Corn is a common ingredient in commercial chicken feed, usually one of the top two ingredients (along with soy), and a cheap source of carbohydrates and energy. And those big cheap bags of hard, dried, whole corn at the animal feed store seem like a great bargain - but can chickens eat whole corn? Should they even eat it at all? And if so, how much whole corn can they be fed? Let’s explore this topic so that you can make the best decision for your flock.
Let's get right to the point — yes, your chickens can absolutely eat corn.
Whole corn, cracked corn, ground corn, corn on the cob, raw corn, dried corn, cooked corn.
Chickens love and eat it all.
And although whole dried corn may seem large and hard, chickens are not humans.
They have a gizzard that is extremely powerful and efficient at grinding up whole corn.
Is it easier for them to consume cracked corn? Yes. But cracked corn is more expensive.
Is it even easier still to consume ground-up corn? Obviously.
But cracking and grinding grains and seeds make them lose what nutritional content they possess at a faster rate than if they were left whole.
The exception to the above is newly hatched baby chicks which obviously should not be given huge kernels of hard whole corn. There is no reason for it. As they get older, sure whatever.
But the real question here, is should your chickens be eating whole corn? And if so, how much?
Feeding corn is a surprisingly controversial topic in the chicken world — much like the whole feeding oatmeal and toxicity debate.
Chicken people can get intense.
Does Corn Warm Chickens Up In Winter?
Keeping chickens active and entertained in the winter is not easy. There is simply too much snow on the ground and their usual foraging and dust-bathing in the sun activities are limited.
One thing I like to do is scatter some corn into their coop in the morning. It gets them scratching and pecking through the straw looking for food.
It also helps keep my deep litter overturned and fresh so it's a bonus for everyone involved.
Corn does not provide any warmth per se, but it is a high-energy food that can help maintain body temperature.
So, if you are concerned about your chickens getting enough calories to stay warm in the winter, adding some whole corn to their diet may be helpful.
Just be sure to offer other sources of protein as well, as corn is mostly carbohydrates and your regular feed likely has corn already listed as the first ingredient.
All in all, yes, feeding corn provides sustenance and requires high energy to metabolize, which, in turn, may ‘warm up’ your chickens in the winter!
Can Baby Chicks Eat Whole Corn?
Another common question is whether or not baby chicks can eat whole grain corn.
The answer is yes, they can!
However, it is important to note that whole grain corn should only make up a small amount of their diet.
Baby chicks need a lot of protein to grow properly, and too much corn can stunt their growth. So if you are feeding your baby chicks whole corn, make sure to provide plenty of high-quality chicken feed and other protein sources, such as mealworms or scrambled eggs or insects.
And newly hatched chicks should not get whole corn or extra corn.
Whole Corn Versus Cracked Corn?
Another common question is whether it’s better to feed chickens whole corn or cracked corn.
There are a few things to consider in this debate. First, whole corn takes longer for chickens to digest than cracked corn. This means that they will likely feel fuller after eating whole corn, and it may help them ‘stay warm’ in the winter since it takes longer to digest and metabolize.
However, some people believe that cracked corn is better because it is easier for chickens to eat and digest.
Ultimately, it is up to you which type of corn you feed your chickens. You can offer both whole and cracked corn if you are unsure, as some chickens prefer one over the other.
Cracked corn is more expensive so keep that in mind.
Can Too Much Corn Be Bad?
While corn is a good source of energy and nutrients for chickens, too much of anything can be bad for them.
If chickens eat too much corn, they can become overweight and sluggish.
They may also have difficulty digesting all of the carbohydrates in corn, which can cause digestive problems.
So it is important to moderate the amount of corn you feed your chickens and treat it like the treat it is.
How Much Corn To Feed?
Another thing to keep in mind when feeding whole corn to your chickens is the total amount they can eat each day.
Again, it is important not to overload them with too much food at once, as this can lead to health problems, so stick with a small amount.
Generally speaking, you should feed chickens two to three cups of food per bird per day.
Of course, this will depend on the size and age of your grown chickens and hens as well as their individual needs - so it is important to talk to an expert or do some research before deciding what amount of corn is right for your flock.
Again, a handful daily scattered on the ground will not hurt.
Nutritional Profile of Corn
One final thing to keep in mind when feeding your chickens whole corn is its nutritional profile. As mentioned above, corn is primarily carbohydrate and can be high in calories.
However, it lacks some other key nutrients, such as protein and fat.
So, if you are feeding your chickens whole corn, it is important to provide other sources of nutrients, such as their high-quality chicken feed and protein-rich foods like mealworms or insects as snacks and treats too.
Black oil sunflower seeds are also good, and I like to add kelp and flax meal into their weekly serving of scrambled eggs.
Does Corn Need To Be Cooked?
Some people believe that cooked corn is better for chickens than raw corn, as it is easier to digest.
Chickens can digest raw corn just fine, but I also like to roast corn on the cob and other root vegetables for my flock when we have those things in abundance.
So, if you are feeding your chickens whole corn, you do not need to cook it first – although some people choose to do so anyway.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you and your chickens, but either way, your chickens will enjoy their corn and digest it in the same manner and amount of time.
In conclusion, corn is good, nutritious food for chickens, and they can eat whole corn as part of their regular diet.
However, it is important to be mindful of the total amount of corn your chickens are eating each day and provide them with other sources of protein and nutrients.
Corn cannot be the base of their diet, but you can easily incorporate it into it as a snack or treat!
As we noted, corn does not physically warm up chickens in the winter, but it does require energy to metabolize and creates an opportunity for their body temperature to stabilize in colder temperatures.
Too much of anything can be bad, but overall, whole corn is fine.
Learn More About Chickens
- Can Chickens Eat Tomatoes?
- Feeding Chickens Cheese & Dairy Products
- What To Feed Chickens During Winter
- Can Chickens Eat Grapes? Grape Safety & Nutrition
- Can Chickens Eat Bananas & Banana Peels?
- Fermenting Chicken Feed For Healthier Hens, Better Eggs, & Cost Savings
- 15 Surprising Benefits Of Backyard Chickens
- Pasty Butt in Chickens: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, & Prevention