The best thing you could do for the health and wellness of your chickens is to let them free-range.
Most domestic breeds today still have good foraging instincts, and it’s a lot of fun to watch chickens make their way through the environment grabbing the occasional choice bug or worm.
But as they are pecking for these tasty morsels, they will also stop to eat a little bit of the grass itself. Is grass all right for chickens? Can chickens eat grass safely?
Yes, grass is totally safe for chickens as long as it has not been treated with chemicals like pesticides, or fertilizers. And while grass is healthy for chickens it should not be the majority of their diet.
You don’t need to worry too much about your chickens eating grass when they are free-ranging, or out in the run.
They will nibble on it here and there when the mood strikes them, and they will usually eat fresh grass clippings that you provide, but it’s rare that they will ever overeat on it.
However, if you were giving it to them it must not take the place of their usual feed because it doesn’t offer all of the nutrients they need.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about feeding grass to your flock below…
What Benefits Does Grass Have for Chickens?
Grass is healthy for chickens, and a natural part of their diet both in domestic life and in the wild. However, it is not a nutritionally complete food, though it is still an important one.
Grass provides chickens with calories, of course, along with some vitamins and minerals, but its major benefits come from the way it can help bulk up and solidify a chicken’s stools and also improve digestion.
Eating grass also seems to prompt most chickens to seek out more grit in their diet. Most chickens look for grit on their own, and they will want more in order to break down the tough cellulose present in the grass.
That being said, the extra grit also helps digestion of other foods in kind, and when eating softer foods some chickens don’t always get the grit that they need, so nibbling a little bit of grass can indirectly help them digest their food better.
Grass Nutritional Info
Complete nutritional info for grass is dependent on the type of grass in question, but it is also hard to come by since grass is not grown for human consumption.
That being said, we know that pretty much all types of grass contain a fair amount of vitamins, particularly the B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin A, all of which are important for chicken biology, some minerals, and ample carbohydrates.
Chickens are instinctively drawn to grass as a ready source of these nutrients, and will graze on it periodically when they are out free ranging, or if it is inside the run.
Is Live Grass Safe for Chickens?
Yes, live grass is totally safe for chickens, and it is live grass that they like the most. If you are to allow your chickens to eat grass, though, make sure it has not been treated with any harmful chemicals.
If you’re planning on getting chickens, or are allowing them to free-range for the first time, only let them do so on grass that is confirmed safe.
Are Grass Clippings Safe for Chickens?
Yes, grass clippings are also safe for chickens, and they will happily eat them if they are fresh.
Clippings are a great way to bring grass to birds that stay in a run or tractor, or to provide grass that is safe if yours isn’t suitable for whatever reason.
Grass clippings shouldn’t be allowed to sit around for too long, however, as will dry out and brown, and then they can become moldy and potentially dangerous for chickens to eat.
Only give your chickens fresh clippings that have been “rested” for no more than a day prior.
Is it Okay to Give Lawn Mower-Cut Clippings to Chickens?
Yes, with caution! This is a surprisingly contentious topic: some keepers are adamant that you should never feed chickens any clippings that have been cut with a power lawn mower.
The assertion typically revolves around the idea that the clippings, bagged or not, will be exposed to oil, gasoline, grease, exhaust fumes, or something else that will taint the clippings and poison your poor, unwitting birds.
As best I have been able to find, this just isn’t a factor, assuming of course that your mower is not some horrid rattletrap that leaks fuel and oil everywhere.
If that is indeed the case, then I would caution against feeding grass clippings to chickens from any lawn cut with that mower, but otherwise it is fine to serve “power-cut” clippings to your flock.
If you’re still unsettled by the idea, keep in mind that you can cut grass just fine with a manual push-reel mower or scythe. That might be the best bet if you have a small parcel!
Is Grass Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, grass is safe for chicks and they take to eating it early in life on their own. You don’t need to serve it to them.
Just like with adult birds, however, it’s important to make sure any grass they are eating is not contaminated in any way, as chicks are even more susceptible to poisoning than adult chickens.
Try to Avoid Giving Chickens Wet Grass Clippings
There is one special hazard you should know when it comes to feeding grass or grass clippings to chicks, and that is when the grass is wet and in particular wet clippings.
Chickens should never be fed wet grass clippings as this can lead to a condition known as crop impaction.
Crop impaction is what occurs when a chicken’s crop, an organ where food is stored prior to digestion, becomes clogged and blocked with food.
In this case, wet grass clippings can stick together and get stuck in the crop, impeding food from moving further on in the tract, and requiring veterinary intervention.
This is not a common problem, but it can be very serious if not addressed quickly.
How Frequently Can Grass be Fed to Chickens?
Chickens can nibble on grass whenever they want when free-ranging, and if they have access to a well-rounded and nutritionally complete diet they will not eat too much of it.
However, in times of food scarcity or a limited menu you should do your best to stop chickens from eating too much grass as it is not a complete food source for them and can result in malnutrition if over-consumed.
If you are giving your chickens clippings, don’t do so to the exclusion of their usual feed and other supplemental foods.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Grass to Your Flock?
The two simplest options are, as always, the best.
My favorite way is to just let the birds free-range. They will eat all the grass they want when and if they want it, and won’t overeat as a rule while on their quest to find the tastiest foods in the yard.
The other way is to give your chickens collected grass clippings. Just remember to only serve these when they’re fresh, dry, and have not been sitting out too long (as they will dry out and brown).
Never Let Chickens Eat Grass Treated with Chemicals
Another reminder: do not give your chickens treated with any pesticide sprays or fertilizers, or any other substance that might contaminate it and then hurt the birds.
In the case of natural fertilizers, once the grass and soil has had a chance to absorb the nutrients and has subsequently been cut it should be safe for your flock.
Birds, including chickens, are extremely sensitive to many chemicals, and trace amounts that are allowed to build up in their system over time can cause serious problems and even death just like a greater and lethal exposure.
Accordingly, it is always better to be safe than sorry, and avoid any potential problems concerning other, persistent chemicals.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.