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Do chickens eat grass and is it good for them?

Do chickens eat grass? Simply put, yes! Plus, if you’ve ever seen a newly rehomed hen stand on grass for the first time, you’ll know what a joy it is to watch them explore their new underfoot surface. 

Similarly, if your hens have regular access to free-range on the green stuff, you’ll have seen them foraging for bugs and slugs and eating the occasional mouthful too. But can chickens eat grass and is it good for them? 

Simply put, yes and no, and here we’ll explain the different scenarios. 

Is it safe for my hens to free-range on grass? 

Many hen keepers allow their hens access to grassy areas which has lots of benefits for your birds. Not only is it entertaining for them to scratch around in, but your hens also act as natural pest controllers by picking up bugs and slugs as they go. 

In addition, grass is a rich source of fibre which is essential for digestive health, as well as containing lots of vitamins and minerals, making it great in small quantities. 

Generally, your hens can distinguish between grass which has nutritional value and grass which does not, and they will normally only consume small amounts if left to free-range, and provided there is adequate food and water for them elsewhere. 

Can I feed my hens mowed grass? 

Because of their insistence on ‘helping’ we know some hen keepers restrict their birds’ access to grassy areas, allowing it to be fed, watered and mown to perfection. 

It can then be tempting to tip rich grass clippings into their run to be enjoyed; however, this is a big no no.

In short, hens naturally crop a small piece of each grass blade at a time when foraging naturally; however, when you mow grass you start the breaking down process which can quickly cause your hen to get diarrhoea and crop impaction. You also have no way of controlling how long the clumps of grass are or how much they gorge on leading to all sorts of nasty problems for them. 

If you want to treat your hens, allow them only a very small handful of fresh grass clippings. It’s important to be mindful of how much you are giving them and where you are getting it from. Small handfuls of freshly cut grass no longer than a couple of inches are safe and healthy enough for your hens; however, anything longer than that is likely to cause problems, making them ill and in extreme cases causing death. Our Hen Helpline has received several calls in the past for exactly this reason. 

Do chickens eat grass?

So, in short, grass mowings are a no go, but giving your hens the odd handful of freshly snipped grass which you’ve cut yourself that morning is a lovely treat for your hens and has proven very good for their welfare and overall health. 

Finally, it goes without saying that you should never use grass clippings if you have treated your grass with herbicides, pesticides or lawn feed. 

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