Can Chickens Eat Worms? The Complete Guide

Article Summary

  • Chickens can safely eat various types of worms, such as nightcrawlers, red wigglers, African nightcrawlers, Indian Blues, and grub worms.
  • Chickens should not eat hammerhead flatworms, as they may carry parasites or pathogens that could make the chickens sick.
  • Worms should constitute only a small part (about 10%) of a chicken’s overall diet to prevent obesity and other health problems.

For backyard chicken keepers, worms can be a valuable source of protein and nutrients for your flock. But not all worms are created equal when it comes to chicken treats. Read on to learn everything you need to know about feeding worms to chickens.

What Type of Worms Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can safely eat most types of earthworms as long as they are from your own chemical-free garden or farm. Earthworms contain lots of protein and make a healthy treat and supplement to a chicken’s regular diet.

Some specific types of worms chickens can eat include:

Nightcrawlers

Also known as dew worms, these large worms thrive in compost and damp soil. They can grow up to 8 inches long! Nightcrawlers make a particularly meaty, protein-packed snack that chickens love.

Red Wigglers

Red wigglers, or redworms, are smaller worms perfect for chickens. They multiply readily in compost bins and are full of nutrients.

African Nightcrawlers

This tropical species of worm can grow even larger than common nightcrawlers. African nightcrawlers are also a nutritious chicken treat if you can source them where you live.

Indian Blues

These small, blue-tinged worms are a great option for baby chicks learning to forage as well as adult chickens.

Can Chickens Eat Earthworms?

Yes, chickens can absolutely eat earthworms! Earthworms should make up only a small part of a chicken’s diet, but they are a healthy, protein-rich supplemental food.

Chickens will forage for earthworms naturally by scratching through soil…

Chickens will forage for earthworms naturally by scratching through soil and compost heaps. You can also collect earthworms after rain or from compost bins and feed them to your flock by hand as a treat.

Ensure any earthworms you feed your chickens do not come from the ground treated with chemical fertilizers, weed killers, or insecticides. Stick to worms from your organic garden or chemical-free farm.

Can Chickens Eat Hammerhead Worms?

No, chickens should not eat hammerhead flatworms. Hammerhead worms are an invasive species of flatworm spreading through many parts of the United States.

While not poisonous, hammerhead flatworms may carry parasites or other pathogens that could make your chickens sick. It’s best not to take the risk and keep these worms out of your chicken run.

Hammerhead Flatworm on Leaf (image by midobun2014, Adobe Stock)
A Hammerhead Flatworm

Hammerhead worms also pose a major threat to native earthworm populations. Don’t spread them further by using them as chicken feed.

Can Chickens Eat Nematodes?

Nematodes are small, microscopic roundworms that live in soil and compost. Many nematode species are harmless and even beneficial in the garden.

However, some types of nematodes are parasitic and could make chickens sick if eaten in large quantities. It’s unlikely chickens would intentionally eat enough nematodes to cause issues.

Overall, nematodes in the soil or compost are nothing to worry about for chickens. Just avoid directly feeding chickens large batches of cultivated nematodes. Let them nibble normal amounts from foraging instead.

Can Chickens Eat Nightcrawlers?

Yes, chickens can and do love eating nightcrawlers! Also known as dew worms, nightcrawlers are a favorite treat of many chickens.

As one of the largest earthworm species, nightcrawlers provide a meaty mouthful and plenty of protein for chickens. Their large size also makes them easy for chickens to grab and swallow.

Nightcrawlers thrive in damp, compost-rich soils – ideal homes for chickens to scratch through and hunt them. You can also collect nightcrawlers yourself after rain or from compost and directly feed them to your flock.

In moderation, nightcrawlers are a nutritious supplemental feed that keeps chickens engaged in natural foraging behaviors.

Can Chickens Eat Bait Worms?

Worms like mealworms, wax worms, and others sold as fishing bait can offer variety to a chicken’s diet. However, bait worms should only be fed in moderation as an occasional treat.

Mealworms contain too much fat and protein to be a regular feed item. And wax worms are high in fat like mealworms.

While chickens may love these bait worms, they’re best saved for special occasions, not daily treats. Stick to earthworms from the garden or pasture as the main worm treats for chickens.

Can Chickens Eat Tomato Worms?

Tomato hornworms can be a great source of protein for backyard chickens. These large green caterpillars thrive on tomato, tobacco, and potato plants.

Before feeding tomato worms to your flock, check each caterpillar carefully. Avoid any hornworms covered in white cocoons – these contain parasitic wasp eggs that can harm chickens if ingested.

Tomato Worm With White Cocoons (image by dougsmit, Pixabay)
A Tomato Worm With Parasitic Wasp Eggs

Also, prevent chickens from eating too many tomato worm cocoons, which are tough to digest. Overall, though, tomato worms are a nutritious and much-appreciated treat for chickens. Removing them from the garden to feed your hens serves double duty!

