Anyone who has spent time around chickens knows they love to forage. The chicken’s favorite pastime is scratching around the yard or pasture in search of bugs, grass, and seeds. If you have chickens of your own, you may be wondering what grass is best for chickens? Is grass even safe for chickens to eat? Today, we will discuss all that and more.
Is Grass Safe For Chickens To Eat?
Many people may be under the assumption that grass is just a supplemental part of a chicken’s diet. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Some of the best grass for chickens provides the variety and omega-3s that they require. Chickens who have a well-balanced diet of protein, grass, and seed feed tend to have healthier eggs. Therefore, the shells are more durable, and the yolks darker in color. These are signs that your chicken is getting all of the proper nutrition.
If your chickens are being bred for food, feeding a balanced diet will give you the best meat. Also, chickens with a well-rounded diet produce more meat with better taste. It’s safe to say that having the best grass for chickens should be at the top of every chicken owner’s list.
What To Look For?
Before we talk about the types of grass chickens love best, we need to talk about what to look for. Not all grass will serve the same purpose or be of the best quality.
The first thing you need to look for is a grass that grows well in your area. If you live in extreme climates, it can be harder to grow grass that others seem to have good luck with. Many people have success with choosing a grass variety that is green for most of the year in their climates. You may also want to plant different seed varieties in the winter and summer months to achieve green grass all year. Green grass is what the chickens will eat. If your grass dies in seasonal changes, you might look for new varieties to plant during those months.
Secondly, you will want to look for variety. Planting one type of seed isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But the more of a mixture you have, the more complete your chicken’s diet will be. Different grass types will provide a variety of vitamins and nutrients. Some grass types are higher in protein, while others are higher in calcium. Keeping healthy chickens requires providing them with the most nutrients possible.
Along with variety, you will need to choose a hearty grass seed. Chickens will scratch, peck, and eat this grass, so it needs to be strong enough. Selecting a seed that quickly grows back is best. That way, you won’t have to reseed the yard every few weeks.
You will also want to choose organic seeds. Some grass seeds that are for yard turf are different from seeds that are safe for your chickens. Some of them are modified to contain bug repellants, and some have fertilizers in them. Therefore, choosing the wrong type of seed can affect your hen’s ability to lay eggs and the quality of meat they produce.
And lastly, the type of grass that you use should not be long and tough. Chickens typically only eat the tops of the grass, but if the grass is too tough, they will over-eat. If your chickens try to eat pieces that are too tough or too long, this could cause crop impaction.
What Grass Is Best For Chickens?
Now we will talk about some of the best grass for chickens. Some of these grass types are known to be chicken favorites and are easy to grow. Some of them are easy to grow and survive in almost any conditions. And some of these are technically weeds or flowers, but chickens love them all the same.
White clover is not technically a grass; it is still packed with essential vitamins for chickens. Clover is known to grow in colder climates before grass can take root. Clover is also fantastic because it is durable and can regerminate quickly. Clovers can be very high in calcium, vitamins A and B, iron, and potassium. When pickings are thin, these are a nutritious and healthy snack.
Oat grass is amazing for yards that have little light. These grass types grow best in partial shade and cooler weather. They make great fall and early spring seeds as they reproduce quickly. Your chickens will love grazing at their seeds. Oat grass is higher in protein than some grass and still provides a variety of other nutrients like calcium.
If you have laying hens ryegrass is safe to feed them. Rye is a great treat to feed as long as it doesn’t take up more than 40% of their daily food intake. Rye can be plated in the spring and will survive most cold and warm weather. The only caution is to not feed rye to hens used for meat. Rye can slow growth and can lead to congenital disabilities of chicks.
This late summer grass can be planted for a mild winter or early spring crop. Chickens love to peck around at the alfalfa for its rich vitamins and nutrients. Moreover, this grass is exceptionally high in omega-3, which is excellent for eggers. Your eggs will be rich and flavorful with alfalfa in the chicken’s diet.
If you need a hearty plant that germinates through lots of heavy traffic, this is for you. Bird’s-foot it known to grow well in poor conditions and low-quality soil. This plant thrives in the summer and flowers beautifully. But, a word of caution about these flowers. They can become invasive in some areas. If they get out of control, they could take over your yard.
One of the most common grass types for chickens is fescue. Fescue can survive most climates as long as they get water. They also spread and germinate quickly, which can save you money. The seeded heads are excellent nutrition for your chickens. Some even argue that these can be the best grass for chickens in all states.
Grass Seed Mixes
All of the grasses listed above are great for chickens. Also, most owners like to plant a mixture of all these in their yards to keep their chickens healthy and happy. Mixing these grass seeds can give you a lawn all year round and a balanced diet for the hens. When combining these grasses, there are a few tricks that seasoned chicken owners use.
The right proportions are significant when mixing seeds. Chickens typically don’t eat something if they know it will hurt them, but its better safe than sorry. Most seed mixes contain 80-90% grass seed (mostly various types of fescue), 2-4% clover, 2% alfalfa, and the rest is foraging herbs. Creating your own mix that will thrive best in your area is the most cost-effective solution.
Commercial Chicken Grass Seed
For those of you who don’t have the time, there is also pre-mixed grass seed. These mixes have a guaranteed analysis and are safe for all chickens.
Premium Chick’s Mix
This seed mix is excellent for most of the USA. It grows at a fast pace of 7-14 days and provides a great variety to your chickens. Also, this mix is best for eggers since the added omega-3 fatty acids have proven to produce better eggs. This mixture can also give you a green yard all year round when cared for properly. The Premium Chick’s Mix carries most of the seeds that make it the best grass for chickens.
Nature’s Seed Mid-West
The mid-west is known for snaps of cold followed by unusually warm weather. Because, summers are hot and humid, and the winters cold and icy. It can be hard to find a mix that goes well in this area. However, Nature’s seed has done the hard work for you by compiling all the best grass seed for this area. They know what chickens love, and they do their best to deliver.
Nature’s Seed Southern Sub-Tropics
Another area that is hard to find the perfect mix for is the Southern states. These areas have a mild winter, but suffocating summers. It can be hard to find a combination that does well all year. Nature’s seed is at it again by providing you with the best variety for the South. Your chickens will never do without.
Poultry Pasture Forage and Fodder Seeds
These seeds make an excellent treat for your chickens. They grow a variety of different grass, legumes, and clover. Since they grow quickly, you should have new sprouts in a matter of days. This combination is the cherry on top of the cake for chickens. It provides lots of protein and extra vitamins that they can’t get from grass alone. Also, these seeds grow best through most of the USA.
So What Grass Is Best For Chickens?
With so many types of grass, it is impossible to narrow it down to one. In reality, chickens aren’t that picky about what they eat. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care. The best grass depends on where you live, and what you are using your chickens for. And, even the most seasoned chicken owners might tell you two different grass types. It’s all about finding the right balance in diet and the ability to grow it. What are some of your favorite grass types?
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!