Do Chickens Produce Milk

Do Chickens Produce Milk? (The Surprising Truth)

It’s not that crazy of a question. There are lots of farmyard animals that produce milk, some we drink and some we don’t.

Do chickens produce milk? No, chickens do not produce milk. Only mammals lactate and produce milk, chickens are not mammals they are birds. A few species of birds do produce crop milk though as I’ll explain.

Do Birds Produce Milk?

This is an interesting question because the simple answer is no, birds do not produce milk.

Technically speaking, only mammals are able to lactate – which means they produce milk from their mammaries.

The reason mammals produce milk is because they need to feed their young with their milk. For a lot of animals, it’s essential to the survival of their young that they are able to feed off their mothers.

Baby chicks and most birds, on the other hand, absorb nutrients from the egg while hatching. Their mothers then bring them insects, meat, or whatever they need to eat until they can fend for themselves.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, however. A few species of bird do produce a substance termed as “crop milk”.

Pigeons, flamingoes, and emperor penguins all produce this substance and feed it to their young just as mammals do with their milk.

Basically, they regurgitate food that has been sitting in their crop and feed that to their young. The crop is an area where food is stored before moving on to their gizzard for digestion.

This substance is high in protein, fat and other minerals. All of which provide some important nutrition for young chicks.

It’s interesting because a bird’s crop is not structurally or anatomically similar to mammary glands. Yet, they are able to use it to produce milk for their young.

Chickens do not produce crop milk though, despite having a crop and their digestive system working very similar to pigeons.

What Do Chickens Feed Their Chicks?

What Do Chickens Feed Their Chicks

Baby chicks absorb the yolk from the egg just before they hatch, so they don’t need to eat food for the first 24-48 hours.

They usually spend these first two days huddling with their mother and will be observing how she’s eating and drinking. (While taking in all the new sights and sounds of the world!)

In the wild, or even in a backyard setting if you don’t intervene, the mother will bring them little scraps of food and drop it near them.

This will typically consist of grains, small insects, and bits of meat and feed. They intuitively know which foods their chicks need, and will provide enough for them to eat.

The chicks will learn all they need to know about eating and fending for themselves as they grow and develop. It’s surprising how fast chicks start finding their own food, usually within days.

Generally speaking, animals are adept at surviving and fending for themselves. Thousands of years fending for themselves and evolving has brought them to where they are now, even if we keep them as pets.

It’s still a good idea to monitor how they’re getting on, and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s hard not to keep checking in on baby chicks. Try not to worry though, as long as the food and water are available it’ll be fine.

What Should You Feed Baby Chicks?

If you’re raising chicks at home in a brooder, you should pick up some commercial starter food.

I recommend something like this Manna Pro Chick Starter food available on Amazon:

You can feed them this until they are around 8 weeks of age. It’s vital you give your chicks food that meets all their nutritional requirements during the first few weeks in particular.

Giving them a good commercial feed is by far the easiest way to do this.

A lot of first-time chick owners are really nervous about feeding and making sure their chicks are drinking enough.

It’s really nothing to worry about though, as long as you’re providing all they need it’ll be fine.

In Summary – Do Chickens Produce Milk?

There you have it, chickens do not produce milk. They do not have mammary glands and are not physically able to produce mammalian milk.

It’s anatomically impossible!

If you’ve heard of birds producing milk, that’ll be pigeons, emperor penguins, and flamingoes. All of which are able to produce a substance called crop milk.

It’s not the same as regular milk, and it’s not produced by glands. These species of birds regurgitate a substance from their crop to feed their young. 

Just because they can’t produce milk, it doesn’t mean they don’t like drinking it. Check out; Can chickens drink milk?

Resources

Do birds produce milk? – World Atlas