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do chickens eat weed seeds

As they scratch and dig in the soil, they can eliminate many of pests that are just waiting to attack the garden.

But more importantly, they also devour the larvae of insects below the surface of the soil. And that is where many devastating pests such as Japanese beetles and tomato hornworms overwinter.

As you will see below in detail, it is quite simply, a marriage made in garden heaven!

Insect and Bug Control

As chickens scratch about, they consume small bits of rock and grit. And that grit is necessary to aid in proper digestion.

Raising chickens and having productive gardens and flowerbeds go hand in hand.

They also need to “dust” themselves with dirt on a regular basis. It is a form of a dry bath that keeps them clean and free of mites. And garden and flower bed soil provide that in large quantities.

And of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about that one major final benefit of gardening with chickens – All of the Delicious Fresh Eggs!


A number of weed seeds commonly found in grains and other feed ingredients have been shown to influence poultry health and productivity. The only weed seeds commonly considered in federal grain trading standards are rattlebox or showy crotalaria (Crotalaria spectabilis), cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) and castorbean (Ricinus Communis). Other weed seeds that may show up in feeds in sufficient quantities to cause productions losses include coffeeweed or sicklepod (Senna obtusifolia), velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti), jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), coffee senna (Senna occidentalis), wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) and hemp sesbania (Sesbania exaltata).

Sunn hemp is a related species to rattlebox and is being promoted as a green manure and ground cover in some areas. This plant has similar looking seeds, but they are much larger (3/8- to 1/4-inch long) and are a dull grayish-black color (Picture 2). The toxic compounds seen with rattlebox are drastically reduced with sunn hemp and should not be a problem unless at a very high concentration in grain. Research at Auburn University has indicated that high feed inclusion levels of sunn hemp (100 lbs/ton, 5 percent) may reduce growth in broilers, although normal contaminant levels (10 lbs/ton, 0.50 percent) will not. Identifying seed contamination between these species may be a problem as rattlebox and sunn hemp seeds may look similar in shape (if not in size and color).

Toxic weed seeds may be more common than feed producers have realized.


Sunn hemp  


However, a number of possible contaminants have been tougher to follow with regularity or have not been followed as closely as they might have been. Weed seeds are a common contaminant that may go unnoticed if not considered in assessing incoming feed ingredient samples. A routine feed microscopy monitoring program is an excellent way to screen for weed seeds along with more routine feed analysis.

All parts of the purslane plant are edible, including the flowers. 

Here, we look at six weeds which can add value to your flock’s feed – and a yummy weed recipe you could make up today!

As in everything, aim for balance and moderation.

Purslane’s nutritional benefits.

You may read that chickweed contains oxalic acid, which can interfere with calcium absorption. That’s true – but it only prevents calcium absorption from plants which themselves contain oxalic acid.

No. As with everything, though, feed in moderation and use as part of a balanced diet, not as their only food.

Sow the seeds by scattering into your existing lawn, use them to create a new clover lawn, or sow in a box for your chickens, keeping the young plants under cover until they’re well established.

Got a baby chick in trouble? Try feeding a small amount of chickweed in your brooder.