What Bugs Can You Feed Chickens?

chicken foraging

I’m not going to lie; talking about bugs is not my favorite thing to do. But, in the world of backyard chicken farming, it’s going to come up at some point, so we might as well jump in and get started.

Store-bought chicken food is the best way to ensure your chickens get all the nutrients they need to be healthy, fatten up, and produce eggs. However, free-range chickens can get all their nutrients as well, provided their environment has what they need to thrive. 

If you’re free-ranging your chickens or just want to make sure they have the nutrients only bugs can provide, then you’ll want to supplement their diet with a few creepy crawlies. 

Insects are a powerhouse of nutrition for chickens. These tiny creatures are packed with protein, making them an excellent dietary addition for your feathered friends. We let our chickens range in the spring, summer, and fall, and they eat a lot of bugs. (This is the reason I put up with chicken poop on my stairs every now and again.)

I often get asked what types of foods chickens can eat, and every now and again, I get a question about bugs. You’ll find those questions at the bottom of the post. If you have concerns about fruits, veggies, meats, grains, herbs, or the foods you should NEVER feed chickens, check out one of my other posts on the subject.

Beneficial Bugs for Chickens

Some insects offer more than just a nutritious meal. These beneficial bugs not only contribute to your chickens’ health but also offer additional advantages for your backyard chickens and their environment. 


Earthworms are nature’s soil engineers, and they play a crucial role in improving both the soil and your chickens’ diet. Here’s why they’re considered a valuable addition to your flock’s diet:

Advantages for Your Chickens:

  • Rich Nutrition: Earthworms are a fantastic source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, making them a highly nutritious treat for chickens. They contain essential amino acids that contribute to feather growth and overall health.
  • Digestible Fiber: The digestive system of chickens benefits from the fiber content of earthworms, aiding in the breakdown of other feed components.
  • Natural Foraging: Chickens love to forage for worms, promoting natural behaviors and keeping them entertained. This enrichment can reduce stress and aggression in the flock.

Environmental Benefits:

  • Soil Aeration: Earthworms burrow through the soil, creating channels that improve soil aeration and water infiltration. This enhances the overall health of your garden or pasture.
  • Nutrient Recycling: Earthworms break down organic matter, such as decaying leaves and compost, and turn it into nutrient-rich castings, which can be used as fertilizer for your garden.

Red Wigglers

Red wigglers, a type of composting worm, are a favorite among those who practice vermicomposting, but they also have advantages for chickens:

Advantages for Your Chickens:

  • High-Protein Diet: Red wigglers are protein powerhouses, making them an excellent supplement to your chickens’ diet. The protein content supports growth, egg production, and feather quality.
  • Probiotic Effects: The gut of red wigglers contains beneficial microorganisms that can have probiotic effects on your chickens’ digestive systems, potentially enhancing nutrient absorption.

Environmental Benefits:

  • Composting Assistance: Red wigglers excel at breaking down kitchen scraps and organic waste into nutrient-rich compost. The resulting compost can be used to enrich your garden or provide dust-bathing material for your chickens.
  • Sustainable Resource: Raising red wigglers at home not only benefits your chickens but also promotes sustainable practices by reducing food waste.

By including earthworms and red wigglers in your chickens’ diet, you not only provide them with a delicious and nutritious treat but also contribute to a healthier and more environmentally friendly chicken-raising experience. It’s a win-win situation that can enhance both your flock’s well-being and your sustainability efforts.

Homegrown vs. Store-Bought

earthworm in kid's hand

There are two primary options when it comes to providing insects for your chickens: raising bugs at home or purchasing them. Each approach has its advantages and considerations, so let’s delve into the pros and cons of both to help you make an informed decision.

Raising Bugs at Home


  • Cost-Efficiency: One of the most significant advantages of raising bugs at home is cost savings. Once you’ve set up the necessary infrastructure, such as a mealworm or cricket farm, you can produce a steady supply of insects without ongoing expenses.
  • Quality Control: You have full control over the conditions in which the bugs are raised, ensuring they are healthy and free from harmful chemicals or contaminants.
  • Sustainability: Homegrown bugs are a sustainable option, reducing the environmental footprint associated with commercial insect production and transportation.


  • Time and Effort: Raising insects at home can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. You’ll need to monitor temperature, humidity, and feed, and occasionally clean their habitats.
  • Space Requirements: Depending on the type and quantity of insects you plan to raise, you may need dedicated space for your bug farm, which may not be feasible for everyone.

Purchasing Bugs


  • Convenience: Buying insects from a reputable supplier is a convenient option. You can easily find a variety of bug types and quantities to meet your chickens’ needs.
  • Time-Saving: Purchasing insects saves you the time and effort required for home farming, making it an excellent option for busy chicken farmers.
  • Diversity: Suppliers often offer a wider variety of insect species, allowing you to diversify your chickens’ diet.


  • Cost: Commercially purchased bugs can be more expensive than raising them at home, especially if you have a large flock.
  • Quality Control: While reputable suppliers maintain quality standards, there’s still a degree of reliance on their practices. Be sure to research suppliers to ensure the insects they provide are healthy and safe.
  • Environmental Impact: Purchasing bugs may involve transportation and packaging, which can contribute to environmental impact, unlike homegrown options.

Making the Choice

The decision of whether to raise bugs at home or purchase them ultimately depends on your specific circumstances and priorities. Consider factors like your available time, budget, space, and commitment to sustainable practices.

Whichever option you choose, remember that the goal is to provide your chickens with a nutritious and balanced diet. Regularly monitor your flock’s health and adjust their insect intake accordingly to ensure they thrive on this protein-rich addition to their meals.

