Can Chickens Eat Wolf Spiders? A Surprising Snack Choice Revealed

Chickens are known for their diverse diet, and backyard poultry keepers often wonder if it’s safe for their flock to consume certain insects. Wolf spiders, which are common in many areas, might appear in your backyard, piquing the interest of your chickens.

Wolf spiders are hairy, brown to gray arachnids that measure between 1/2 inch and 2 inches in length. Though not poisonous, some might be concerned about their chickens’ overall health when ingesting these eight-legged creatures. However, chickens can indeed eat wolf spiders safely, and doing so might provide them essential nutrients and act as a natural pest control.

While chickens can benefit from consuming wolf spiders, it’s important to protect your flock from potential diseases and parasites that can be introduced to their environment through contact with other animals or insects. Practicing good biosecurity measures will help ensure your chickens stay healthy while enjoying their diverse diet, including the consumption of wolf spiders.

Chickens and Wolf Spiders

The Diet of Chickens

Chickens have a diverse diet that typically includes grains, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and insects. They are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat what is available in their environment:

  • Grain and seeds
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Insects

Nature of Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders are primarily ground-dwelling predators found in various habitats. They are:

  • 1/2 inch to 2 inches long
  • Brown to gray with markings or lines
  • Not poisonous, but may bite if mishandled

Encounters in The Coop

Since chickens are opportunistic feeders and wolf spiders wander into various habitats, including chicken coops, encounters between them are possible. A comparison of chicken diets and wolf spider characteristics is shown below:

Chickens Wolf Spiders
Opportunistic feeders Ground-dwelling predators
Eat insects Not poisonous, but may bite

Although there is no direct evidence to suggest that chickens eat wolf spiders specifically, we can deduce that they might consume them as part of their insect diet. However, the potential for a wolf spider bite should be taken into account if they are found in the coop.

The Benefits of Spiders in Chicken Diet

Protein and Nutrients

Chickens are omnivores by nature, and a well-balanced diet is essential for their health. One often overlooked source of protein and nutrients for chickens is the consumption of spiders, such as wolf spiders. These spiders, although not venomous, provide nourishment with added benefits:

  • High levels of protein
  • Nutrients, like amino acids

For example, amino acid nutrition is crucial for chicken health and productivity. Comparatively, mealworms, another common protein source for chickens, contain:

  • Protein
  • Fats
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins and minerals

Comparison Table

Food Protein Fats Fiber Vitamins Minerals
Wolf spider Yes No No No No
Mealworms Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Natural Pest Control

In addition to nutrition, allowing chickens to eat spiders, like wolf spiders, can contribute to natural pest control. Chickens instinctively hunt and consume pests, which may:

  • Reduce the need for chemical repellents
  • Increase the population of beneficial insects

By managing pests with their natural instincts, this approach results in a healthier environment for both chickens and the ecosystem.

Potential Risks and Health Issues

Venomous Spider Bites

While chickens can eat various insects and spiders, there’s always a risk when it comes to venomous spiders like black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders. These spiders can potentially harm the chickens if bitten. Although the bites may not always be lethal to adult chickens, they can cause health issues and discomfort.

Some venomous spiders pose a higher threat:

  • Black Widows: Known for their powerful venom, black widows can cause severe pain and other symptoms in chickens if bitten.
  • Brown Recluse Spiders: These spiders have a potent venom that can be harmful, leading to tissue necrosis and other complications in chickens.

Alternative Harmful Pests

While wolf spiders are not venomous, some other spiders and pests may pose a risk to chickens. A few examples are:

  • Red Widow Spider
  • Funnel Web Grass Spider
  • Brown Widow Spider

In general, it’s essential to keep an eye on the environment around the chicken coop to prevent encounters with harmful spiders and pests. Wild chickens have a natural ability to avoid dangerous spiders, but domesticated chickens may not have the same instincts.

Here’s a comparison table of some common spider types encountered by chickens:

Spider Type Venomous Risk Level
Wolf Spider No Low
Black Widow Spider Yes High
Brown Recluse Yes High
Orb Weaver No Low
Daddy Long Legs No Low
Garden Spider No Low
Jumping Spider No Low

By being aware of the spiders and pests in your area, you can minimize the risks and health issues associated with chickens consuming them or being bitten.

Preventing Spiders in Coops and Gardens

Maintaining a Clean Environment

Regularly cleaning your yard and garden can prevent various pests, including ants, ticks, and termites, from settling in. Here are some tips to keep the area clean and pest-free:

  • Remove debris, such as fallen leaves and branches.
  • Keep grass well-mowed, creating less hiding spots for pests.
  • Avoid standing water to deter mosquitoes and frogs.
  • Discard rotting fruits and vegetables, which attract bugs.

