When it comes to natural food, corn is probably one of the most accessible and affordable options there is. You can find it in grocery stores, local produce stands, and probably even your neighbor’s farm. As such, many poultry farmers consider adding corn to their flock’s diet. However, many still ask: Can chickens eat corn?
This article will cover
- Can chickens eat corn?
- What type of corn can chickens eat?
- Will chickens have a problem digesting corn?
- Does corn make chickens overheat?
- Nutritional value of corn
- How much corn should you feed chickens?
- Preparing corn for chicken feeding
Can Chickens Eat Corn?
Let’s cut to the chase. Can chickens eat corn? Yes, it is entirely safe to feed your chickens corn. Is it wrong for your flock? Well, if given in moderation, then the answer is no.
As a natural food, primarily when grown organically, corn is a healthy option for feeding. While it has good nutritional content, it is less packed with many nutrients and minerals than other vegetables.
Chickens need more than just carbohydrates to have optimum health. They need a balanced diet with a good mix of all the nutrients crucial for body processes, growth, and development.
That said, chickens can eat corn, but poultry enthusiasts highly recommend giving it a treat rather than a primary diet.
What Type of Corn Can Chickens Eat?
Now that we have answered the question: can chickens eat corn? Your next question would probably be about the types of corn chickens can eat.
There are different varieties of corn, with each having its nutritional value. Moreover, corn can be prepared and consumed in various ways. Let’s have a rundown on the types of corn chickens can eat.
Maize is another term for corn in other regions of the world. If you own a farm and grow your maize, you can give freshly harvested maize to your chickens. They will most likely enjoy pecking at it. When spare a few minutes, remove kernels from the cob before feeding it to your flock.
Corn on the Cob
Can chickens eat corn on the cob? Either cooked or raw, you can throw a corn cob to your chickens as a snack. It has no problem, as chickens will gladly peck at the cob to get the kernels. Many chicken raisers enjoy watching their flock peck on whole corn.
Want to save your flock the hassle of pecking at kernels? Give them cracked corn instead!
Cracked corn is corn left to dry and eventually cracked into smaller pieces to make it easier for birds to consume. This is readily available in the market, though you can also make your own at home.
Some chicken raisers prepare frozen corn treats for their flocks for the summer months. To make these cooling treats, put corn kernels in a muffin or ice cube tray, add water, and let it freeze. Pop the frozen treat out and give it to your chickens.
Frozen corn treats are perfect for sunny days as they are good refreshments to combat the heat. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make frozen corn pops for your chickens:
Don’t have access to fresh corn? No worries! Pre-packed corn in a tin can is also available in the market. Canned corn is as safe for chickens to eat as it is for humans.
However, salt and water are added to preserve canned corn. While water is harmless, the salt content might cause problems for your chickens, especially when given in large amounts.
Corn in Meal Leftovers
Feeding chickens leftovers and table scraps is one way to cut food waste. Corn in your meals is okay for feeding to chickens.
However, keep it to a minimum, as spices and other ingredients such as salt and condiments may harm your chickens’ health when given too much.
Corn husks, or the green coating of corn cobs, are often discarded and put to waste. Here’s an interesting fact! This part of the corn is safe for chicken consumption, too.
The downside is that it has little to no nutritional content, so your flock will not get nutrients from it.
Chickens are natural foragers but will probably ignore corn husks as they are less enticing than kernels.
Will Chickens Have a Problem Digesting Corn?
Those who eat corn probably have noticed some parts of the corn, like the kernel’s outer shell called the pericarp, are not digested properly. This is because the human body does not have the enzymes to break down the cellulose that makes up this shell.
If so, will your chickens have trouble digesting corn too? The answer is no.
Chickens have a unique digestive system. Even though they don’t have teeth to crush their food into tiny pieces, many parts of their digestive tract are built to do food breakdown.
They have the gizzard — an organ that serves as the machine that further breaks down particles into tiny pieces.
Of course, it is possible because of different gut bacteria naturally present in the gut and grit. You should make sure your chickens have access to grit to help them digest whatever food they take in.
Find the chicken digestive system interesting? Watch this video for a comprehensive yet simple explanation of how your fowl digests food:
Does Corn Make Chickens Overheat?
The myth that corn makes chickens overheat stems from the thinking that corn is a “hot food.” It is considered such because it keeps chickens warm but does not make them overheat.
Corn does not make chickens feel hot, per se. It does not even have the ability to raise body temperature. Instead, corn can make chickens warm, especially during cold months, because it has high-calorie content, which, in turn, pumps their metabolism.