Bugs Chickens Should Avoid: Potential Risks and Prevention

While insects can be a valuable addition to your chickens’ diet, just like some foods, not all bugs are safe for your flock. Some insects can pose significant risks and have adverse effects on your chickens’ health. 

Here are some insects, including toxic species and pests, that you should be cautious about:

Fire Ants

Potential Risks: Fire ants are notorious for their painful stings, and they can pose a direct threat to your chickens. When chickens encounter fire ant mounds, they may inadvertently disturb the ants, leading to stings on their feet, legs, or even inside their beaks.

Prevention Strategies:

  • Regularly inspect your chicken coop and the surrounding area for fire ant mounds.
  • Implement ant control measures, such as using diatomaceous earth or commercial ant baits, in and around the coop.
  • Elevate feeders and waterers to prevent ants from crawling into them.

Blister Beetles

Potential Risks: Blister beetles contain a toxic substance called cantharidin, which can be lethal to chickens if ingested. Even a small number of these beetles in your chickens’ feed can cause severe health issues, including digestive tract damage and even death.

Prevention Strategies:

  • Inspect stored grains and feed for the presence of blister beetles. Avoid feeding contaminated feed to your chickens.
  • If you find blister beetles in your feed, discard the affected feed immediately.
  • Source your grains and feed from reputable suppliers who take measures to prevent blister beetle contamination.

House Flies and Their Larvae

Potential Risks: House flies are not only nuisance pests but also potential carriers of diseases like avian influenza and salmonella. Their larvae, commonly known as maggots, can infest chicken feed and create unsanitary conditions in the coop.

Prevention Strategies:

  • Maintain good sanitation practices in and around the chicken coop, including regular cleaning of manure and spilled feed.
  • Use fly traps and screens to keep flies away from the coop.
  • Store chicken feed in sealed containers to prevent fly infestations.

Ticks and Mites

Potential Risks: Ticks and mites are external parasites that can infest chickens, causing irritation, discomfort, and potential health problems like anemia. Certain species of ticks can also transmit diseases to chickens.

Prevention Strategies:

  • Inspect your chickens regularly for signs of tick or mite infestations, such as feather loss or irritated skin.
  • Implement regular dust baths for your chickens with diatomaceous earth, which can help control external parasites.
  • Keep the coop and nesting areas clean and dry to discourage mites from taking up residence.

By being vigilant and proactive in pest control and coop management, you can minimize the risks associated with harmful insects and pests in your chicken’s environment. Regular inspections, good hygiene practices, and preventive measures will go a long way in keeping your chickens healthy and free from bug-related issues.

Q&A Can Chickens Eat That?

Russian farmer reading book about bugs

If you didn’t see the type of bug you were wondering about above, then it’s probably in the questions below. I hope this list helps you figure out what you can and can’t feed your chickens for their best health. 

  • Do chickens eat ticks?
    • Yes, chickens are known to eat ticks. Chickens are natural foragers, and they will peck at insects they find in their environment, including ticks. This can help reduce tick populations in areas where chickens roam.
  • Do chickens eat ants?
    • Yes, chickens do eat ants. Ants are a common part of a chicken’s diet when they are free-ranging. Chickens will peck at ants and consume them as a source of protein.
  • Do chickens eat spiders?
    • Chickens may eat spiders if they come across them while foraging, but spiders are not a primary part of their diet. Spiders are typically not a significant food source for chickens.
  • Do chickens eat cockroaches?
    • Yes, chickens will readily eat cockroaches. Cockroaches are a good source of protein, and chickens are known to hunt and consume them if given the opportunity.
  • Do chickens eat crickets?
    • Yes, chickens enjoy eating crickets. Crickets are a good source of protein and are often used as a treat for chickens or as part of their diet.
  • Do chickens eat wasps?
    • Chickens may eat wasps if they come across them, but it’s not a preferred food source. Chickens might avoid wasps due to their stingers and the potential for getting stung.
  • Do chickens eat flies?
    • Yes, chickens will eat flies. Flies are a common insect found around chicken coops and are often consumed by chickens. See the note above about flies carrying disease and keeping your coop clean.
  • Do chickens eat bees?
    • Chickens may eat bees if they encounter them while foraging, but it’s not a common or preferred food source. Bees can sting, so chickens might avoid them.
  • Do chickens eat mosquitoes?
    • Chickens will eat mosquitoes if they can catch them while foraging. Mosquitoes are small and flying insects, making them potential prey for chickens.
  • Do chickens eat grasshoppers?
    • Yes, chickens enjoy eating grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are a good source of protein and are a natural part of a chicken’s diet when they are free-ranging.
  • Do chickens eat worms?
    • Yes, chickens love to eat worms. Worms are a highly prized treat for chickens and are rich in protein. Many chicken owners feed their birds mealworms and earthworms as supplements.
  • Do chickens eat slugs?
    • Chickens will eat slugs if they find them while foraging. Slugs are a source of protein, and chickens may consume them as part of their natural diet.

Chickens have a diverse diet and will consume a variety of insects and other small creatures when they are free-ranging or when provided with such treats as supplements. These insects can provide valuable protein and nutrients to their diet as well as entertainment. Maybe your chickens need a challenge in their day to keep them happy and alert; insects can provide that challenge. 

I hope this post has answered some of your questions about insects and chickens. For more information about other types of home-grown foods, check out our articles on chickens and vegetables and chickens and fruits. Happy chicken keeping!

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