A clean environment can also reduce the presence of wolf spiders in your chicken coop. Remember to:

  • Remove chicken waste frequently.
  • Replace soiled bedding materials.
  • Regularly check for spider webs and vacuum them up.

Using Natural Repellents

There are natural ways to repel spiders and other pests without using chemicals that might be toxic to your chickens. Some suggestions include:

  • Sprinkling diatomaceous earth around the coop and garden. This naturally occurring powder helps deter ants, ticks, termites, and spiders.
  • Utilizing essential oils like peppermint and eucalyptus can repel pests. However, consult your veterinarian to ensure they are safe for your chickens.
Method Pros Cons
Diatomaceous Earth – Non-toxic
– Effective for various pests
– May need frequent re-application
– Not effective when wet
Essential Oils – Natural
– Pleasant aroma
– May be harmful to chickens if not used properly
– Requires regular application

Keep in mind that while these methods help reduce the number of pests, they may not eliminate them entirely. Regular maintenance and monitoring are essential for the health and safety of your chickens.

Feeding Chickens a Balanced Diet

Commercial Feed and Supplements

Chickens are omnivorous animals, requiring a balanced diet containing essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Commercial feed is a common source, as it provides the right balance for maintaining health and producing quality eggs1. It usually contains:

  • Protein sources
  • Carbohydrates
  • Essential vitamins and minerals2

Pros:

  • Easy to find and purchase
  • Balanced and complete nutrition
  • Formulated for different life stages

Cons:

  • Can be costly
  • Ingredients may not be locally sourced

Vegetables

Chickens can also benefit from eating vegetables. These provide additional nutrients and may help prevent health problems3. Examples:

  • Leafy greens
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli

Fruits

Fruits are an excellent supplement as well, offering vitamins and antioxidants4. Examples:

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Melons

Note: Limit intake, as too much fruit can lead to health issues.

Other Foods

Chickens can also eat grass, insects, and other small animals in moderation5. However, remember not to feed them human food or items that can harm their digestive system.

Comparison Table

Food Type Benefits Examples
Commercial feed Balanced nutrition Pellets or crumbles
Vegetables Extra nutrients Leafy greens, carrots
Fruit Vitamins, antioxidants Apples, berries
Other Foods Natural enrichment Grass, insects

By offering a well-rounded diet with commercial feed, vegetables, fruits, and other foods, you can ensure your chickens remain healthy and productive.

Other Considerations and Precautions

Feeding Spiders and Insects to Chickens

Chickens naturally eat a variety of insects, including spiders. While wolf spiders aren’t necessarily harmful, it’s essential to consider the overall health and environment of your chickens. In a free-range setting, chickens help control pests like rodents, mice, lizards, and snakes. Feeding spiders to chickens comes with its pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Natural diet component
  • Pest control

Cons:

  • Potential risk of poisonous spiders

It is vital to ensure that the spiders are non-poisonous before feeding them to your backyard chickens, as some poisonous spiders, like the black widow or the brown recluse, can potentially harm your chickens. Observe your chicken’s health and behavior, and monitor their environment for any signs of harmful insects.

Consulting with a Veterinarian

If you are unsure about what to feed your backyard chickens, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian for guidance. They can provide advice on the types of insects and spiders suitable for your chickens and help you maintain a healthy diet for them. Here are some possibilities for feeding chickens:

Safe Options Unsafe Options
Mealworms Black widow spiders
Earthworms Brown recluse spiders
Crickets Poisonous insects

Additionally, a vet can help assess the impact of the environment on your chickens’ health and provide guidance on maintaining a clean and safe environment for them to thrive.

Footnotes

  1. Nutrition for the Backyard Flock | UGA Cooperative Extension

  2. Amino Acid Nutrition and Metabolism in Chickens – PubMed

  3. Prebiotics and gut microbiota in chickens – PubMed

  4. Protect backyard chickens from disease, parasites

  5. USDA APHIS | Don’t Feed Wildlife

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Wolf Spider with Spiderlings walks on water

 

spider in our pool with many babies on its back-
Hello!
What’s that spider??? Any idea of what kind this may be? Those are many babies on its back. Sometimes they hopped off but then swam back and jumped on again. The body is probably at least 1 1/2" long not including the legs. Legs were light brown with black tips. Thanks!!
Mary Lou

Hi Mary Lou,
It is interesting that even weighed down with all those spiderlings, your female Wold Spider managed to not break the tension of the water.

