens.
There are a few different theories as to why this is the case, but the most likely explanation is that the chickens are eating the adult ticks and their larvae along with tick eggs before they have a chance to mature and reproduce.
Chickens are such effective hunters of insects that they might be an extinction event for ticks on your land.
A large flock might be able to keep your property tick-free just by their presence.
This is a big deal when you consider how invasive and potentially how dangerous other methods of tick control are, with most of the effective pesticide treatments entailing serious health risks for you or other animals.
Heritage Breeds Work Better than Commercial Breeds
While all chickens are omnivorous and will eat insects, some chicken breeds are better at it than others.
Commercial breeds that have been selected for extreme mass or egg production, such as Cornish Crosses, are not as effective at controlling insects compared to heritage breeds.
These legacy breeds have the physiology, temperament, and instincts to be better tick hunters.
Some of the best chicken breeds for tick control include:
- Barred Plymouth Rock
- Rhode Island Red
No matter where you live and what sort of climate you have there is a chicken breed that will do well in your backyard or on your property to help keep the tick population under control.
Just make sure you do your research so you can find the best breed for your specific situation.
Be Warned: Ticks Can Attack your Chickens
Even though your chickens will absolutely devour ticks, certain tick species will try to latch on to your chickens in quest of fresh blood.
If you have a bird that gets a bad infestation, it could get anemia from all the bloodsucking, and might even die. That being said, in the battle between tick and chicken, bet on the chicken.
If you allow your birds to free range in your yard or elsewhere on your property they will quickly bring the tick population under control to such a degree that you won’t need to worry so much about your chickens falling prey to the nasty critters.
There are some other things you can do to prevent your chickens from becoming tick magnets in the first place.
First, make sure their coop is clean and dry. Ticks like dark, humid places to hang out, so keeping the coop clean and dry will help discourage them from setting up shop where your flock is most vulnerable.
You should also regularly check your chickens for ticks, and remove any that you find. Their neck, wattles, combs, and the folds of their eyes are vulnerable.
Finally, consider using a tick repellent on your chickens at least until they have the ticks on the run.
Let Your Chickens Take Out Ticks for You
So there you have it. Pretty much all breeds of chicken will eat ticks, with many heritage breeds being effective tick hunters.
Considerable anecdotal evidence suggests that an established flock of chickens will rapidly deplete the tick population in a given area.
Although chicks are not vulnerable to or vectors of dangerous tick-borne diseases in the same way that mammals are, you must still take care to keep ticks from infesting your chickens.
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.