Snails and slugs are everywhere; you can find them on your patio, gardens, or farms, so your chicken may encounter them while foraging for food. But do chickens eat snails, and is it beneficial for them?
The short answer is yes!
In fact, snails and slugs are good sources of protein and other nutrients.
However, there are risks that come along with snail and slug consumption.
So, before throwing snails and slugs at your flock, join us as we discuss:
- How and why do chickens eat snails and slugs
- What are the benefits they can get from these gastropods
- And what are the risks you should watch out for in your flock
Chickens have an instinct that helps them to decide whether to eat something suspicious or not. But as a chicken keeper, you surely want to ensure that everything your flock consumes is safe.
So if you want to dig deeper into how chickens’ snail and slug consumption affects their health, you came to the right place.
Without further ado, let’s get right into it!
Do Chickens Eat Snails?
Snails are considered a pest to plants in your backyard or garden, but chickens can eat snails.
However, too much can lead to health issues, so keep their snail and slug consumption in moderation.
It’s also recommended to avoid feeding them slugs and snails exposed to pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
But how about the slugs?
Do Chickens Eat Slugs?
Slugs and snails have the same head structure, and both belong to the mollusk family, which are organisms with soft and slimy bodies.
The only difference between these two is that snails have shells that protect them, while slugs don’t. So, can chickens eat slugs?
Chickens use their feet or beaks to remove the slugs from the leaves, grass, or ground, and it’s a great chicken treat because it’s an excellent protein source.
Slugs are easier to eat than snails.
And since they’re small and slow-moving, chickens can easily pick them from the ground.
How Do Chickens Eat Snails?
Chickens can eat a wide variety of foods, including insects, seeds, and small gastropods like snails. They pick anything that they can get their beaks to.
But how do chickens eat snails?
Chickens typically peck at them with their beaks, breaking the shell and consuming the soft body.
Can Chickens Eat Snail Shells?
Some chickens may also swallow the snail, including the shell, but it varies depending on their size. The shell might be difficult to swallow, especially for chicks, and may cause choking.
But their shell is rich in calcium, so they may occasionally devour it if they can.
This nutrient supports the circulatory, cardiac, nervous, and digestive systems, which is crucial, especially for the laying hens. It also helps improve their digestion.
That’s why it can be a good addition to their diet.
But Are They Safe For Chickens?
It’s important to note, though, that not all snails are safe for chickens to eat, as some species can be toxic.
Wild slugs and snails can also carry harmful parasites that might harm your chickens.
That’s why it’s important to double-check if the snails and slugs are in your area and consult a veterinarian or poultry expert before introducing new foods to your flock.
If you want to feed your flocks, cook it well to eliminate the harmful organisms, especially giant ones like African Snails.
Luckily, chickens won’t eat snails or slugs if they know it’s inedible and if it’s big for their beaks.
If your poultry birds like to pick some snails and slugs in your backyard, watch out and contact your vet if you notice any adverse health effects.
Can Chickens Die from Eating Slugs?
Typically, chickens won’t die after eating snails or slugs in your backyard. However, chickens will suffer from diseases if the snails or slugs are infected or become a host of parasites.
That’s why you must check what type of snails or slugs they eat.
But Why Do Chickens Eat Snails and Slugs?
Chickens do have a knack for good things, especially food. Although we don’t exactly know how snails and slugs taste to them, here are the common reasons why they like to peck at these organisms.
Slugs and snails are rich in protein, which is not present in fruits and veggies, and their shell contains calcium which helps boost the chicken’s growth and development.
Furthermore, proteins aid in egg production, immunity, environmental adaptation, and many other biological functions.
It Helps Control Pests
Despite being tiny, slow-paced organisms, snails and slugs are disastrous because they can destroy your plants, especially their leaves, at night.
They usually get out of hand during summer and attack your plants without you knowing at times.
Since pesticides are toxic and not environmentally friendly, deploying your chickens can be a better solution.
They help get rid of snails and slugs who attack your plants.
Using commercial chicken feeds for your chickens can improve your production of meat faster. However, their body won’t be as healthy if you feed them some natural treats.
Letting them pick natural treats, like snails and slugs, while foraging will help them build strong bones and muscles.
Besides, you can save considerably if you let them explore and find new and free foods during free-ranging because that reduces their feed consumption.
Where Do Chickens Find Snails and Slugs?
If you live in a warm or hot region, you can find snails and slugs almost everywhere during summertime.
However, they can mostly be seen in the vegetative area, which serves as their food and shelter when cold seasons arrive.
They may be awake in the daytime, but they mostly start their work at night when the temperature is low and no predators, even chickens, can harm them.
In the daytime, they hide somewhere in stones, grasses, or under bushes and hedgerows.
Despite being a nutritious treat for your flock, there are things you must pay attention to before feeding them to your flock.
In the next section, we’ll help you weigh in if it’s worth it feeding slugs and snails to your chickens and if the pros outweigh the cons.
Things to Consider When Feeding Slugs and Snails to Chickens
Snail and slug consumption comes with several health risks, so we listed below the things you must consider before feeding your chickens with these mollusks.
They May Carry Gapeworm and Rat Lungworm
Gapeworm and rat lungworm are both parasite nematodes that can affect chickens, and snails, slugs, and earthworms, are active transmitters of these parasites.
These parasites usually come from contaminated areas, typically visited by your flocks if they’re foraging.
What happens when a chicken contracts a gapeworm and a rat lungworm?
Risks of Gapeworm and Rat Lungworm
Gapeworms live in the trachea and can cause respiratory issues, including gasping for air and open-mouth breathing.