Letter 2 – Wolf Spider with Spiderlings from Greece

 

mother spider and spiderlings
Fri, Dec 5, 2008 at 9:35 AM
Dear bugman,
please help identify this family. Actual length of the body was approximately 2cm. She was very cooperative when I took her home to take a proper photograph and generally stood still. Of course I put them back when I was done. The original high-resolution picture with geographic coordinates and link to another version taken from a different angle was contributed to Wikimedia Commons ( http://commons.wikimedia.org/ wiki/Image:Mother-spider-and- spiderlings-0a.jpg )
Thank you in advance for your time and effort!
Best regards, Adamantios
Thrace, Greece

Wolf Spider with Spiderlings
Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Hi Adamantios,
Though we cannot provide an exact species, this is most definitely a Wolf Spider in the family Lycosidae.  The female Wolf Spider will drag her egg sac around until the spiderlings hatch.  She then carries the spiderlings on her back for several days until they disperse.

Letter 3 – Wolf Spider with Spiderlings from Tasmania, Australia

 

Unknown spider in Tasmania – Funnelweb?
January 10, 2010
Hi Bug people!
Whilst bush walking in South West Tasmania last week (cool, damp forest & heathland) we happened to see this large black spider on the edge of the trail. It was aggressively displaying as we approached (waving front legs, and ‘jolting’), and as I took the photograph. I wonder if you could assist us in identifying it?
It looks a bit like a funnelweb, but I’m not sure. Seems a bit dramatic, but would that be droplets of venom on it’s fangs??
Thanks for all your work,
Nick and Kathryn
South West National Park, Tasmania

Wolf Spider with Spiderlings
Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Dear Nick and Kathryn,
Though we cannot find a match online, even on the awesome Spiders of Australia website, it is our opinion that this is a female Wolf Spider in the family Lycosidae.  It appears that there are spiderlings on the abdomen of your specimen, and this behavior is unique to Wolf Spiders, and the eye pattern which includes two large eyes is also an identification feature of the family.  Wolf Spiders are not considered to be dangerous.

Hi Daniel,
Thanks very much for the reply. Very informative as always.
Many Thanks,
Nick

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Wolf Spider with Spiderlings walks on water

 

spider in our pool with many babies on its back-
Hello!
What’s that spider??? Any idea of what kind this may be? Those are many babies on its back. Sometimes they hopped off but then swam back and jumped on again. The body is probably at least 1 1/2" long not including the legs. Legs were light brown with black tips. Thanks!!
Mary Lou

Hi Mary Lou,
It is interesting that even weighed down with all those spiderlings, your female Wold Spider managed to not break the tension of the water.

Letter 2 – Wolf Spider with Spiderlings from Greece

 

mother spider and spiderlings
Fri, Dec 5, 2008 at 9:35 AM
Dear bugman,
please help identify this family. Actual length of the body was approximately 2cm. She was very cooperative when I took her home to take a proper photograph and generally stood still. Of course I put them back when I was done. The original high-resolution picture with geographic coordinates and link to another version taken from a different angle was contributed to Wikimedia Commons ( http://commons.wikimedia.org/ wiki/Image:Mother-spider-and- spiderlings-0a.jpg )
Thank you in advance for your time and effort!
Best regards, Adamantios
Thrace, Greece

Wolf Spider with Spiderlings
Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Hi Adamantios,
Though we cannot provide an exact species, this is most definitely a Wolf Spider in the family Lycosidae.  The female Wolf Spider will drag her egg sac around until the spiderlings hatch.  She then carries the spiderlings on her back for several days until they disperse.

Letter 3 – Wolf Spider with Spiderlings from Tasmania, Australia

 

Unknown spider in Tasmania – Funnelweb?
January 10, 2010
Hi Bug people!
Whilst bush walking in South West Tasmania last week (cool, damp forest & heathland) we happened to see this large black spider on the edge of the trail. It was aggressively displaying as we approached (waving front legs, and ‘jolting’), and as I took the photograph. I wonder if you could assist us in identifying it?
It looks a bit like a funnelweb, but I’m not sure. Seems a bit dramatic, but would that be droplets of venom on it’s fangs??
Thanks for all your work,
Nick and Kathryn
South West National Park, Tasmania

Wolf Spider with Spiderlings
Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Dear Nick and Kathryn,
Though we cannot find a match online, even on the awesome Spiders of Australia website, it is our opinion that this is a female Wolf Spider in the family Lycosidae.  It appears that there are spiderlings on the abdomen of your specimen, and this behavior is unique to Wolf Spiders, and the eye pattern which includes two large eyes is also an identification feature of the family.  Wolf Spiders are not considered to be dangerous.

Hi Daniel,
Thanks very much for the reply. Very informative as always.
Many Thanks,
Nick

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.

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