Raising chickens can be both exciting and challenging, as you get to see them eating weird stuff from the yard or garden. For example, you may see your chickens eating slugs and other pests in the yard.
But is this safe? Can chickens eat slugs and snails?
Chickens can eat slugs and snails, and these little pests serve as a free and natural food for birds. However, you also should consider the risks involved when chickens eat these pests from your yard. Slugs can host parasitic worms that cause serious respiratory illness and even death in chickens.
What should you consider before allowing your chickens to eat slugs and snails? Aside from these pests, what else can chickens eat? Continue reading.
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Why Chickens Can Eat Slugs and Snails
Here are some reasons why you can allow your chickens to eat slugs and snails:
1. Slugs and Snails Are Very Nutritious
Slugs have a lot of protein, while snails have even more protein with the addition of excess calcium in their shells. This means that eating slugs and snails can help your chickens to grow faster than other types of foods such as fruits and vegetables.
As animals, slugs and snails are more valuable nutritionally than fruits and vegetables because they offer a lot of protein. Protein is the essential nutrient that animals need for growth.
As for fruits and vegetables, however, they contain more vitamins and minerals that are also needed.
Chickens that eat mostly kitchen scraps will need extra sources of protein, so these pests could give them just what they need.
2. Chickens Are Skilled at Controlling Pests
If you have a pest infestation in your farm or barn, you only need birds such as chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, etc., as they are naturally skilled at controlling the pest population. If you have a farm or garden, you’ll appreciate free pest control agents such as chickens because you can end up spending a lot of money buying pesticides.
Snails and slugs may be slow, but they are very disastrous to plants. This means that you do not want them anywhere near your plants.
You can raise chickens and sometimes give them access to your garden so that they can search for and eat the snails and slugs that attack your plant leaves.
3. You Get a Free and Natural Diet for Your Chickens
The thing about natural diets is that they make your birds grow stronger, and they get quality meat.
Raising chickens with pellets alone can encourage them to grow faster, but you may notice that their flesh and bones are not as strong as those that are raised free-range.
If you are a supporter of natural foods for chickens, you will surely smile when you see the chickens eating whatever they can find in a yard, including snails and slugs.
Just make sure that they get a balanced diet, as most free-range birds need an extra source of food and water.
Now you know why your chickens should eat slugs and snails. But before allowing the birds to eat these pests, what else should you consider?
What You Should Consider About Chickens Eating Slugs and Snails
Here are some things that you should consider:
1. Slugs Can Carry Diseases
Slugs in some areas can carry parasites, so you need to be careful. If you have heard stories of people or animals with gapeworms or rat lungworms in your area before, it is best that you do not allow your chickens to eat slugs because slugs can host these parasites.
Gapeworms and rat lungworms cause serious respiratory problems for chickens.
2. Consider the Pesticides That You Use
Try to remember if you have used pesticides in your garden before. If you have tried to kill the slugs or snails with a chemical pesticide before, there is a high chance that your chickens can also eat some chemicals along with the pests.
Therefore, do not let your chickens go into an area where you have used pesticides recently.
3. How Often You Deworm Your Chickens
If you do not deworm your chickens, it is best that you do not feed them with just anything so that they do not get worms that can kill them.
4. How Do You Raise Your Chickens?
Do you raise your chickens in a coop or as free-range?
The method of raising chickens is important in this case because chickens will most likely eat what they are used to. Also, free-range chickens have hardier stomachs than chickens in coops because they are used to eating a lot of weird stuff in the yard.
This simply means that while your free-range chickens might be able to eat slugs and snails without getting hurt, you may discover that your chickens used to living in a coop might get sick from eating the same food.
5. You Have Little or No Control
If you are raising free-range chickens, you may not fully control what they eat. This is because you cannot fix your eyes on all your chickens all the time.
Therefore, the birds will surely eat a lot of weird stuff without your knowledge.
Make sure that you deworm the birds regularly and prevent them from going to certain parts of the yard (i.e., places that you do not want them to go).
Aside from slugs and snails, what else can chickens eat in the yard for free? Continue reading.
Other Free Foods for Chickens to Eat
Here are some other free food ideas for your chickens:
Earthworms are not just farmers’ best friends because they help aerate the soil; they are also farmers’ best friends because they serve as a free and nutritious delicacy to insects and other farm birds.
If there are earthworms in your garden, you can be assured that your chickens will have an unlimited supply of worms so long as they can dig.
2. Insects and their Larvae
There are so many insects in the yard that your chickens can eat. For example, there are grasshoppers, grub worms, beetles, ladybugs, and so many others.
Do you know what’s cool? You can culture the larvae of some of these insects for your chickens.
For example, the larvae of mealworms are very nutritious for chickens and are very easy to culture.
3. Fruits and Vegetables
Even though they are not the most protein-rich sources of food for chickens, your birds can enjoy the sweetness and vitamins of fruits and vegetables.
You can even keep your chickens busy with fruits and vegetables by hanging them as a piñata for the chickens to eat.
What’s more? Chickens can eat the peels and seeds of some types of fruits.
Now you know some free foods that you can feed your chickens.
How to Get Rid of Slugs and Snails
Just in case you do not want to use your chickens to control the slug and snail population in your garden, here are some other alternatives:
1. Use Pesticides
There are so many products that you can use to get rid of these pests.
But you must remember that pesticides can kill more animals than what you need them to kill, so if you have chickens and other farm animals nearby, you should not use pesticides.
Also, make sure that you use plant-safe pesticides. When buying the product, ask the attendant if the product is safe for the plant that you are growing in your yard or garden.
2. Make a Beer Trap
The yeast and other ingredients in beer attract snails and slugs. All you need to do is to pour beer into a container and keep it in your garden.
If the garden is big, you can make use of multiple containers so that you can catch these mollusks faster. When you do this in the evening and check back in the morning, you should see a lot of dead slugs and snails in the containers.
If you do not find any pests that have drowned in the beer, it means that there may not be snails and slugs in the garden, or you did not keep the trap in a place close to the snails and slugs.
This method is guaranteed to work so long as you do it well.
3. Pick Them as Soon as You See Them
Well, this may not be your favorite method because a lot of people are afraid of touching pests such as slugs, even if they were gloves.
Even though you might fear these pests, you should know that leaving them in the garden will only help them to reproduce, and they will eat the leaves of your plants faster.
You need to remove or kill them as soon as you see them.
If you choose not to kill them, what you choose to do with them is up to you. You can throw them into the woods if you live close to the woods.
You can also make a terrarium in which you can display the beautiful species that you have caught. Even though you may not like snails, you can’t deny that they are very pretty.
Now you can get rid of these pests with ease.
While it is true that chickens can eat slugs and snails, you want to examine the risks involved. Remember that the health and safety of your chickens should be your priority, so do not expose them to danger just because slugs and snails are free foods.