On the other hand, rat lungworms can cause neurological symptoms such as paralysis and even death.
Some symptoms of gapeworm infestation include lethargy, troubled breathing, rattling sound during breathing, fast head-shaking, looking skyward with a (gaping) mouth, and losing appetite.
On the other hand, the non-specific symptoms of rat lungworm infestation are fever, light sensitivity, muscle pain, fatigue, and insomnia.
Your birds may also suffer from headaches, tingling or burning of the skin, double vision, neck stiffness and pain, bowel or bladder difficulties, and seizures.
It is important to take preventative measures such as regular cleaning and disinfecting of your chicken coop to prevent this infestation.
You must also provide fresh water and food and avoid feeding them slugs and snails that may carry these parasites.
If you suspect your chickens may have either of these parasites, seek veterinary care immediately.
Regular Deworming is a Must
Chickens need regular deworming to keep them healthy and prevent the spread of disease.
Parasitic worms, like gapeworms and rat lungworms, can cause various health problems, including weight loss, decreased egg production, and even death.
By deworming chickens regularly, farmers can ensure that their birds are healthy and productive.
It’s also important to note that confined chickens are more susceptible to parasitic infections than those grown in free-range settings. So regular deworming is particularly important.
Contaminated With Pesticides
You also need to ensure that the slugs and snails have not come into contact with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
It is best to collect them from areas that have not been treated with these substances to prevent adverse health effects.
Mostly, confined chickens have weak stomachs, so they can’t digest weird foods they have just been introduced to, like snails and slugs.
Those free-range chickens can easily digest the food they find while foraging because their stomachs are more rigid.
So they can eat snails and slugs without getting hurt.
How Much Snails and Slugs They Eat
Slugs and snails are high in protein and fat, but overeating can cause digestive problems.
That’s why we recommend offering them as a treat rather than a staple part of the chickens’ diet.
You must also ensure that the slugs and snails are fresh and have not been sitting out for too long, as they can quickly spoil and become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
But aside from snails and slugs, what else can you offer to your chickens as a treat?
Other Foods Chickens Can Eat
Free-ranging chickens meet and eat different types of food while foraging, including the following:
The earthworms are one of the favorite treats of chickens from your garden or backyard.
Earthworms aerate the soil and are a delicious treat for flocks like chickens and ducks.
So, if you have gardens out there, why not cultivate them more to let earthworms thrive and reproduce?
Your flock will surely love it because they can have an unlimited amount of treats.
Your chickens can also eat insects, such as ladybugs, grubworms, beetles, and grasshoppers.
You can even raise bug larvae and mealworm larvae, which are relatively easy to produce.
On top of that, they provide excellent nutrition to laying hens.
3. Fruits and Vegetables
Not all fruits and vegetables are safe for chicken consumption.
But many of these wonders from nature provide helpful nutrients that boost a bird’s immune system.
How to Control Slug and Snails Safely
Snails and slugs may be small, but they attack in large groups.
So, even if you have many chickens, it can be challenging to get rid of all of these pests. But here are some tips to eliminate snails and slugs safely without harming your flocks.
One of the most effective baits to eliminate snails and slugs easily is using a beer. How does it work?
The ingredients of a beer, like the yeast, can allure snails and slugs. Its scent will attract them to drink without knowing that it can kill them.
Since snails and slugs usually attack at night, it’s better to pour the beer into a container and put it in different parts of your garden before the night comes.
Then check it out in the morning, and you can see dead snails and slugs near the containers.
Pick Them Up One by One
This may be a little time-consuming and terrifying if you’re not used to dealing with slugs and snails.
But picking up any snail you find can help control their population.
Remember that the longer they stay in your garden or farm, the more they reproduce.
But how about slugs?
They’re slimy and sticky, so you may need some tools to pick them up.
Use Tools With Sharp Edges
Snails’ and slugs’ bodies are very soft and sensitive. They easily get injured if they pass on sharp edges.
So, placing sharps around your garden or plants will be a great way to prevent them from attacking it. But what kind of sharp things you can use?
It doesn’t need to be hard like blades. You can use eggshells or seashells. But if you want to ensure it will work, use the sea shells because it’s harder compared to eggshells.
Break them into pieces and put them on the ground with the edges facing upward.
Some people might use pesticides because it is more effective, especially if you have large crops.
However, it is harmful if you have free-ranging animals near your plants because it can kill not only the pest but also your livestock. So it’s not recommended to use any kind of pesticides.
FAQs About Chickens and Snails
Do chickens eat snail shells?
The shell of snails is also nutritious, for it contains calcium. Some chickens might eat snails, including their shells, as long as it’s a small one that can fit their mouth.
If not, they will disregard it and eat only the snail’s body.
Is it okay for chickens to eat slugs and snails?
Yes, chickens can eat snails and slugs. However, this pest can carry harmful organisms like gapeworms and rat lungworms. These organisms come from dirty and contaminated surroundings.
Can chickens get worms from snails?
Yes, chickens can get gapeworms and rat lungworms, which are dangerous because they target the respiratory system of chickens.
It can cause lethargy, trouble breathing, a rattling sound during breathing, and loss of appetite.
Do Chickens Eat Slugs And Snails: The Final Recap
To sum it up, chickens can eat slugs and snails occasionally. In fact, they’re rich in protein which helps boost egg production.
However, they can carry gapeworms and rat lungworms, which can cause neurological and respiratory issues. Therefore, they’re not completely safe to consume.
If you want to avoid infestation, you need to keep snails out of your chicken’s sight and deworm them regularly.
Have you ever fed snails and slugs to your chickens?
If yes, how did your flock respond?
Let us know your experience and thoughts in the comment section below.