When chickens free-range, they’re constantly grazing and looking for morsels of natural food. Chickens will eat some weird and wonderful things and some things which they find will get them much more excited than others.
Chickens are omnivores which means they eat a mix of both plant-based food and live food. Creepy crawlies are some of their absolute favourites, especially worms, slugs and even larger animals such as mice or frogs, but does this list also include snails?
In short, chickens do enjoy eating snails which they unearth as they’re grazing. Snails are protein-rich and generally safe for chickens to eat providing they’re wormed and there’s no chance the snail has been near slug pellets or poison.
Read on to find out more about how chickens eat snails when they’re inside a shell, where and when they can find them, along with tips on avoiding potential dangers involved with chickens eat live snails.
How Chickens get Snails Out of the Shell
One of my absolute favourite things about keeping chickens is watching them graze, they’re like eating machines and they put so much effort into scratching for the best possible food morsels.
Where we live there are lots of snails around in the warmer months so these are one of the main delicacies which our hens go hunting for. If one chicken finds a snail, she quickly runs away with it to make sure none of the others steals her prize, although the others usually spot it and go chasing after her.
The snail is usually hidden deep within the shell, so to get it out the chicken will start to drop it on a hard surface and smash at it with their beak to break the shell apart. This smashing action exposes the snail inside, which they’ll quickly eat.
I’ve even seen them taking snails to the same flat stone, which they use as an anvil to smash the snails up, this is a similar method used by wild birds such as blackbirds and thrushes.
It can sometimes be a battle of the pecking order so in some cases the finder of the snail might not get to eat it because it gets stolen by a hen who is higher up the pecking order.
Where do Chickens Find Snails?
Depending on where in the world you live, snails can be more common in some areas than others. They like damp places where there’s plenty of vegetation around to feed on and will hide away during the colder months.
Their love of munching through vegetation makes them one of the top garden pests for many gardeners and vegetable growers.
Snails generally come out at night when there are fewer predators around and because it’s generally easier for them to move around in damper, cooler conditions.
During the day, snails will normally stay hidden, but once chickens get a taste for them they’ll get to know their hiding places and pick them out.
Common places where we see chickens finding snails are between rocks in a stone wall, under leaf litter and under hedgerows and bushes. Chickens have powerful feet which can scratch and unearth snails which are hiding at ground level.
It’s not just snails which they find in this way, they’ll also eat slugs, worms and other insects which they unearth as they come across them.
Is it Ok For Chickens to Eat Snails?
It’s generally pretty safe for chickens to eat snails, but there are a few things to be aware of if your chickens regularly graze for snails, slugs and worms.
Other than snails, consider other foods in this list your chicken can eat.
Using Slug and Snail Poison/Pellets When You Keep Chickens
Although slug pellets are nowhere near as toxic as they used to be, it’s better not to use them in an area where chickens could eat a poisoned snail or slug.
A low dose shouldn’t affect the chicken, however, it’s never ideal to allow them to eat anything which is potentially toxic.
Apart from letting your chickens eat the snails which could be threatening your garden plants, there are other methods you can use instead of poison, these include:
- Beer traps
- Copper tape
- Crushed egg or nutshells
By placing grit and other similar textured coverings on the ground around the areas you don’t want snails to go will help to keep them away.
It’s also easy to manually remove them at night time when they come out, just shine a torch at the ground on a damp night and you’ll spot them.
Snails Can Carry Gapeworms
Gapeworms are a parasite which can live harmlessly inside snails, slugs and worms until the host is eaten by a chicken (or other bird).
The worm can attach it’s self to the inside of the chicken’s throat, which can lead to the chicken becoming seriously ill and in many cases, it can be fatal.
Fortunately, this is not that common and chickens can be treated to prevent gapeworm (which I’ll Cover next)
How to Prevent Chickens From Getting Gapeworm From Snails
Although gapeworm can sound pretty alarming you can protect your chickens from this type of worm along with other types by treating them regularly with Flubenvet worm treatment.
The easiest way to treat a flock of chickens is by using a medicated layers pellet feed which also contains Flubenvet as an additive.
It’s easy to use and all you need to do is feed your flock as normal with the Flubenvet feed for seven days and then go back to their usual feed once the seven days is up.
Doing this simple feed swap for a week every six months will protect the chickens and help to keep worms at bay.
You might also find the following article helpful on more information on how to use Flubenvet and where to buy:
Should you Feed Snails to Chickens?
Some chicken keepers will feed chickens all the snails they find, personally, I think it’s better to let them find the snails themselves.
Grazing for natural food is what chickens love to do most and finding an exciting treat along the way, keeps them searching for more, which in turn keeps them happy and stops them getting bored.
Like many other living creatures which chickens graze for, snails are high in protein, they’re a great addition to their diet along with seeds and vegetation which they’ll also find as they scratch.
It’s important for chickens to get all the nutrients they need and they get this in a complete feed. So treats like snails are an added bonus to their diet, but shouldn’t be used as a replacement.
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