Chickens do eat squash bugs, yes. In fact, they’ll eat most bugs - pest control is one of the many benefits of raising backyard chickens. The downside, however, is that they’ll also munch on your vegetables and plants too if allowed.
What Are Squash Bugs? How To Identify Them
Squash bugs get their name from the fact that they are commonly found on squash plants and pumpkins.
As you can see from the image above, they are flat in appearance and have a unique look - they’re not hard to spot.
The adults are greyish in color, and as infants they are green. To me, they look very similar to shield bugs or stink bugs (although a lot more pleasant than stink bugs!).
Fully grown squash bugs are about half to two-thirds of an inch long. It’s unusually very easy to spot them on plants. The eggs are easily identifiable too, they are small, round, and dark red in color.
These little bugs are the arch enemy of farmers growing just about any vegetables in the cucurbitaceae family. Which includes squashes, pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers.
They exist almost entirely to feed off these vegetables. They suck the sap out of the leaves, causing them to wilt. This also affects the flow of nutrients and water to the main part of the plant.
Related - Chickens will also eat Japanese Beetles.
Do Chickens Eat Squash Bugs?
Chickens do and will eat squash bugs. It’s perfectly fine for them to do so - and I’m sure it’ll come as a welcome benefit to you as you don’t want these bugs in your yard.
Talking with other backyard chicken owners, I did find quite a few owners who said their chickens tended to ignore them. One of few bugs they will ignore, but this was something I did hear a few times.
A close friend of mine thinks it's because they smell bad. But, I find this highly unlikely as most chickens will eat stink bugs. Squash bugs certainly don’t smell as foul as those, few insects do.
Some chickens just tend to ignore or turn their beaks up at certain insects, foods, and other things we’d think they’ enjoy. It’s hard to explain why, it’s just chickens being chickens.
The important thing is, whether your chickens choose to help you out by eating them or not, squash bugs are fine for chickens. They don’t pose a health risk, aren’t toxic, etc.
Will Chickens Eat Squash Plants?
This is where it gets a bit tricky, because chickens are just as likely to eat parts of your squash plants too if you let them loose to get rid of the bugs.
If you’ve kept chickens for any length of time, you should be well aware that nothing edible is safe when your chickens are loose. In fact, a lot of objects that you thought weren't edible are also at risk!
So, if you’re recruiting chickens to eat squash bugs, potato bugs, or any bugs that are causing damage to your plants, you need to do so carefully.
Related - Looking for the best chicken breeds or poultry for pest control? Check out guinea fowl, they are bug munching machines!
Are Bugs Good for Chickens?
Bugs and insects are great for chickens. In the wild, or if allowed to free range where there are plenty of bugs, chickens will munch them up all day long.
Almost all bugs are rich in the good kind of nutrition chickens thrive on. They contain proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins.
That’s right. Despite being gross to us, bugs provide a nice little nutrient-rich snack for chickens.
The only real concerns you have are for pests that are known to be toxic or poisonous in some way. There aren’t too many of those across the U.S. If there are any threats in your area, you should be aware of it.
Some of the bugs and insects chickens most commonly gobble up includes:
- Grasshoppers and crickets
As you can see, just about anything that crawls, flies, or moves within their line of vision is fair game.
Chickens will even eat larger creatures like snakes and small rodents. They are omnivores, and incredible scavengers.
What Should Backyard Chickens Eat?
As I’ve explained, there is almost no downside to chickens eating bugs and insects.
The staple of a backyard chicken’s diet will come from a quality chicken feed though. You should leave out enough for them to graze on throughout the day, typically around ¼ lbs of food per day per chicken.
In addition to this, almost all backyard chicken owners give their flock some table scraps, leftovers, and other foods they don’t want.
This is perfectly fine - as long as you’ve checked the foods are safe - just keep the table scraps to a maximum of 10% of their diet.
If you follow these rules, plus give your chickens some space to roam to find their own little snacks, you should have a flock of happy and healthy chickens on your hands.
Squash bugs are just one of the many insects, bugs, pests - whatever you want to call them - that chickens will usually gobble up given the chance.
Bugs are great for chickens, it’s something you should encourage if you can. Plus, as explained, it’s pretty cool having mobile pest control units keeping the numbers of creepy crawlies under control in your yard.
Squash bugs in home gardens - University of Minnesota Extension