The more calories a particular food has, the more energy it will give your chickens. This energy can be used in daily activities or to keep their bodies warm in cold conditions.
Nutritional Value of Corn
There are different varieties of corn worldwide, and they differ in nutritional content. However, the difference is usually in the amount rather than the kinds of nutrients.
Corn is generally high in calories and rich in fiber which is suitable for the digestive system. It is also packed with carbohydrates making it a good energy source for your chickens’ activities throughout the day.
Though in minimal amounts, corn also contains vitamins B, E, K, and magnesium. According to a medically reviewed article, an ear of sweet corn has the following nutrients:
|Vitamin C||3.6 g|
How Much Corn Should You Feed Chickens?
Too much of anything can be harmful. This statement rings true even when it comes to food.
Corn is best given as treats or snacks to poultry. Veterinarians and poultry enthusiasts don’t recommend making it an essential part of your chicken’s diet or a substitute for chicken feed. This is because it does not contain all the nutrients needed for growth and development.
With this, chicken owners should occasionally give small amounts of corn as treats. A tablespoon of corn once a week is a good amount.
You can alternate different fruits and vegetables as snacks and treats for your chickens. Doing this will ensure your chickens get different kinds of vitamins and minerals. On top of that, it also gives them variety in terms of flavor and texture.
Risks of Feeding Corn on Chickens
Much like any food, you can’t rely on it to be the primary source of nutrition for your chickens (other than feeds). This fact is the same with your chickens regarding feeding corn. That said, here are some risks of feeding corn to your flock!
Fortunately, this drawback can be minimized easily. Just remember to serve the corn in the right amount while maintaining high-quality feed as the primary source of your flock’s nutrition.
While corns are high in carbs, they are still low in protein and other essential nutrients a chicken needs. So, make sure that along with feeding the occasional corn, a nutritious feed is still their primary source of nutrition for your flock.
Remember, nutrients are the cornerstone of your flock’s health. So, if you want to maintain good egg and meat production, keep corn in a healthy serving.
Eating the starchy grain too fast and too much (which chickens are known to do!) and consuming it as a lone food source eventually leads to some ‘ digestive distress’ amongst these animals. Also, if the grain becomes stuck, it can irritate the digestive tract of the bird and consequently results in breathing complications and bloating.
Lack of Dietary Fiber
Riding off the previous point, corn is relatively low in dietary fiber, a nutrient essential for proper digestion in chickens. This lacking can result in diarrhea and impacted crop or gizzard, leading to discomfort and potential health issues.
When chickens do not have enough dietary fiber in their diet, they may develop problems with digestion such as troubles in the stomach or intestinal tract. In chronic cases, birds can become lethargic, have poor egg production, and have health issues such as anemia from decreased absorption.
Impact on Egg Quality
A diet that is too high in corn can push out other essential nutrients chickens need for good health, which will ultimately lead to decreased egg-laying. Chickens require a balanced diet of protein sources, calcium, and fats from poultry grit, and insects. All of which are found foraging for food outside rather than contained within a bowl of soaked cracked corn.
Preparing Corn for Chicken Feeding
As mentioned earlier, you can buy corn in different forms, such as whole corn on a cob or canned corn. In the same way, you can prepare corn for chicken feeding in different ways.
Probably the most convenient way of feeding corn to your flock is by giving it in one piece. Can chickens eat corn on a cob? Can you feed a chicken whole corn? The answer to both questions is yes.
You can take the easiest route and throw your raw or cooked corn on a cob to your chickens for them to flock over. It’s also much easier to clean up, as having the kernels on the cob can contain them.
If you want to keep them entertained, you can tie it to a piece of string and let it hang. Chickens will go near that and peck at the hanging corn. This serves as a good exercise and activity to pass the time for your chickens.
Another option is to feed your chickens cracked corn. First, dry your corn kernels. After which, break it down into smaller pieces, commonly with the use of a grinding machine. Cracked corn is common among birds as it is easy to peck at.
For months in hot weather, you can make frozen treats by freezing kernels and water. Serve it to your chickens frozen so they get both a snack and refreshments.
Because corn is relatively cheap and easy to get, many chicken raisers ask: Can chickens eat corn? Yes, chickens can eat corn regardless if it is fresh, canned, processed, or frozen. In a nutshell, corn is good natural food for chickens, but only to be given as treats and in moderation.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch.