Chickens are well known for their insatiable appetite, which often creates curiosity among backyard flock owners as to what a chicken will and will not eat. As the owner of a flock of approximately 35 chickens myself, I began to question whether or not chickens would eat fire ants. I recently discovered the answer to this question, and it might come as a surprise to many.
So do chickens eat fire ants? Yes, chickens do eat fire ants. Chickens are omnivores, meaning that they readily consume both meat and greens, and fire ants are no exception to this rule. Many flock owners report instances of their chickens consuming fire ants, with some even stating that their chickens seemed to value the intake of fire ants in much the same way as they would other insects.
During my research, I uncovered additional information relating to the coexistence between chickens and fire ants that every chicken owner should be aware of. As it turns out, your chickens will indeed eat fire ants, but should they?
Do Chickens Eat Fire Ants
Chickens are naturally incredibly diverse in their diet structure, with little excluded from their variable list of consumables. However, few items rank as highly on the list of favored food sources of chickens as insects.
Chickens of all breeds will readily consume a wide array of insect species due to their ease of availability.
Ants are among some of the most highly consumed insect species by chickens. This tends to be for a good reason. Chickens of both the laying and meat varieties require ample amounts of protein within their diets.
Typical production-grade chicken feeds range from 16%-20% in protein content. Ants serve well to satisfy the bulk of this dietary requirement. According to National Geographic, a 3.5-ounce serving of red ants provides 14 grams of protein.
So how is a chicken to discern a fire ant from any other ant species? In short, they can’t. Chickens consume whatever insects are available to them with little discretion, and as fire ants continue to encompass ever-increasing geographical areas, fire ant consumption by chickens can and does happen.
However, in regions where fire ants are prominent, their consumption by chickens has been widely observed to have little ill effect. Once consumed, fire ants seem to cause little, if any, internal harm to chickens.
Chickens are well adapted to the consumption of many varieties of stinging and biting insects, such as bees, wasps, and spiders. For this reason, chickens are able to complete the digestive process of fire ants in much the same way they would any other insect.
The much larger issue that is presented with the coexistence of chickens and fire ants comes in the form of external bites and swarming that can take place when a fire ant colony is disturbed.
This is indeed a valid concern to anyone who keeps chickens or poultry of similar nature and must be regarded as such.
Are Fire Ants Harmful to Chickens
Fire ants are widely known for the searing pain that they inflict as they bite their victims. Although chickens can consume fire ants with little issue, they are not immune to the torment of their external bite.
When a typical anthill is disturbed, the ants within swarm to the surface, providing a buffet like experience for the chicken above. In the case of fire ants, this can quickly turn hazardous for your chicken as these biting pests quickly overcome them.
A fire ant swarm can take place in mere seconds, leaving little chance for a chicken to consume the entire ant colony before biting commences. Once the fire ants have crawled between the feathers and folds of your chicken, even a brisk retreat brings little relief.
Side Effects of Fire Ant Bites
As fire ants bite and sting their victims, venom that contains an alkaloid base is injected into the victim’s tissue. This venom causes severe pain, swelling, and even tissue death.
Even if your chicken survives the initial shock imparted by a swarming fire ant colony, they are not yet out of the woods. Because of the localized tissue death that results from each bite, an infection becomes of great concern.
Unlike humans, whose wounds can be dressed and sterilized, chickens live in often-dusty environments that can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria. Attempting to keep a chicken’s open sores that have resulted from fire ant bites clean is often a futile chore.
It is up to your chicken’s natural immune process to ward off the bulk of infection that becomes a possibility in these circumstances. Chicks and bantams, or other small breeds, are especially susceptible to death through acute infection.
How to Get Rid of Fire Ants (Home Remedies)
Your best course of action when attempting to ward off the negative effects of fire ant bites to your backyard flock is to prevent the problem from the start.
The following is a list of chicken-safe products whose application is known to eradicate fire ant colonies:
1. Cayenne Pepper
Boil 2-4 cayenne peppers in a quart of water for one hour. Once boiling is complete, allow the solution to sit for 24 hours. Pour your solution directly into, and over the fire ant mound.
2. Vinegar Solution
Mix vinegar, baking soda, and water at even ratios. Dump the solution on the mound to extract ants. Return later to destroy the mound leaving it unviable.
3. Diatomaceous Earth
Apply this powder liberally into and on top of the mound. The powder dehydrates the ants, killing them in the process. Diatomaceous Earth can be purchased locally or online here.
4. Dish Soap
Mix heavily concentrated dish soap with warm water. Dump the mixture onto the mound. This will dehydrate and kill the ants within.
If these home remedies do not provide complete relief from your fire ant problem, repeat colonizations occur, or you feel that your fire ant problem is simply too large to handle on your own, consult a pest control specialist.