Raising chickens can be an enjoyable activity if you know what you are doing. So it is important to know as much as possible about your chickens, how they behave, and one of the most important aspects: what they eat.
People can often assume that chickens only eat chicken feed that consists of grain, corn, etc. But they can eat pretty much anything you give them. They are not picky at all when it comes to food consumption, so are chickens omnivores?
Are chickens omnivores?
Yes, Chickens are omnivores since they can eat and digest properly both animals and plants. Their food range is quite large. And they can eat most of the human food.
Carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores
Depending on what type of food animals usually eat, there are 3 types of animals. Accordingly, their digestive systems will adapt to process that food into nutrients, and only those foods can they digest properly.
These 3 types of animals include carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore
Carnivore animals eat mostly animal meat, whether from other animals or from their own species. Their digestive systems are adapted to process animal meat, not plants.
It doesn’t mean they can’t eat plants. They can, as supplements, but they won’t have enough nutrients from just eating plants alone. They need to eat meat to get adequate nutrients to survive.
As a result, the rest of their body parts will also adapt gradually to hunt and make digestion easier. Claws are used to easily capture prey, sharp teeth are used to roughly process the food first by tearing and crushing meat into chunks.
Birds do have carnivorous species as well, for example, big birds like hawks, vultures, and eagles. They will see chickens as prey and hunt them down and eat them.
Herbivores animals mostly eat plants. As such, their bodies are adapted to process and digest plants efficiently. Most herbivores have big molars to chew leaves and plants.
Most herbivores’ digestive system principle involves chewing the food, swallowing it, and then bringing them back for chewing the second time.
Different species can consume different parts of plants. Some can consume stems and bark, some can only consume leaves or fruits, and some can only eat dead plant material like ostriches, some ducks, and snow geese.
Omnivores are arguably the most ideal type of animal since they can plants and meat, which is almost everything. This translates to domesticated omnivores like chickens as well, they will eat most food you throw at them, so try to avoid feeding toxic food to them.
In the wild, omnivores will eat anything that is available around them. They will eat plants if there are plenty of them, the same will happen with animal-based food.
Their digestive systems can handle plants and animal-based food efficiently and extract nutrients and energy from them.
How does a chicken’s digestive system work?
First, chickens use their beaks to pick up the food, note that chickens don’t have teeth. Then, saliva and digestive enzymes are added and the food goes to the esophagus.
The food from the esophagus moves to the crop at the base of the chicken’s neck and can stay there for a long time. Then, it is moved to the gizzard.
The gizzard is the chicken’s stomach where it utilizes grits like pebbles, sands, or small and hard particles mixed with the food to grind it into smaller particles for further digestion. This works with plants and animal food quite well, and it’s why chickens don’t need teeth.
Next, the ground food goes into the small intestine so that nutrients are absorbed, then to the ceca to break down undigested food with bacteria, then the large intestine takes away the water.
From here, the remaining waste travels to the cloaca and is mixed with the chicken’s urine, then exits at the opening of the cloaca.
Some food that chickens can eat
Domesticated chickens, or in this case backyard chickens, generally eat commercial feed. It is mostly made up of animal by-products, oilseed meals, and cereal grains. Wild chickens’ diet is mostly the same as well
Commercial feed is formulated to provide chickens sufficient amounts of nutrients to stay healthy, lay good eggs, and possibly to produce better meat.
Also, chicken owners will feed the chickens leftovers, table scraps, and more to make it a treat for the chickens and add variety. The leftovers and table scraps can include grains, cereals, fruits, veggies, and many more.
They will also like to go around in the backyard and forage for some animals like worms, bugs, etc. They can also eat mice and other small animals.
Some of the food chickens eat include:
- Seeds, nuts, and grains: Rice, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, raisins, wheat, cereals with little sugar, etc.
- Fruits: Strawberry, cranberries, strawberries, apples, bananas, peaches, etc.
- Veggies: Carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, quinoa, lentil, green beans, beets, etc.
- Herbs: Oregano, cinnamons, basils, thymes, cayenne peppers.
- Animals: Many insects, worms, mealworms, river shrimps, crickets, mice, etc. Chickens can also eat other chickens as well, but that is part of their pecking order going too far.
But, don’t just go and feed your chickens every type of food you have at the moment. Try to stay away from chocolate, coffee, and skin or pits of certain fruits or plants like avocados or potato skin, etc.
So, are chickens omnivores? Yes, chickens are omnivorous animals. They are known to eat pretty much anything you feed to them, although people may assume they can only eat grains and corn.
Omnivore animals are animals that can eat and properly digest both plant and animal-based food, unlike carnivores that can only consume meat well and herbivores that can only consume plants well.
Chickens’ digestive system is adapted to perform those tasks efficiently. It has multiple stages to grind, absorb nutrients, digest further, and absorb water from the food coming in.