Can Chickens Eat Hornworms? 5 Surprising Benefits

Chickens are omnivorous creatures, meaning they eat just about anything. This includes meat, vegetables, fruits, and even insects. So, can chickens eat hornworms? The answer is yes, but there are a few things you should know before you let your chickens go to town on a plate of hornworms.

Hornworms feast on tomato plants and potato plants, which contain toxins that can harm chickens. They can also contain harmful parasites, so it is important to ensure the hornworms you feed your chickens have been raised in a sterile environment.

In this post, we will discuss whether or not chickens can eat hornworms. We will also discuss the benefits and risks of feeding hornworms to chickens.

can chickens eat hornworms

What are hornworms?

Hornworms are the caterpillar stage of the hawkmoth. They get their name from the two horns that protrude from their rear end. Hornworms are large, green caterpillars that are a common pest of tomato and potato plants.

Wild hornworms can harm chickens, but store-bought hornworms can be a good source of nutrients for chickens.

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Can chickens eat hornworms?

Hornworms are an excellent source of protein, fat, and moisture. They are also a good source of vitamins A, B, and E. Hornworms can be fed to chickens either fresh or frozen.

If you choose to feed them fresh, make sure you buy them from a reputable source and check them for parasites before feeding them to your chickens. It is also important to monitor your chickens’ consumption, as too many hornworms can cause solanine poisoning.

Hornworms can be fed to chickens either whole or minced. If you choose to feed them whole, you must ensure that the hornworms are small enough that your chickens can eat them easily.

The benefits of eating hornworms for chickens

You may have seen hornworms for sale at your local pet store and wondered what they are. They are a popular food source for reptiles and amphibians, but did you know that hornworms are also an excellent food source for chickens? Read on to learn about the surprising health benefits of feeding hornworms to your chickens.

Excellent source of protein

Chickens need protein to maintain their feathers and lay eggs. A protein-rich diet will also help chickens grow larger and stay healthy. Hornworms are about 70% protein, so they are an excellent addition to a chicken’s diet.

Good source of fat

Fat is an important part of a chicken’s diet because it helps them absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat also provides energy for chickens. Hornworms are about 10% fat, so they can help chickens get the fat they need without overfeeding them.

Rich in calcium

Calcium is essential for chickens because it helps them lay healthy eggs and maintain strong bones. A diet deficient in calcium can cause problems such as poor egg production or weak shells. Feeding hornworms to your chickens is a great way to boost their calcium intake.

Can help reduce stress in chickens

Chickens can suffer from stress just like humans do. When stressed, chickens are more likely to stop laying eggs or even die prematurely. Hornworms contain a compound called phenylalanine, which has been shown to reduce stress in animals. So, feeding hornworms to your chickens could help them live longer, healthier lives.

Can help improve gut health in chickens

Chickens rely on gut bacteria to help them digest their food properly. Feeding hornworms to your chickens can help increase the number of beneficial gut bacteria in their digestive system, leading to improved overall health.

Things to watch out for when feeding hornworms to chickens

hornworm

While hornworms can be a good source of nutrients for chickens, there are also some risks associated with feeding them to your flock.

Can contain toxins

The biggest risk is that hornworms can be toxic to chickens if they consume too many leaves from tomato or potato plants. Tomato and potato plants contain solanine, which is poisonous to chickens.

Symptoms of solanine poisoning in chickens include lethargy, weakness, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures. If you suspect your chicken has ingested solanine, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Can carry parasites

Hornworms can also carry parasites that can infect your flock. However, this is more of a concern if you allow your chickens to free-range in areas where hornworms are present. If you buy commercially raised hornworms, the risk of parasites is greatly reduced.

How often should chickens eat hornworms?

As tasty as they may be, it’s important to remember that everything should be taken in moderation. While a few hornworms can make a great occasional treat for your chickens, you should give them at most 1 or 2 per day.

Overfeeding your chickens can lead to an upset digestive system and other health issues, making moderation the most important factor when feeding them these juicy snacks. When introducing hornworms into your chicken’s diet, start with 1 or 2 at a time and observe how they respond before giving any more.

By feeding your chickens in moderation, you can ensure that they enjoy their hornworm food without overdoing it.

How to prepare hornworms for feeding to chickens

flock of chickens

It’s important to take the right steps when preparing hornworms for feeding. To start, buy your worms from a reputable pet store or livestock supplier; freshness is key in this situation.

