No one wants to come across 8-legged creepy crawlies in their yard...well most people (me) don’t. Chickens, on the other hand, are always happy to see them!
Do Chickens Eat Spiders? Chickens do eat spiders, yes. I’ve never met a chicken that was able to resist chasing down and gobbling up a spider. Here are the good, the bad, and the risks associated with chickens and spiders.
Is It Good for Chickens to Eat Spiders and Other Insects?
While it’s pretty gross to us, it’s completely natural for chickens to eat bugs and insects.
In the wild, a good portion of their diet would be made up of creatures they can find scratching around and foraging.
Chickens require a good amount of protein in their diet, typically around 16%. Live creatures are often high in protein, as well as a host of other key nutrients they need to maintain good health.
Mealworms, in particular, are used as a protein-boosting food supplement. Spiders are also high in protein, as well as folic acid and zinc.
It’s not something I want to see or spend too much time thinking about, but large spiders are actually considered a delicacy in some parts of the world and are eaten by humans!
Environmental Benefits of Chickens Eating Bugs
There are also some environmental benefits to chickens eating bugs. The obvious one that affects you directly is that they are helping reduce the numbers of creepy crawlies in your yard.
On a larger scale, there has always been a push from some sectors to introduce more insect-based diets for chickens and other livestock.
The main reason behind this is because farming some foods that are commonly used in chicken feed, such as soy, has a negative impact on the environment.
There are sustainability and supply issues with soy, in particular, and the carbon footprint keeps growing for the manufacturing plants harvesting it.
Bugs and insects present a more organic approach, although it’s not necessary as cost-efficient at this time.
Are Spiders Dangerous to Chickens?
The answer to this is a simple one - if the spider is poisonous or able to cause harm they present a danger to chickens.
The good news is that there aren't a lot of poisonous spiders across the U.S.
There are a few to watch out for though. These are the main species of spider that present a potential health risk to chickens (and us!):
- Brown Recluse Spider
- Black Widow Spider
- Red Widow Spider
- Hobo Spider
- Funnel Web Grass Spider
- Brown Widow Spider
- Wolf Spider
It’s a good idea to do some research into what types/species of spiders are known to be in your area to be on the safe side.
What Other Bugs and Insects Can Chickens Eat?
Chickens can and will eat just about any living creature small enough for them to gobble up.
The largest creatures I’ve heard other backyard flock owners say they’ve seen their chickens eat include; snakes, lizards, frogs, mice, and similar sized animals.
So, insects make for a nice little snack. They also enjoy the chase, just like a house cat will chase a mouse most chickens will run after any small insects flying or scattering across the floor.
To give you a general idea, here are some of the insects chicks commonly snack on; termites, beetles, stink bugs, centipedes, ants, millipedes, slugs, snails, ticks, hookworms, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, flies, ladybugs, roaches, silverfish.... I think that covers just about every bug I can think of!
What Bugs and Insects Are Dangerous to Chickens?
Poisonous spiders aren’t the only pests you need to keep an eye out for, there are some other insects across the U.S. that are potentially harmful to chickens.
The main culprits are:
Red Harvester Ants - Found primarily in Texas, in large numbers these ants can cause some serious problems. There are a few other species of ant capable of causing pain too.
Striped Bark Scorpions - I’ve seen these in person before, and it’s not something I want to repeat. They pack quite a punch with their stingers.
Puss Caterpillars - As one of the most dangerous caterpillars in the United States, a confrontation with one of your flock could end painfully. There are a few other species of caterpillar that are dangerous too.
Asian Giant Hornets - Hornets aren’t nice, and Asian Giant Hornets are the biggest and baddest of all the hornets. A sting from one of these could result in death.
Mosquitoes - Interestingly, chickens naturally repel malaria-carrying mosquitoes. This doesn’t mean they cannot be stung by a disease-carrying mosquito though.
It’s quite the warzone out there for chickens, isn’t it?
These little pests, plus the threat from large predators (such as bobcats) can present quite the number of threats in some parts of the country.
I’m not trying to scare you though, I’m sure the threats are low wherever you are. With a well-equipped coop and run and a safe area to roam if free-range, incidents involving chickens are few and far between.
In Summary - Do Chickens Eat Spiders?
Yes, chickens do eat spiders. As long as the spider isn’t dangerous or poisonous, it’s fine for chicks to eat them.
In fact, it’s natural for chickens to eat spiders and other insects. They eat them in the wild and generally speaking, bugs provide some good nutrition such as protein and other minerals.
Benefits of insect-based poultry feed - PoultryNews.co.uk