Of all the benefits owning backyard chickens brings, clearing a yard of insects, bugs, and creepy crawlies is one of them. Whether or not their finds are safe is another thing...
Do chickens eat snails? Most chickens do eat snails, yes. In fact, most chickens go crazy for snails and will run off to try and keep it to themselves from the rest of the flock. There are some small risks, however.
Are Snails Good for Chickens?
From a nutritional standpoint, garden snails are good for chickens, yes.
In fact, they’re also good for us.
Ever been to France where “escargots” are a delicacy? I have, and I’ve eaten - or at least tried snails myself.
Not being native to a country that readily sells snails in supermarkets I have to say I found it off-putting though. Mention it to most people and they’ll say the same thing I bet.
Anyway, back on topic. Snails, much like most animal-derived protein is complete. This means it's rich in amino acids and other vital vitamins and minerals.
All the good stuff chickens need in their diets. So, no matter how gross it may be to us, snails make for a protein-rich healthy snack for our flock.
Are There Any Risks to Chickens Eating Snails?
There are a couple of risks to be aware of, but they’re small risks so don’t let me scare you:
Parasites - All insects, bugs, and other creatures could be carrying parasites. That’s just a risk that’s always present in the backyard. I will go into more detail about the worst of the parasites in more detail below.
Snail pellets - If you’re trying to poison snails, slugs, and other bugs in your yard, you might be poisoning your chickens too!
Snails and Gapeworm
One of the more common parasites snails are known to carry that cause chickens health issues is gapeworm.
Gapeworm is a horrible little parasite that lives in a chicken’s windpipe and causes respiratory issues. They can grow as long as 1-2cm and be fatal if left untreated.
A chicken playing host to gapeworms will typically gasp for air, cough, visibly show signs of being in distress, and when you hold them close you’ll hear what’s known as “tracheal rattle”.
As the infestation worsens, a chicken will die due to suffocation. It’s a truly horrible condition, and something you should address at the earliest sign that your flock may be infected.
Related - Is your chicken breathing with their mouth open? Here's what you need to know.
Be Careful With Pest Poisons
As I also mentioned above, another thing to be mindful of is using poisons to kill pests when you also have backyard chickens.
Even if you’re keeping the pellets and poisons well out the way of your chickens, if they eat a bug that’s been poisoned they can still ingest the chemicals used in the poison.
It’s a small risk, but something to keep in mind. Personally, I don’t use any forms of harmful chemicals in or around my yard. It’s just not worth it.
Related - Here’s the best ant killer that’s perfectly safe to use around chickens.
What Other Backyard Bugs Can Chickens Eat?
Snails aren’t the only creatures that need to watch out for beaks pecking away. Chickens will eat just about anything that moves - and try to eat a lot of things that don’t move!
Some of the insects and bugs I know my chooks have eaten include:
Some of the other insects that are fine, but we don’t have them where I live:
- Stink bugs
As you can see, chickens are like a group of pest exterminators. As long as the insects aren’t poisonous or harmful in any way, it should always be fine.
In Summary - Do Chickens Eat Snails?
Yes, chicken love eating snails.
For the most part, snails and other backyard bugs and insects are a good source of protein and other nutrition.
A large portion of a wild chicken's diet consists of bugs, it’s perfectly normal for them to scratch around and gobble up whatever they can find.
There are some small risks involved, as I covered above. But don’t be scared, my flock has never had any issues from eating creepy crawlies from the yard.
Nutrition of eating snails - SFGate.com
Gapeworm - Wikipedia