Chickens love corn, there is no doubt about it. But corn comes in various sizes, shapes, and types. In this article, I’m looking at two of the most common types, cracked corn vs whole corn for chickens, and which is best.
I’ll give you the short answer right away before explaining my reasoning in more detail; Whole corn is better for chickens, while cracked corn is better for smaller birds and some other animals.
I say this because whole corn holds more of its nutritional value. The main concern with feeding whole corn to animals, and birds, in particular, is that they can’t break it down and digest it as easily.
This isn’t the case for chickens, as I’ll explain in more detail in this article. However, the bottom line is that both whole corn and cracked corn are fine for chickens, so you should feed them whatever is easiest for you.
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What Is Whole Corn?
Whole corn is the term for just regular corn that hasn’t been processed or changed in any way.
Corn is one of the most popular foods given to animals as it’s packed with good nutrition and is an excellent source of energy while being one of the less expensive foods.
The main issue is that a lot of animals can’t properly digest parts of corn, namely the hull. Just as we can’t.
Therefore, most farmers and people owning cattle, backyard chickens, and other animals tend to feed cracked corn as it’s a lot easier to digest.
What Is Cracked Corn?
Cracked corn is, well, as the name suggests it's corn that's been cracked. More specifically, corn kernels that have been dried out, and broken up into smaller pieces.
This is done with the purpose of making an affordable, long-lasting, healthy snack food for birds and animals.
Is an incredibly popular food for smaller birds as it's the perfect size for them to peck at and eat from feeders.
Doing research into cracked corn and why it’s the food of choice for a lot of animals, there is a lot of evidence that proves it's a lot easier for animals to digest.
But cracked corn also seems to lose some of its nutritional value compared to whole corn. Which makes sense as it’s going through some processing.
Cracked Corn vs Whole Corn for Chickens - Which Is Best?
I’m a huge advocate for supplementing your chicken’s diet with corn of any kind as it provides some awesome nutrition for them.
Out of cracked corn and whole corn, I’d say you should give them whole corn if you have the option.
I just prefer to give my chickens corn that hasn’t been dried out and Is potentially losing some of that nutritional value.
One of the best things about feeding corn to chickens is that it gives them something to scratch around for and forage on the ground.
This is a behavior that comes naturally to chickens, and something they’re going to do most of the day whether they find food or not. So, it’s always rewarding to see them finding bits of corn to eat.
Both types of corn are good for this, and with whole corn, you can even hang a cob for them to peck out and have some fun with.
Just keep in mind the ‘90/10 rule’ when it comes to feeding chickens. This general rule of thumb that chicken owners work to means that 90% of a chicken’s diet should come from a good commercial feed.
While 10% can come from table scraps, treats, and foods like corn that add some much-needed variety to their diet but doesn’t compromise a good balance of nutrition they need to maintain optimal health.
How Chickens Digest Corn and Other Hard Foods
As I mentioned earlier, cracked corn is a popular choice in commercial feeds because it's easier for a lot of animals to digest.
Something a lot of people are not aware of is that despite chickens not having teeth they’re able to chew up hard foods with ease.
For a quick chicken anatomy lesson, when chickens first eat foods they swallow them whole and store them in an area called a crop.
This is much like a storage pouch that is found at the front of their chest area. Chickens fill up their crop throughout the day, and then overnight when they're sleeping the food passes through the digestive system into an organ called the gizzard.
The gizzard is like a stomach, it’s a strong muscle that contracts to break up the food, or effectively ’chew’ it as they do not have teeth to chew with.
This is only made possible by eating grit as well. You may have noticed your chickens picking up little stones as they scratch around the floor, the gizzard uses these stones as coarse material to help break up the food.
After being chewed in the gizzard, the food then goes through their digestive system. The nutrients are absorbed, and the waste matter comes out as poop.
This is why chickens, and all birds, eat corn and nuts without any problems.
Now you know, cracked corn, whole corn, frozen corn, corn on the comb - as long as it’s corn it’s great for chickens.
Looking at cracked and whole corn, both are fine. I recommend supplementing your flock’s diet with either.
I prefer whole corn for the reasons I stated above, but as I also said it’s fine to feed chickens cracked corn, too.
Image credits - Photo by shannon VanDenHeuvel on Unsplash