Yes, chickens can eat whole corn. In fact, it’s one of the better “treats” to give them as they love it, can scratch for it, and it has some decent nutritional value.
Birds more often eat cracked corn, which is basically whole corn dried and broken into smaller pieces. That’s necessary for some smaller birds, but chickens do not have a problem digesting whole corn.
Is Corn Healthy for Chickens?
It’s not great when fed on its own, but there are a lot of foods that are worse for chickens. So, it’s fine to give your flock some corn from time-to-time.
Considered both a vegetable and a grain, it has some of the benefits of both of these food types.
It’s widely used as “fuel” in animal feeds, and most commercial chicken feeds will have some corn in.
So, it’s obviously not a bad thing.
The difference is that there is only a small amount in their feed and it’s ground up.
Corn is packed with a good range of vitamins, minerals, and other good nutrition, but giving it to chickens outside of their feed should be done in moderation.
It’s important to be aware that while chickens will eat just about anything they find, they do have some specific dietary needs.
If you want your flock to lay at its best and stay healthy, you should provide a well-balanced diet. At least, before you start treating them with stuff like corn.
This is easily done by providing a quality commercial feed. At least 90% of their diet should come from their feed, and the other 10% can come from scraps and treats.
Which are essentially fruits, vegetables, and grains for the most part. It’s generally best to feed them scraps at the end of the day so they don’t fill up on these foods first.
Is It Hard for Chickens to Digest Whole Corn?
If you’ve eaten corn I’m sure you’re well aware that the pericarp, which is the hard outer shell, seems to survive being broken up and digested.
So, it’s understandable if you’re wondering if chickens are going to find it hard to digest or find yellow corn shells in their poop.
Let me put your mind at ease, it’s fine. As long as your chickens have access to grit, they can eat stuff a lot tougher than corn.
I know what else some of you are thinking. But, “chickens don’t have teeth!”
They don’t, it’s true. Chickens have an organ called a gizzard, which does the job in place of teeth.
The gizzard is basically a stomach that contracts like a strong muscle. The reason why they eat grit is that, along with grit, tough foods like corn can be broken up and digested.
If you want to make it a step easier, you can give your chooks cracked corn. This is corn kernels that have been dried and cracked into pieces and are commonly given to smaller birds.
Want to treat your chickens to some popcorn? Read this first!
Can Chickens Eat Corn on the Cob?
Yes, corn on the cob is also fine for chickens. You can feed it to them either cooked or raw, although I often hear from other owners that their chickens prefer cooked.
The good thing about corn on the cob is that you can hang it with a piece of string and give your flock something to peck at and play with.
Just you watch, they’ll strip that corn off and leave you with a bare cob in no time.
You can include the corn husks (the green leaves the cob grows inside of) but it has no nutritional value and they’re likely to leave it.
We use the husks to encase some foods that are steamed, such as tamales. But we don’t eat the husks, so don’t expect your chickens too if you were hoping to find a use for them!
Is It True Corn Is a “Warming” Food?
Have you heard it said that corn is good food for the winter months because it helps keep chickens warm?
This is something I’ve always heard, and it’s a little more than an old wives tale as there’s some truth to it.
While corn doesn’t literally warm-up a chicken by raising their core temperature, it’s called so as it’s high in carbohydrates. Carbs give us energy, which is why corn is a fuel filler as I mentioned earlier.
It’s also a good scratch grain, like sunflower seeds, and other grains, which promotes activity and gets your flock busy burning calories and keeping warm.
In Summary – Can Chickens Eat Whole Corn?
Corn is great for chickens, and they love it! Just make sure you only give it to them in moderation.
It’s all too easy to get carried away feeding chickens treats because they’re always so keen to eat everything. It’s our job to make sure they’re getting a quality, well-balanced diet though.
Make sure they have a quality feed available throughout the day and spare them some treats like corn on occasion.
Related – How often should I feed my chickens? Read that post if you’re unsure how much feed to provide.
Image credits – Header image Photo by Zosia Korcz, corn by Well Cabral, and whole corn image by Wouter Supardi Salari on Unsplash