It's ok for them to have some if they like it. Mine prefer alfalfa though, they love to go around the bales and clean up the leafy powdery stuff that falls out when I break the bales up.
wow I did not know they like alfalfa...I have a bag left over that my guinea pigs refuse to eat. and I wasn't sure what to do with it. My guinea pigs prefer orchard hay. So now that i know this I will give them little bits here and there. thanks for the info :)
Wow, this is the first time I've heard of using any kind of hay as a feed for chickens. I've read lots of debate on here about hay vs. straw in the nesting boxes. One of the debates is which one they are more likely to eat. People express this concern because of the occurrence of impacted crops from eating hey or straw (hay seems to be more likely to cause this.) I can see their eating the dust from it, the little pieces, but.... But then I have no idea what orchard hay is. I just go to the feed store, buy a bale of hay, and use it in the nest boxes. I hae no idea what kind it is.
They typically won't eat the big stemmy pieces, just the easily swallowed leafy bits.

It doesn't really work well as a feed by itself that I am aware of. It just makes a nice toy/treat to keep them busy.
I think you do need to be careful with the long bits.

Some months ago one of my younger chicks must have taken a piece from the nesting box. When I saw her she had a 6-7inch piece sticking out of her beak, the rest inside. Didn't seem to bother her much, but bothered me a lot. I went indoors got the siscors and cut the piece off right at the beak. After that she was OK. She may have been Ok if I had left it, just wasn't taking any chances.
Mine would eat entire bales a month in winter of either straw or hay with no issues. Personally I think those who have suffered problems from it had something else going on. An already existing health issue that made them more sensitive, didn't eat enough grit, or decided to eat only an excessive amount of hay for several days. Nearly everyone I know uses hay or straw in the nest box and has their chickens eat a fair amount of it with problems being rare.

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