Can Chickens Eat Wax Worms?

Wax worms are the caterpillar larval stage of wax moths. Most often used as fishing bait, wax worms can also be fed to chickens as an occasional treat.

However, wax worms are very high in fat. Too many can cause obesity and other health issues. Limit wax worms to only a few per chicken, a few times per week at most.

A better choice is to stick to earthworms like nightcrawlers and red wigglers as your chickens’ main worm feed. Use high-fat wax worms sparingly for variety.

Can Chickens Eat Grub Worms?

Grub worms are the larval form of beetles like June bugs, Japanese beetles, and scarab beetles. Chickens relish these juicy, protein-packed grubs.

You can let chickens forage for grubs naturally while ranging in the garden and lawn. Or unearth grubs yourself when digging in the dirt or aerating lawn areas.

Chickens will eagerly gobble down any grubs they find while foraging or from your hand. Grub worms are a nutritious supplement to their regular feed.

How Much Worms Can Chickens Eat?

Worms should make up only a small part of a chicken’s overall diet. About 10% of a chicken’s daily food intake can come from worms and other supplemental feeds like vegetable scraps.

NOTE

A good rule of thumb is to feed chickens up to one ounce of worms per bird per day. Overfeeding worms can lead to obesity and other health issues in chickens.

Variety is key – rotate different types, like mealworms, nightcrawlers, grub worms, etc., over different days. This gives your flock a diverse diet.

How to Feed Worms to Chickens?

The easiest way to feed worms is to let chickens forage naturally in the garden, lawn, or compost heaps. This allows the flock to scratch through and hunt worms as they desire.

You can also collect worms by hand in a small container. Releasing them directly into the chicken run lets the flock chase down worms as enrichment. Or hand feed worms a few at a time to each chicken.

Ensure not to leave worms loose in feed dishes, as chickens may fight over them. Supervise worm feeding to prevent bullying.

Worm bins or compost systems are another great source of self-harvested worms for chickens. Just sift out some worms occasionally for your eager flock!

How Often to Feed Worms to Chickens?

Healthy chickens naturally forage for invertebrates like worms every single day. But supplemental worm feeding a few times a week is plenty for backyard flocks.

Aim to give chickens worms as a treat 2-3 times per week at most. This prevents boredom from too much of the same foods daily.

Pay attention to your chickens’ body condition as well. Limit worms if chickens become overweight and increase worms if they need more protein.

Worm treats always excite chickens, so they’re perfect for sprinkling into the run on occasions like Easter, birthdays, or other celebrations!

Chicks and Hen Feeding Together
Chicks and Hen Feeding Together

Can Baby Chickens Eat Worms?

Baby chicks can start enjoying worms as treats even at just a few days old. Tiny mealworms or chopped-up red wigglers are a great size for peeps.

Once chicks reach 2-3 weeks old, they are ready for small chunks of nightcrawlers, grub worms, and other larger worms you may find in the garden.

Just like adult chickens, worms should be fed in moderation to chicks. Offer only a few at once, 1-2 times per week, to avoid overconsumption.

With their high protein content, worms help support rapid growth in baby chicks. They provide a natural treat chicks love to chase and peck.

A varied diet of quality feed, supplemented with worms and other goodies, gives chicks the best nutrition for healthy development.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you feed chickens Nightcrawlers?

Yes, you can feed chickens Nightcrawlers. Nightcrawlers are a type of earthworm that is safe for chickens to consume. These worms are rich in protein and can be a healthy addition to a chicken’s diet. Ensure that the Nightcrawlers are free from any pesticides or contaminants before offering them to your chickens.

Do chickens eat dried worms?

Yes, chickens can eat dried worms. Dried worms, such as mealworms, are a convenient and long-lasting alternative to fresh worms. They retain their nutritional value and can be a suitable source of protein for chickens. However, moderation is key, and it’s crucial to provide a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods and other animal treats.

Do chickens get worms from eating worms?

Chickens generally do not get worms from eating worms. In fact, worms can be a healthy part of a chicken’s diet. However, it’s essential to maintain good hygiene in the chicken coop and monitor the overall health of the flock. Regular deworming and proper sanitation practices can help prevent the risk of internal parasites.

How many worms can a chicken eat?

The number of worms a chicken can eat varies depending on factors such as the chicken’s size, age, and overall diet. As a general guideline, providing a few worms per chicken as a treat is suitable. It’s important not to overfeed worms, as they should complement a balanced diet that includes grains, vegetables, and other sources of nutrition.

Can worms stop chickens from laying?

Worms are not likely to stop chickens from laying eggs. In fact, worms can be a valuable protein source that supports overall chicken health. Issues with egg production are more commonly related to factors like age, nutrition, and environmental stress. Providing a well-balanced diet and maintaining optimal living conditions are key factors in ensuring consistent egg-laying in chickens.