If you keep chickens at home then, chances are, you let them roam around your garden. But, as you well know, chickens will eat pretty much anything they come across. But what about slugs? Do chickens eat slugs too?
Yes, chickens do eat slugs but that doesn’t mean they should. There are actually some dangers to chickens who do eat slugs.
We all know how fond chickens are of consuming insects and bugs. If you have chickens and you let them out in your garden, they will be sure to consume slugs and other insects if and when they come across them.
Is It Safe for Chickens to Eat Slugs?
When you keep any animals, your first priority is to ensure they are safe. So the question is, will eating slugs harm your chickens or is it perfectly safe for them to eat a slug or two?
Fortunately, slugs are safe for chickens most of the time. As with most insects, there is a small risk that they will pass parasites onto the chicken but this is rare and isn’t reason enough to stop your chickens actually naturally and freely in your garden.
While generally eating slugs should not be a problem, there are still some risks attached:
The first thing you should keep in mind is that slugs are carriers of dangerous parasites.
One of the parasites which slugs can carry is the gapeworm. The gapeworm is dangerous as it can specifically target poultry birds.
If your chicken has consumed a slug and is experiencing some of the following symptoms then there is a risk that they have been infected with gapeworm: Difficulty breathing, a gurgling sound (known as the tracheal rattle), a shaking head or frequent stretching of the neck.
Another parasite common in slugs is lungworm. Slugs often feed on rat faeces. If slugs eat rat faeces that contains the lungworm parasite then they will become carriers. If a chicken then eats one of these infected slugs then they, too, will become infected.
Another disadvantage of letting your chicken eat slugs is that it is a choking hazard. Some slugs are fairly large, fat and sticky, which makes them difficult to consume for chickens.
Although the risk of choking is rare, it is something to be aware of when you let your chicken roam freely in the garden.
If you as a gardener use slug pellets then some slugs, that have consumed those pellets, will now be poisonous to anything that consumes it. This is why we strongly advocate using natural slug repellents in the garden.
Unfortunately, even if you haven’t used any chemicals in your garden, the slugs may have ingested the chemicals elsewhere. When slugs consume slug pellets, they do not die immediately (you can learn about how slug pellets work here).
Will Chickens Eat Snails Too?
Chickens are omnivores and enjoy a varied diet comprising of plant-based materials and insects. Other than slugs, chickens will also eat snails.
But how do chickens eat slugs with the hard shell on? When chickens find a snail, they will drop it on the ground, onto a hard surface, to smash the shell. Next, the chicken will continue to smash the shell with its beak until the snail is exposed and then will eat the snail (minus the shell).
Snails are actually packed full of protein and, like slugs, remain safe for chickens to eat provided that they haven’t consumed slug pellets and do not contain any parasites.
Can You Use Chickens to Control Slugs?
If chickens do eat slugs so freely then can they be used as a form of biological control in the garden? Although it’s possible for a chicken to eat several slugs, it would be hard for them to do it day-in-day-out to control a slug infestation.
Consuming slugs is also not something you want to encourage in your chickens. It’s unlikely to cause any long-term harm to the chicken but is not an efficient way of dealing with slugs in your garden.
Instead, we would strongly advise adopting one of the many natural slug deterrents we have outlined:
- Try hiding slug traps in your garden
- Consider releasing nematodes
- Use environmentally-friendly slug pellets
- Make a garlic spray
If you keep chickens in your garden then you’ll want to know what they can and cannot safely forage for. Slugs are one common bug they are likely to come across and, fortunately, are generally safe for them to eat.
However, you do need to be aware that slugs can be carriers of gapeworm, lungworm and may also have been poisoned by slug pellets – all of which can be passed onto the slug.
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Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden