Can Chickens Eat Hay?

Pet chickens are amazing birds to have as pets!

They pretty much eat anything

If you have chickens then you may be wondering – Can chickens eat hay?

Chickens love to eat many different things – including hay. Chickens won’t generally gravitate towards hay, as they prefer to eat other foods, but they can certainly eat it if needed. In fact, they will probably prefer the little insects and other tidbits they can find within the hay rather than the hay itself. But if you are looking to feed hay to your chickens, alfalfa can be a great choice as chickens love to eat it.

Here’s what you’re going to discover in this article

  • Is hay safe for chickens?
  • How do you feed hay to chickens?
  • Should you put hay in your chickens coop?
  • Is straw bad for chickens?

Lots to cover

Let’s get started!

Is Hay Safe For Chickens?

Can Chickens Eat Hay?

Hay is completely safe for chickens.

Hay could be an option to put as bedding in your chicken coop (more about this later on) and it can also be a food option.

Although chickens won’t normally eat hay and would prefer to eat other foods, they can eat it.

Even chickens that may seem to enjoy hay may lose interest in it after a while.

It’s better to try feeding your chicken another nutritious food instead of hay.

At the very least, hay provides some entertainment for chickens on a dry winter day.

As there won’t be too much for them to peck on around the garden, hay could be fun for chickens to explore.

Hay normally comes with a few surprises such as little grubs, seeds, and even little bits of green inside.

Those little surprises will not only be fun to look for but also great to eat!

Okay, so now that we know it’s okay to feed chickens hay

Let’s look at how you can feed it to them (if this is what you’re planning on doing)

How Do You Feed Chickens Hay?

Most chickens won’t enjoy eating hay.

It’s not a very nutritious snack and it isn’t delicious either.

However, in the middle of the winter, it could be a great and inexpensive food option for your chickens.

If you are looking to feed your chickens hay, keep in mind that your chickens won’t generally eat the hay itself but rather the insects, seeds and other prizes found in the bale.

While it is difficult to say that the chickens will eat the hay you give them, this may not be the case for alfalfa hay.

Alfalfa hay is a great snack for chickens and even chickens that don’t love to eat hay will devour this in an instant.

Alfalfa can be found easily in any pet store and is a great source of protein for chickens.

It should be noted that hay, even alfalfa, should not ever be used as an alternative to a balanced diet.

Alfalfa can certainly be used as a snack or a side to a chicken’s main feed, but it can’t fully replace the nutrients found in proper chicken feed.

Should I Put Hay In My Chicken Coop?

It is up to you to decide what to use as bedding for your chicken coop.

However, the reality is that hay is made to be food, not bedding.

Putting hay in the chicken coop can come with a couple of disadvantages:

  1. It is hard to clean – chickens poop a lot and they poop everywhere. To keep a chicken coop nice and clean for your birds is not going to be easy if they poop all over their own bedding. You won’t be able to remove the manure without replacing the entire bedding.
  2. It can grow mold and bacteria – hay can easily harbor mold and bacteria that are dangerous for your poultry. It can also severely harm your bird’s immune system.

On the other hand, hay could potentially be a good and cheap option for you if you clean out the coop often enough to discourage mold and bacteria growth.

Is Straw Bad For Chickens?

Straw and hay are often mistaken for the same thing, but straw is actually made to be bedding material whereas hay is manufactured as food.

Straw is a great bedding option for chickens as it does not contain much dust and it insulates well.

Additionally, chickens love to scratch on the straw.

Once you clean it out, it decomposes quite quickly in the garden.

However, although straw might be a great bedding option, it does come with a couple of drawbacks.

Namely, like hay, it doesn’t release moisture well and it doesn’t stay clean either.

So straw could be a good option for you but you should closely weigh the pros and cons.

Here’s some related articles which I think you’ll find interesting so do check them out!

Can chicken eat mustard greens?

Can chicken eat poison ivy? 

Can chicken eat hornworms?

Can chicken eat rabbit pellets?

Can chicken eat parakeet food?

Final Words 

Chickens can eat hay and it can in fact be a fun snack for them as hay bales include a wide variety of snacks inside like insects and little greens.

It shouldn’t be used to replace chicken feed but it can still be used. 

Straw, on the other hand, is used as chicken coop bedding. Using straw has its pros and cons, so do your research before deciding on what to use.

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