Why do chickens eat litter?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by LaurelRidgeDreams, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. LaurelRidgeDreams

    LaurelRidgeDreams Songster

    Jan 23, 2010
    Mountains of NC
    Why do chickens eat litter? Are they missing something in their diet?
  2. booker81

    booker81 Redneck Tech Girl

    Apr 18, 2010
    I think it's more because chickens will eat anything they can get through their beak, and that doesn't eat them first [​IMG] Mine try to eat DH's cigarette butts [​IMG]

    Just make sure they have good food, clean water, some dirt/gravel for digestion, and calcium if they are laying.
  3. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    Chances are they aren't actually eating the litter, but just scratching and pecking through it looking for whatever they can find. They do this because it's a chicken's nature to scratch. It's how they naturally find their food. Even if all of their food is in a feeder they're going to scratch and if they can get into the feeder they'll happily scratch all the feed out. Scratching is natural. Feeders are not.

    For my chicks in the brooder I use their scratching instincts to work for me by spreading rolled oats over their bedding every other day or so to encourage them to keep the litter turned up and fluffy. The same for grown birds on deep litter. They're going to do it regardless so may as well make it work for me while they are.
  4. AbbyDog

    AbbyDog In the Brooder

    Dec 2, 2010
    be careful, tho', because I used to throw scratch into the coop to get them to jump in at night (through the outside door) and then they would scratch around through the wood chip bedding to find the grain. Well, two weeks ago i caught a molty hen picking through the bedding and I witnessed her eating the chips. Then last week, I picked her up and saw that her crop was completely hard and impacted. After waiting a few days for it to clear, which it never did, she had the crop surgery and her crop was full of nasty wood chips. I am never going to throw scratch into the bedding again.
  5. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    I always throw BOSS in my deep litter to keep them turning it....they love to scratch and look for the little black "bugs". Never had a chicken with an impacted crop all these many years...maybe some chickens are just smarter than others? [​IMG]
  6. LaurelRidgeDreams

    LaurelRidgeDreams Songster

    Jan 23, 2010
    Mountains of NC
    I have seen mine eating shavings and do not throw anything in the coop for them to scratch and find. They eat layer crumbles and I wonder if they are looking for something with more fiber to eat. My horses will chew wood in the summer if all they have to eat is grass. I give them a little hay each day and the wood chewing stops.

    Just wondering. Maybe I should give them a little cracked corn?

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