Snails are creatures that are naturally found all over the world and are abundant in backyards and gardens when the weather is warm and wet.
You may already know as a chicken keeper that a chicken’s instinct is to go after anything that moves. As a result, you may wonder, “Do chickens eat snails?”
Chickens do eat snails, and they’re good for them because they’re a source of protein and other vitamins and minerals.
Read on to learn more about chickens eating snails as part of a healthy diet and the potential dangers of eating snails.
Table of Contents
- Snails are a source of food for chickens that provide them with plenty of protein.
- There are some risks to chickens when they eat snails.
- Provide medicated feed or regularly deworm your chickens to prevent parasites.
Are Snails Good for Chickens?
I learned something that surprised me when I asked myself, “Can chickens eat snails?” They can eat snails!
Animal researchers David C. Creswell and Ahmad Habibie shared, “Diets containing snail meal generally supported high levels of egg production.”
Just as the research supports, snails are an excellent nutrition source for your chickens and are rich in protein content, which includes all the essential amino acids. (1)
The amino acids from protein sources like snails are vital for a chicken’s health.
Amino acids help a chicken’s body system repair and build muscles. Also, protein helps the organs in their bodies function properly.
Snails have soft bodies which are easy for chickens to peck at and eat. Sometimes, snails will release mucin which could cause the chickens to choke.
For the most part, it is safe for chickens to eat snails as they tend to peck at them and eat pieces of the snail instead of the whole thing.
Is There Any Health Risk To Chickens Eating Snails?
While snails are a natural food source and excellent snacks for chickens, they do pose some risks.
The snail itself doesn’t have any natural toxins that could hurt the chickens, but there are other potential concerns that I will cover next.
Just about all living things roaming your backyard may carry parasites. Snails and other bugs and insects are immune to parasites.
Chickens, on the other hand, may not be immune to some of the parasites. When they eat a snail that has parasites, they can get infected with the harmful parasites.
Snail and Slug Pellets
If you or your neighbors are trying to get rid of snails by poisoning them, you could potentially harm your backyard chickens, too.
Chickens won’t eat dead snails, but they still could get poisoned by the slug pellet residue left on the ground.
Sometimes, the snails may slide over the slug pellets and the residue may get stuck to their body. As the chickens eat those snails, they will also ingest the poison.
If snails are problematic in your garden, it is recommended that you use methods other than poison pellets to control the snail and slug population.
This will keep your flock of chickens from accidentally ingesting the harmful chemicals in the pellets.
The Danger of Gapeworms
Gapeworm is a type of lungworm parasite that is very dangerous to chickens. This parasite lives in the chicken’s throat and causes respiratory issues.
They can grow as long as one to two centimeters. When there are a lot of them, they can block the windpipe and lead to difficulty in breathing.
You may know one of your chickens has contracted a gapeworm if it is frequently shaking its head, having visible trouble breathing, or has a gurgling tracheal rattle.
As a result, gapeworms ultimately prevent the chicken from breathing and cause the chicken to die from suffocation.
This parasite is one of the more common ones that snails are known to carry.
Gapeworms burrow themselves in the ground waiting for a host. A host such as a snail will come along, and the gapeworm will attach itself to the snail.
The Danger of Lungworms
Another parasite that chickens are at risk of getting from eating snails is rat lungworm.
A snail will pick up rat lungworms from eating the feces of rats. If a chicken eats an infected snail, it may contract rat lungworm.
Lungworm is a type of roundworm. It is important to note as a chicken keeper that it is not safe to eat the eggs laid by hens who are infected with lungworm or gapeworm.
How Many Snails Can Chickens Eat?
Since snails are found naturally in the backyard, they can be abundant depending on the time of year. When chickens are foraging, they can eat as many snails as they can find.
It is not recommended to regularly provide snails to your chickens as chicken treats. Chickens are happier when they find tasty treats occasionally on their own.
To help protect your backyard flock, be sure to regularly deworm your chickens.
You can also give them medicated chicken feed for a week every six months to specifically target the gapeworm risk from snails.
Again, be careful with the snails around your home if you’ve used poison to try to kill the snails, and avoid this method of controlling snail populations in the future.
What Other Creatures Can Chickens Eat?
Snails aren’t the only backyard creatures that chickens can eat. There is plenty of other creepy crawlies in the backyard that chickens can eat too.
Some of the insects and bugs the chickens can eat include:
Ants are an excellent source of protein, which chickens can benefit from. They need protein to build and repair their muscle and keep vital organs performing at their peak.
Ants are plentiful around the house and make a tasty treat for the chickens. Also, ants will keep chickens busy and active.
Earthworms are another great treat for chickens. These creatures are high in protein and packed with vitamins and minerals.
Earthworms are plentiful in backyards, especially when it’s raining. There is no need to feed them as chickens will go after the earthworms when they see one.
Most spiders found around the house are safe for the chickens to eat. Some could pose a danger to the chickens such as the black widow if they are bitten by one.
Other than that, spiders make an excellent treat for chickens as they are high in protein and a good source of vitamins and minerals.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can chickens eat escargot?
Yes, chickens can eat escargot, which means snail. Escargot is French for eating a dish of snails in their shells. Only a few species of snails can be eaten by humans as escargot.
2. Can chickens eat snail shells?
Yes, chickens can eat snail shells. Adult chickens will have an easier time with snail shells than baby chickens. Snail shells provide chickens with calcium. (2)
3. Are slugs okay for chickens?
Just like eating snails, chickens can eat slugs, but it comes with the same risks as eating snails, particularly the contraction of parasites.
Do chickens eat snails?
Snails are among the many creatures that your chickens will find and eat when they are free ranging and foraging. Snails are generally safe to eat and provide nutrition.
There is a risk of chickens getting parasites from snails, so to prevent this, you should give medicated commercial feed according to instructions and regularly deworm your flock.
Have you noticed if your chickens have found and consumed snails in your yard?
1. Creswell D, Habibie A. Studies on Snail Meal as a Protein Source for Chickens. Poultry Science. 1980; 60: 1861–4.
2. Houndonougbo M, Chrysostome C, Odoulami R, Codjia J. Snail shell as an efficient mineral feedstuff for layer hens: Effects and optimum rate [Internet]. Livestock Research for Rural Development. 2012. Available from: http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd24/9/houn24162.htm
Grigorina grew up surrounded by animals – dogs, cats, cows, goats, sheep, and horses and that has shaped her into what I am today – a crazy cat lady who always has a place for one more cat (or a dog). She has two female cats – Kitty and Roni, and two tomcats – Blacky and Shaggy, but she also feeds her neighbors’ cats when they come for a visit. I just can’t say no to them. Follow her on FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM
Read her latest articles HERE
Learn more about her