will chickens eat rye grass


In the Brooder
8 Years
May 17, 2011
North Florida
I am completly redoing the back yard. I am fencing a 24'x24' section of the yard for them to have as thier own. The yard has centipede grass but the area I am moving them to is shady doesn't have much grass. I was thinking about tilling up their area and throwing some rye seed to give them something to eat and run around in... Will they eat the rye grass?
Use rye cautiously. I don't feed it, even though I had the opportunity to get some.

"However, livestock and poultry feeders have been reluctant to use rye as a dietary ingredient. This reluctance may be attributed to concerns over the presence of ergot alkaloids, over anti-nutritional effects of pentosans in rye or the reduced feed intake of animals consuming rye."

the above quote is from this website
"Rye grain is not recommended for growing chickens (broilers) and turkeys due to its high level of soluble fibre which affects growth and litter quality. Rye may be fed to laying hens -- hens should be introduced to rye gradually only after hens have attained peak production (40 wk). Research has shown that egg production was not affected, provided that rye did not exceed 40% of the diet. Feed conversion with rye is typically better than a strictly barley-base diet, and/or 50:50 barley wheat diets. Soluble fibre in rye may cause sticky droppings and increased incidence of stained eggs; this can be counteracted through the use of a dietary enzyme product (pentosanase) added to the feed."

the above quote is from this website:
It dawned on me that you aren't going to necessarily feed the grain, so I did a search for just ryegrass and here is what I found:

The below quote is from this website:


"Perennial ryegrass contains an endophyte (Neotyphodium lolii) which while is important in improving plant performance and resistance, this endophyte produces ergot alkaloids which include ergovaline and lolitrem B, responsible for reducing livestock health and performance and causing ryegrass staggers in animals. These toxins are at their highest levels from spring until autumn. Higher toxin levels are more common when the ryegrass pollinates and during rapid new-season growth following summer and autumn rain. Tall fescue is another pasture, which is commonly infected with the Neotyphodium endophyte."

(So I don't really know if the above quote has anything to do with chickens, but I thought I would give you the link. Sorry I can't be of more assistance.)
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Rye (the grain), Annual Ryegrass, and Perennial Ryegrass are three different plants. Although the ryegrasses can be contaminated with an endophyte (that I know can be toxic to horses and cattle in large quantities, don't know about poultry), my understanding is that this is concentrated mostly in the seedhead. As long as you don't let the grass go to seed (that is, you keep it mowed), you should be safe. Annual ryegrass germinates and establishes a lawn very quickly. I guess I wouldn't hesitate to use it. If you're really concerned, you can buy endophyte-free grass that's especially for making pastures.

Doing a little research , Agway claims that the endophyte that infects ryegrass is of no concern to grazing animals. Other sources say the endophyte is the same one in fescue, which I know has the possiblility of toxicity, although many graziers use fescues for livestock without any problems. Either way, the grass will not be the sole or main source of nutrition for your chickens the way it is for grazing animals.
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Awesome job!
Thanks for the help. I just thought that its easy to grow and it would give them some nice green stuff to run around in. They freerange in a well manicured backyard most of the time. They keep leaving me presents on my patio and i want them to have thier own area. I am also planting lots of vegtables and fruit so i need to keep them out of my garden. Any suggestions to what kind of ground cover i can plant in thier area that will give them a treat and keep them from running around in just dirt. They are a bit spoiled.
I can share my experience with chickens- I originally moved their fencing around and tried to regrow my grass in areas for them to graze on. (I have a very large garden for them to run in.)

I also had a LOT of chickens at the time. I have downsized, but what I discovered is that they eat the new grass so fast and scratch it up so quickly that eventually the grass is gone.

I then tried digging up sod one square per day or two and depositing it in the run like a pizza, for them to clean off, then returning the now-bare chunk of dirt to a hole. They loved it, but it was a lot of work.

Now I have found what works for me. I use yard scissors to clip (or pull up with my hands) 2-3 inch grass clippings, clover, dandeliion leaves, etc.

I give this to them every day. They get greens for health and I don't have to do much work. I have a tiller, too, but I don't want to kill all those earthworms for nothing because they will scratch it up too fast.

Rotational grazing might work for you.

If you divide your total area into paddocks (there was a thread on that recently), you can keep them off the land long enough for it to grow whatever crop you desire. It is also called the Balfour method.

You might plant clover, since I have noticed that my chickens go for the clover first, then eat the grass when that is gone. They also love dandelion leaves. I have grown millet for them and let them get the seeds off themselves when ready (when it was a garden and they were in a run).

Also- please be sure to note that you want to keep any matter you give them short, as long fibrous material (like long grass or hay) can cause impacted crop.
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The question is will they eat rye grass--the answer is yes, right down to the ground and then dig up the roots. As long as all the seed has germinated once the birds are loosed onto it, they should be fine.

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