What do Wild Chickens eat?
Long before people had backyard chicken coops, chickens roamed freely in the wild. It's probably the reason they run so fast! Can you imagine the dangers for a poor little chicken in the wild?
Even though we don't see wild chickens running around the Australian bush, there are still countries where chickens roam in the wild. These types of birds are also known as Wild Fowl or Jungle Fowl.
Being able to express the same behaviours as wild chickens helps keep our backyard pets and egg-producers in the best condition. This includes foraging, eating insects and ingesting shell grit or gravel for better digestion.
Chickens love Slimy, Gooey Worms
In the wild, chickens forage for food on and in the ground. When a chicken forages, it looks like they are biting the ground. What they are really doing is using their beak to find food. Their beak is a handy tool to flick away small branches and to peak under leaves for juicy morsels.
The ground in the bush is full worms and beetles which chickens find wonderfully juicy and tasty. Insects are high protein and other nutrients which are all necessary for healthy egg production.
Now you might think eating a gooey worm is pretty gross but chooks love them. Here is a list of some of the other things chooks eat in the wild.
Insects chickens love to eat in the wild:
Believe it or not, out of that whole list, chickens love flies and maggots the most.
If you don't have a backyard full of worms or beetles, you can give chickens dried mealworms. Chickens find that they are a very tasty treat and you can use mealworms to teach your chickens tricks.
In the wild chickens will also feast on plants, fruits, seeds and berries. Chickens are very fond of berries, and if they are lucky enough to come across a low lying berry bush they will raid it for fruit.
Try to give chickens room to forage:
What we learn from a chicken's behaviour in the wild is that they need room to forage, much like their ancestors. Not only is this good for their diet but it also improves their behaviour. Feather pecking and bullying are much less common in flocks that are allowed to forage.
Chickens that are stuck in a small coop without anything to keep them amused are more likely to peck each other. So if you can, look at how you can make a safe place in your backyard for the chickens to walk around and stretch their legs. If you have grass and gardens, your chickens will love to explore and find insects and maybe even some tasty plants.
Just remember, if you have a leafy vegetable garden, you need to make sure the chickens can't get to it, or they will have a long lunch enjoying your prized lettuce!