Once the worms are ready, mix a small amount into the chickens’ regular feed. A guideline is 2-3 worms per bird – too many hornworms can cause digestion problems due to an imbalance of nutrients.

But when prepared correctly and fed in moderation, hornworms can provide a great boost of nutrition while enriching your flock’s diet.

Can baby chickens eat hornworms?

It is natural to assume that baby chickens have similar dietary needs as full-grown chickens, but this is only sometimes the case. It can be tempting to offer hornworms as a nutritious snack for baby chickens, but these worms should be avoided for baby chicks since they may contain toxins and parasites that young chickens cannot handle.

Additionally, the risk of poisoning increases when considering that baby chicks lack the digestive system maturity required to process these toxins safely. When tempting hornworms are spotted in your garden or poultry run, we recommend staying on the safe side and leaving them alone.

Allowing adult chickens access to hornworms may still contain some risk, but younger birds should avoid them entirely.

What other bugs and insects can chickens eat?

cicada on plant

Most backyard chicken keepers know that chickens love to eat bugs. In addition to protein, many insects contain important nutrients that help keep chickens healthy and strong. But what other types of bugs and insects can chickens eat? Here are five examples.

Slugs

Slugs are a common garden pest, but did you know they make a great treat for chickens? They are full of essential nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and sulfur. Chickens enjoy finding and eating these slimy snacks.

Read More: Do Chickens Eat Slugs? Yes, With Some Risks

Ants

Another common backyard insect, ants are high in protein and make a great snack for chickens. They are also loaded with essential minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium. Ants are small and easy for chickens to catch, making them a great source of nutrition.

Read More: Do Chickens Eat Ants? 5 Awesome Benefits

Spiders

Spiders may seem like an unlikely food source for chickens, but they’re quite nutritious. They are high in protein, fat, and essential vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and sulfur. Chickens eat spiders of all sizes, from small house spiders to large wolf spiders.

Read More: Do Chickens Eat Spiders? 4 Excellent Benefits

Cicadas

Cicadas are a tasty treat for chickens – and they’re packed with nutrients. A single cicada can contain up to 35% protein, making them an excellent source of this essential nutrient. They’re also high in fat and contain important vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and sulfur.

Read More: Do Chickens Eat Cicadas? 5 Excellent Benefits

Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles are a common garden pest – but did you know they make a great treat for chickens? They are high in protein, fat, and essential vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and sulfur.

Read More: Do Chickens Eat Japanese Beetles? 5 Amazing Benefits

How to give chickens a healthy and balanced diet

A chicken’s diet should consist of three main food groups: grains, vegetables, and protein. Let’s take a closer look at each of these food groups and how they can benefit your chickens.

Grains

Grains should make up most of a chicken’s diet and can be given to them as scratch or pellets. Scratch is a mixture of grains that usually includes cracked corn, oats, and wheat.

Pellets are a complete feed that contains all the nutrients a chicken needs and can be found at most feed stores. Grains are an excellent source of carbohydrates, which help chickens produce energy, and contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Vegetables

Chickens love fresh vegetables and will often eat them right off the plant. Common favorites include kale, lettuce, spinach, carrots, and green beans. Vegetables are a great source of vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.

They also help chickens stay hydrated since they are mostly water. Be sure to wash all vegetables thoroughly before feeding them to your chickens to remove any harmful pesticides or bacteria.

Protein

Protein is essential for proper growth and development in chickens. Chicken owners typically give their chickens protein in the form of chicken feed, which can be found at most feed stores.

Protein-rich foods that can also be given to chickens include mealworms, live insects, and cooked meat scraps. It’s important not to overfeed protein to chickens as it can lead to health problems such as liver disease.

Can chickens eat hornworms – final thoughts

Hornworms can be a good source of nutrients for your chickens, but some risks are associated with feeding them to your flock. The biggest risk is that hornworms can be toxic to chickens if they consume too many leaves from tomato or potato plants.

Store-bought hornworms are less likely to carry parasites, but monitoring your flock closely is important when introducing any new food item into their diet.

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Jill Taylor Happy Farmyard

Jill Taylor

Jill is a full-time homesteader who enjoys learning about sustainable living and practicing self-reliance. She'll most likely be found tending to her many animals including chickens, ducks, goats, and alpacas. You can find out more about her on LinkedIn.