Do Chickens Need Grass? [Advice & Recommendations]

A question I’ve seen recently on a couple of forums from some new chicken parents is “Do chickens need grass?”. We all know chickens will certainly eat grass but is it essential for their diet? If a chicken doesn’t have access to grass with it will it die?

Chickens do not need grass, chickens in fact eat very little grass and get most of their nutrients from bugs and insects which live within the grass.

do chickens need grass

Yes, I know a ridiculous question. The truth is chickens do not need to eat grass. Chickens are omnivores which means they have a similar diet to humans.  The grass is certainly one of the easiest, cheapest, and most convenient ways to provide food for your chickens but it can be replaced with other foods with similar nutritional content.

Common sense tip – Bare in mind if you do want to provide grass to your chickens ensure it’s free from any chemicals that could hurt our feathered friends.

It’s important to understand that chickens forage for other types of food in the grass and dirt-eating things like bugs and insects are sources of protein.  A healthy chicken needs a diet that consists of different nutrients and vitamins. These can be supplemented with various grains and pulses. I also wouldn’t rely on your grass surviving for very long unless there is a large amount of it. Chickens will decimate areas of grass even pulling out the roots if able to. Don’t be surprised if your plot of land looks like a moonscape or a dessert after a short period of time. An alternative is just to feed your chickens, fresh greens, or grass clippings as opposed to letting them decimate your plot of grass.

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Variety is important for “chicken welfare”. Many owners recommend feeding many different types of greens to their chickens. We should try to keep a natural diet for chickens and stay away from supplements when possible.

What Grass Is Best for Chickens?

When considering which grass is best for chickens I would try to stay away from just one single type of grass and instead focus on a wide variety of grass, weeds, or even certain flowers. A wider range of different nutrients is the best solution for keeping healthy chickens. Most chicken owners will use a big mixture of seeds usually containing up to 15 different varieties of different seeds all in different quantities depending on importance. 

When growing/picking your grass try to aim for grass that grows to around the shoulder height of the chickens. Chickens are prey animals and like to be able to above the grass to see what’s going on. They also prefer grass with broader leaves that they’re able to peck parts off. 

chicken stood next to grass

I recommend watching this video from John Suscovich

He’s an experienced farmer and goes into much more detail than given here. If you have time and want to explore this subject in more depth then it’s a must-watch. 

As you may already know there are many different types of grass. When picking a type of grass we need to consider a couple of factors. Some grass seeds will only grow in certain conditions whilst some will grow in almost any conditions. Some grass chickens will love to eat and others not so much. So let’s have a look at some popular examples and see what grass is best for our chickens. A good diverse mixture is generally recommended but here are some of our favorites if we had to choose. 

Oat Grass

Oat grass is a popular type of grass for many reasons. The first is that it can grow in almost any season even braving the winter in countries with a milder climates. Oat grass can be sown effortlessly with no need for any digging and grows with a strong root that remains planted even when chickens pull at the shoot. Oat grass also has a considerably high amount of protein in comparison to other types of grass. Lastly, oat grass is a fast-growing grass. It grows quickly and reproduces at a fast rate.

Lucerne or Alfalfa

Both Lucerne and Alfalfa are great sources of protein and vitamins including vitamin h, vitamin k, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. These are a go-to favorite for many chicken owners and will good reason. It’s cheap and grows quickly and can survive in most climates without any issues.

Lambsquarter

Lambsquarter although technically a weed deserves a mention. Weeds are actually great alternatives to grass and although there are many benefits of grass these can be found in weeds too.

It’s great for chickens. Lambsquarter actually has a nickname “The fat hen”. With a nickname like that, it’s not surprising to find out that chickens love to eat this plant. Lambsquarter is known for being extremely nutritious and will most certainly help your chickens become healthy and happy.

beautiful picture of grass

Please always do your own individual research into whatever items you decide to feed your chickens, when looking for advice on this subject I encountered numerous websites and forum posts recommending various types of grass which are actually harmful to chickens so please do some background research on the individual types to ensure the information is correct. 

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If you keep chickens I’d be interested in hearing what you usually feed them. Feel free to leave a comment if you enjoyed this article.