Can Chickens Eat Hornworms? Understanding Feeding Guidelines

Do you have some backyard chickens and are looking to add some nutritious worms to their diet? Are you wondering whether chickens can eat hornworms? Find out all about how to feed hornworms to your chickens in this blog.

If you happen to have a chicken farm, you would know that these birds love to peck on the ground. Pecking is how chickens pick worms and other foods from the ground.

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Chickens love all kinds of creepy crawlies as part of their diet, and worms are one of their favorites. But what about hornworms? Can chickens eat these large worms that are common feeders found in most pet stores? We look for the answer to this in the blog below.

Can Chickens Eat Hornworms

 

Are Hornworms Safe for Chickens To Eat?

Hornworms are safe for chickens to eat. In fact, many people feel that the best solution to removing an infestation of this green caterpillar is to simply pick them off the leaves and feed them to chickens! However, this is not always a good idea.

Hornworms that feed on tomato plants can ingest and keep toxins in them, which can be dangerous for your chickens in large quantities.

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Hence, always buy hornworms from reputed pet stores and make sure you don’t pick them from the wild, even though these garden pests may be abundantly available in your garden.

In small quantities, hornworms are quite nutritious for chickens. But hornworms cannot be the primary feeder for chickens because it does not contain all the nutrients that a chicken needs.

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Are Hornworms Nutritious For Them?

Hornworms are nutritious for chickens. They are low on fat, high on protein, and have a high amount of calcium and phosphorus. Moreover, they are an excellent source of water. Here is a breakup of the nutritional content of hornworms:

NutrientPercentage
Protein9%
Fat3%
Moisture85%
Calcium464 mg/kg by weight
Phosphorus1394 mg/kg by weight

Hornworms Provide Hydration

As you can see in the table above, hornworms are 85% water. This makes them a perfect source of moisture in most pets’ diets, be it geckos, lizards, or hens. These worms keep your chickens hydrated.

You can feed hornworms to chickens in the summer months when chickens can lose water due to excess heat. Adding these worms to their diet will keep them cooler, more active, and in better shape.

Can Chickens Eat Hornworms

 

Strong Bones

A kilo of hornworms contains about 464mg of calcium, one of the highest ratios in similar feeder worms. Calcium is very important for the birds’ bone health. Calcium keeps chickens’ beaks and nails healthy.

Calcium is also very important for laying chickens. The outer shell of a chicken’s egg is essentially calcium carbonate. Vets recommend adding calcium supplements to the diet of laying hens, but hornworms can do that job naturally.

How To Feed Hornworms to Chicken?

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to feed hornworms to your chickens

Purchase container-bred worms

Feeding worms brought from a reliable breeder or from a reputable online brand is safe. These breeders raise hornworms using other materials apart from tomato or tobacco leaves, so they don’t have any toxins in them.

Mix them in the meal instead of separately

Add the worms as a part of a meal of other insects, worms, and chicken feed. This makes it easier to feed them. However, don’t add too many hornworms because chickens will start to ignore the other items in their feed.

How Many Hornworms To Feed?

Feeding your chickens too many hornworms is not a good idea. These worms are fairly large in size, and the chickens might develop digestive issues if they eat too many.

The ideal count is for each chicken to have 1 or 2 worms with their meal. The worms can also be used as an occasional snack.

Can Chickens Eat Hornworms? Read This Before Feeding!

 

Can Baby Chickens Eat Them?

Yes, it is totally safe for baby chicks to eat both tomato hornworms and tobacco hornworms. The worms are high in calcium, protein, and water content, so they are nutritious for chicks as well.

Baby chickens cannot peck at worms, so you can mash the worms along with other food items and feed them directly to the chicks. Make sure that you are feeding hornworms at the larval stage, because fully grown hornworms will be too big for them.

Other Worms That Chickens Can Eat

Chickens are omnivores, so they are capable of eating different kinds of worms. Some of the common worms you can include in your chickens’ diet are:

  • Earthworms
  • Hornworms
  • Mealworms
  • Silkworms

Here are two other types of worms that can be healthy for your chickens.

Mealworms

Mealworms have a high protein content which makes them appropriate for younger chickens and hens that are going to lay eggs. Be it alive or frozen; chickens will happily peck away at the worms.

Silkworms

Silkworms can be an excellent addition to the chicken’s diet, as they are one of the healthiest worms for birds.

They have calcium, protein, vitamins, and iron, along with vitamins B1, B2, and B3. Moreover, these worms are soft and easy to digest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can ducks and chickens eat hornworms?

Yes, both ducks and chickens can eat hornworms. Both of these birds can benefit from some form of worms in their meals as they are a source of protein, calcium, and moisture.

Remember to always feed the birds with hornworms purchased from the market, not wild ones plucked from plants.

Are hornworms poisonous to birds?

Hornworms found in the wild might have fed on tomato leaves or leaves of plants from the nightshade family and picked up toxins from them, which can be poisonous for birds. However, they would have to eat a lot of these worms to be affected by the toxins.

How do you get rid of hornworms naturally?

Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) is one of the most efficient insecticides for removing hornworms from the leaves of plants.

You can purchase this bacteria from your nearby pet store or supermarket. You need to spray it on the leaves infested with hornworms. The spray is quick acting and will kill them almost immediately.

Another good way to do this is to drown them in soapy water. You can also consider introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings to remove them.

What can I do with extra hornworms?

If you have extra hornworms, you can keep them as pets since they are low-maintenance and let the hummingbird moths hatch. You can then let the adult moths breed the next batch of hornworms and sell them as pet feeders.

Can Chickens Eat Hornworms? Read This Before Feeding!

 

Final Words

Chicken enjoy the nutrients from hornworms, and it is a great addition to their meals. However, make sure you always buy your hornworms from reputable sellers and never feed them hornworms caught in the wild. Thank you for reading! 

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

7 thoughts on “Can Chickens Eat Hornworms? Understanding Feeding Guidelines”

  1. No problem. These pictures was taken yesterday. Today I found another species, smallest but with more spikes. I think it is a Automeris too.
    I’ll keep investigating.
    Thank you for answer. Keep it up! Sorry for my grammar and misspellings!

    Reply
  2. Nice pictures of amazing animals!
    The Saturnid caterpillar is probably of an Automeris species indeed.
    The Sphingid caterpillar is most likely a Manduca pellenia.
    Nice wishes from Berlin,
    Bostjan

    Reply
  3. Hello! We live in S.C. and have a large vitex tree in our front yard. We’ve spotted 3 large green caterpillars/larvae with green spiny horns on the vitex tree in the past 3 weeks (never more than 1 at a time). We now have one in a well ventilated terrarium so we can watch it’s life cycle and learn more about it. It just turned brownish red today. We’ve been changing the leaves out and cleaning the feces out daily. Any ideas on what it might be? Thanks!

    Reply

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