Can Chickens Eat Wheat Safely? Unlocking the Benefits

Wheat Field (image by Hans, Pixabay)

Article Summary

  • Wheat is generally safe for chickens, providing energy, protein, fiber, and various essential nutrients, supporting muscle growth, egg production, good digestion, and overall health.
  • Too much wheat can lead to health issues, including obesity and digestive problems.
  • The amount of wheat given to your flock is based on the age and type of chicken.

Wheat can be a nutritious addition to a chicken’s diet in moderation. Here’s what you need to know about feeding wheat to chickens.

Is It Safe for Chickens to Eat Wheat?

Yes, wheat is generally safe for chickens to consume. In fact, whole grains like wheat are a good source of energy, protein, and fiber for chickens. However, too much wheat could lead to health issues, so it’s best for wheat to be part of a balanced diet.

What Are the Benefits of Feeding Wheat to Chickens?

Feeding wheat to chickens provides some key benefits:

  • Wheat is high in carbohydrates, which give chickens energy. The complex carbs in wheat are digested slowly, providing lasting energy.
  • Wheat contains 12-15% protein, which supports muscle growth and egg production.
  • Wheat bran is high in fiber, which promotes good digestion and gut health.
  • Wheat contains B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc, which support overall health.

Are There Any Risks Feeding Wheat to Chickens?

There are a few potential downsides to feeding too much wheat:

  • Wheat lacks some key amino acids chickens need. It should be combined with other protein sources.
  • Too much wheat could lead to obesity if chickens become inactive.
  • Large amounts of wheat could cause digestive upset or diarrhea. It’s best to introduce it slowly.
  • Wheat contains phytates, which can bind to minerals and limit absorption.
Chickens eating food off the ground
Chickens Eating Food Off The Ground

As long as it’s fed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, wheat is fine for chickens. But a diet of mainly wheat could cause problems.

What Type of Wheat Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can eat most types of wheat in moderation:

  • Whole wheat kernels or cracked wheat provide the most nutrition.
  • Wheat bran provides a concentrated source of fiber.
  • Rolled or crimped wheat is processed for easier digestion.
  • Wheat middlings offer protein, fiber, and phosphorus.
  • Sprouted wheat has more easily digestible starches.

Avoid refined white flour as it lacks nutrients, fiber, and protein.

How Much Wheat Can Chickens Eat?

Wheat should make up no more than 20% of a chicken’s total diet. As a guideline:

  • Hens can eat 1/2 cup of wheat per day.
  • Chicks can start with 1-2 tablespoons of wheat daily at 2-3 weeks old.
  • Only feed wheat once or twice a week to avoid overconsumption.

NOTE

If chickens fill up on too much wheat, they may get lazy and gain weight. So, vary their diet with corn, oats, millet, and protein feeds.

How to Feed Wheat to Chickens?

The best ways to feed wheat include:

  • Mixing whole or cracked wheat into scratch grains or feed mix.
  • Offering wheat as a supplement in a separate dish a couple of times a week.
  • Scattering wheat in the coop or run so chickens can forage.
  • Sprouting wheat kernels to increase digestibility then mixing into feed.

Make sure chickens don’t gorge only on wheat by limiting access. Provide grit to help grind wheat in the gizzard.

How Often to Feed Wheat to Chickens?

A Chick Feeding With Adult Chickens (image by Prince Abid)
A Chick Feeding With Adult Chickens

Wheat should be fed in moderation 1-2 times per week at most. Chickens enjoy wheat as a treat but too much will throw off their nutrient balance.

Here are some feeding frequency guidelines:

  • Hens: 1/2 cup wheat 1-2x per week
  • Chicks: 1-2 tbsp wheat 1-2x per week after 2-3 weeks old
  • Roosters: 2-3 tbsp wheat 1-2x per week

The rest of the week, provide a commercial feed or balanced homemade ration.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Wheat?

Wheat shouldn’t be fed to chicks younger than 2-3 weeks old as their digestive systems are still developing. Before this age, feed a starter feed made for chicks.

At 2-3 weeks old, chicks can start to eat small amounts of wheat as their gizzard and gut mature. Start with just 1-2 tablespoons of wheat once or twice a week.

The wheat ration should not exceed 20% of the baby chick’s diet…

Increase the wheat ration slowly as the chicks grow, making sure it doesn’t exceed 20% of their total food intake for balanced nutrition. Monitor chicks for any digestive issues with new foods.

In summary, wheat, in moderation, can provide valuable nutrition to chickens of all ages. Follow the guidelines on amounts and frequency, and offer wheat as part of a varied diet (feed and other plants as a treat) for happy, healthy chickens.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I soak wheat before feeding chickens?

Soaking wheat before feeding chickens can be beneficial. It helps to increase its digestibility and makes it easier for chickens to consume. Additionally, soaked wheat is a suitable option for older chickens or those with dental issues, as it becomes softer and more palatable.

Can I feed my chickens wheat germ?

Yes, feeding chickens wheat germ is a good idea. Wheat germ is a nutrient-rich part of the wheat kernel, containing essential vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Adding wheat germ to their diet can enhance their overall nutritional intake, supporting immune function and promoting feather and egg production.

Is wheat good for egg-laying hens?

Yes, wheat is good for egg-laying hens. It provides essential nutrients, including protein and carbohydrates, which are crucial for sustaining the energy levels needed for consistent egg production. Including wheat in their diet, along with a balanced feed, contributes to the overall health and productivity of egg-laying hens.

Why won’t my chickens eat wheat?

Chickens may refuse to eat wheat for various reasons. It could be due to its form (whole or cracked), unfamiliarity, or a preference for other grains. Introduce wheat gradually into their diet, consider mixing it with their regular feed, or try different forms to determine their preference. If they continue to reject it, consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues affecting their appetite.