Chickens can eat corn husks, the green leaves on the outside of a corn cob. They’re not that high in nutritional value, but it’s perfectly safe for them to eat. So, next time you have a corn cob, feel free to throw the whole thing to your hens.
Are Corn Husks Healthy for Chickens?
For us, we typically use corn husks to wrap and cook food. Mostly in Southwestern cooking for meals like tamales.
We either strip the husk off the ear of corn and discard it, or throw it away after using it to warp food.
This is more so due to the husks being so tough and almost impossible to eat and digest, rather than lacking in nutrition though.
They don’t provide a lot in the way of good nutrition, but they’re fine for chickens to eat. Chopped up into smaller amounts, chickens will be able to digest husks just fine.
Can You Also Give Your Chickens the Corn Silk?
Corn silk is the straw-like strands that are also tucked under the husks in with the corn.
An interesting - but never needed - fact; apparently there’s one strand of “silk” for each kernel of corn in the ear.
Pretty interesting, right?
The silk is actually pretty nutritious and is used to make herbal remedies in some parts of the world.
It’s rich in vitamins, so I recommend throwing that in with the chopped up husks and corn you’re giving your chickens instead of wasting it.
You can also give the whole cob to your flock if you want. Chickens love corn, deer corn, and all forms of corn.
How to Feed Husks to Chickens
Animals with strong teeth like goats and horses much through husks like its paper. Chickens, on the other hand, do not have teeth so they need a little help.
You could boil them to soften them or puree them down, they’ll almost certainly eat them then. You could also chop them up into smaller pieces to give them something peck at.
Either way, as long as they can eat it and there’s no risk of blocking their crop, they’ll eat the husks if they want to.
Other Foods That Chickens Can Eat
There are loads of foods that are great for chickens, and it’s fun feeding them different foods. It’s also handy being able to “recycle” scraps we’d otherwise throw away!
Here are some of the foods people commonly give to their backyard chickens:
Most vegetables are fine. The best part is that they’re packed with good nutrition and typically easy to feed to chickens too. Broccoli, sweet potato, cabbage, sprouts, etc are all great.
Fruits are also nutrient-dense and can be used to provide healthy and tasty treats for chickens. As long as they’re not spoiled or past their best, double-check first, but most fruits are fine.
Grains are a staple in most commercial chicken feeds because they’re good “fuel” foods and packed with vitamins and minerals. Adding some additional grains, such as wheat, barley, cornmeal, etc will give you flock a boost.
While on the topic, flint or Indian corn as it’s also called is fine!
Some Foods Chickens Shouldn't Eat
As I’ve explained, corn husks, corn, and other grains are fine for chickens. There are some foods that you should not give to chickens though.
Here are some of the common foods that are bad for chickens, even toxic in some cases:
Raw Beans – Unless properly cooked, most beans contain a compound called lectin that is very toxic to chickens. I’ve read that even a small amount of raw beans can be fatal.
Chocolate – Most pet owners are aware that chocolate is bad for pets, and this applies to chickens. The compounds - theobromine and caffeine - are toxic to pets, so no choccy treats.
Tea and Coffee – I’m not suggesting you’re going to make a cuppa for your flock. This is more to raise awareness for those who use coffee grounds or tea bags for composting in their yard.
Green Potatoes/Tomatoes – Most plants and vegetables in the nightshade family produce a toxin called solanine. This toxin is harmful to chickens (and us!), it’s present in potatoes and tomatoes when they’re green.
It’s something to be aware of as there are a few other common vegetables in the nightshade family. If you have/eat eggplant, peppers, or tomatillos, I’d research this topic in more detail.
Avocado Pits/Skin – This is another food on the banned list for most pet owners. The flesh of an avocado is fine and delicious. But the pits and stones of avocados contain a toxin called persin that’s harmful to chooks.
Sugary, Greasy, Fatty Foods – While not toxic or poisonous per se, all the foods that your doctor would recommend you cut down on – shouldn’t be given them to chickens. This means fast food, soda drinks, candy, should all be on the banned list.
There you have it, another way to make use of some leftovers or parts of vegetables that you would otherwise have thrown away.
Corn husks are fine for chickens. There are no guarantees they’ll eat it, but it’s certainly safe for them and helpful if they do!