Approved by Dr. Paola Cuevas

If you’ve gotten onboard with raising and keeping chickens on your farm or homestead, you may be wondering if they can provide natural pest control for disease-carrying insects like ticks and mosquitoes. After all, birds eat all kinds of insects, including ticks.

So, do chickens eat ticks? Yes, chickens are omnivores and eat ticks and other pests. Chickens do not feed exclusively on ticks, however, so they should not be taken for granted as a natural pest control.

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Are Chickens Good for Pest Control?

Lohmann brown chicken
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Chickens are omnivores, meaning they eat both animal and plant material. This includes pests like spiders, fleas, worms, mosquitos, and ticks. Chickens will eat just about any insect or arachnid they come across, which means they’ll also consume beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.

Chickens may eat ticks, but they usually don’t eat enough to provide effective pest control. In 1991, a study was conducted to see how many ticks a chicken would eat.1 A flock of chickens was given free roam in a tick-infested field for 30 minutes to 1 hour. In that time, the chickens consumed between three and 331 ticks, roughly 80 ticks per bird.

That’s a lot of ticks! But it was also a flock of chickens in an infested area. Your chickens will encounter all kinds of pests, so it’s not reasonable to assume they’ll consume 80 ticks each hour consistently.

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What Should Chickens Eat?

Chickens eating cantaloupe
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Free-range chickens often find all kinds of protein and vegetation to feed on. In fact, a chicken may eat toads, small snakes, or skinks if they come across these. Regardless, you should support your chicken’s diet with layer feed to ensure that they get the nutrients that they need.

The primary food for chickens should be pelleted or crumbled layer feed, which contains protein, calcium, and a range of vitamins and minerals. You should also supplement their diet with foods like leafy greens, corn, non-sugar cereals, berries, apples, and cooked (never raw!) beans.

Foods That Chickens Should Avoid

Just because a chicken will eat anything doesn’t mean they should. Plenty of foods are unhealthy or downright dangerous for chickens, including avocado, potato skins, rhubarb, raw beans, and high-fat foods. It is also best to avoid feeding them garlic and onion.

If your chicken produces eggs, be sure to supplement their meals with calcium. You can add table scraps to your chicken’s food, but be careful to avoid any of the dangerous foods mentioned. Chickens can even have meat scraps, but it’s up to you to decide if you’re comfortable feeding chicken to your chickens.

Keep in mind that overindulgence of any food isn’t a healthy choice for your chickens, so feed them table scraps in moderation. The commercial layer feed will provide your chickens with all the nutrients that they need, so a small amount of table scraps should be intended to enrich them, not sustain them.

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Chickens are omnivorous and will eat almost anything that they can find, including abundant pests like ticks. Your chickens may help you eliminate some of these bloodsuckers from your yard, but they shouldn’t be considered effective pest control. If you’re concerned about ticks or any other yard pests, hire a pest-control professional to develop a customized treatment. Be sure that it is safe for your flock!

Featured Image Credit: gkgegk, Pixabay