Home Chickens for Beginners Using Chickens as Natural Pest Control

Using Chickens as Natural Pest Control

by Jamelyn

You will find that many chicken keepers enjoy having chickens in their yards because they provide natural pest control.

Chickens will eat many insects found in yards, including grasshoppers, termites, spiders, beetles, and worms. These insects are beneficial to the chickens’ diet as they provide protein and other nutrients.  Insects are part of the natural diet of chickens and was what their ancestors ate in the wild.

Keep reading to learn more about raising chickens as part of natural pest control in your yard and garden.

🐛 Bugs that Chickens Will Eat

Chickens can be great for your yard and garden as they provide organic, natural pest control.

Chickens are omnivores and will forage for many different types of food, including plants and insects. Insects are helpful for a chicken’s health as they provide protein, which is necessary for chickens, especially hens as they lay eggs.

In general, laying hens require 16% of their diet to consist of protein. During the summer, chickens eat less feed than in the winter so their feed will need to contain more protein in the summer to make up for the reduction in feed consumption.  In addition, chickens that are going through their annual molt will require increased amounts of protein.

By allowing your chickens to free range more frequently in the summer and during their molt, you are providing them access to protein from insects which is beneficial to their diet.

Here are some of the bugs that can be found in many backyards that will be eaten by chickens:

  • Grasshoppers
  • Termites
  • Earthworms
  • Beetles
  • Mosquitoes
  • Fleas and ticks
  • Moths
  • Army worms
  • Spiders


Chickens love to chase and eat grasshoppers. They will pounce on the grasshoppers and hunt them down in the yard.

A small flock of chickens (4 to 5 chickens) will easily be able to control the grasshopper population on a quarter acre lot. Chickens will also find and eat grasshopper larvae in the ground as they scratch, which will reduce the grasshopper population the following spring.

A grasshopper infestation can be devastating to your lawn and garden, so let the chickens roam free when you first see the sign of tiny, baby grasshoppers. Generally, a few hours of free ranging every few days is enough time for the chickens to take care of the grasshoppers.


Chickens will eat termites, including catching them when they fly away after a rain storm. They will also dig in the ground to find and eat termite larvae.

Some people will grow termite colonies specifically for their chickens to eat. Make sure that if you let your chickens eat termites, that the termites have not been poisoned as the pesticide can be deadly to chickens.


Earthworms are found in rich soil, usually in dark, damp locations, like under leaves or old logs. Chickens will scratch the ground and as soon as they see an earthworm, they will continue to scratch the ground and pull the worm with their beak until they are able to swallow the worm.

Although earthworms are not the worms found in compost since they cannot handle the heat generated in a compost pile, earthworms are beneficial for the garden as they break up the soil and reduce compaction.

Earthworms are generally good for chickens to eat; however, there is a risk of a chicken contracting gapeworm, a type of worm that infects a bird’s trachea. It’s important to note that there is only risk of gapeworm if the chicken eats an earthworm that is infected with gapeworm.


Chickens can eat some types of beetles; however, some species of beetles are not good for chickens to eat since they release toxins to protect themselves from predators.

In general, your chickens will know which types of beetles are safe to eat and which ones to avoid. I would suggest not offering beetles to your chickens as treats, but rather allow them to eat the beetles if they so choose during their free range time.


Chickens will peck at mosquitos but will not chase them through the yard. My chickens have been known to eat mosquitos off of my legs but there is very little nutritional value in mosquitos.

A drawback of chickens eating mosquitos is that mosquitos are carriers of disease, such as fowl pox. Similar to beetles, you can allow your chickens to eat mosquitos but do not try to offer them as a treat.

Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks are another insect that chickens will eat when they come across them in the yard. This can be a double edged sword since you don’t want your flock to end up with either fleas or ticks.

Fleas can be carriers of the plague and generally if you see one flea, then there are 99 that you don’t see.

You can reduce the risk of your chickens being infested with fleas by providing them a dust bath area with diatomaceous earth (DE). You can also add DE to the chicken coop and nesting box areas to prevent fleas, mites, and other insects.


Chickens will eat moths; however, moths are generally nocturnal and your chickens are not. Moths come out at the end of the day and are attracted to light. At this time of day, your chickens will be asleep on their roosts. Some moths are out during the day and your chickens can eat them.

As your chickens eat moths, they will be able to stop the reproductive cycle of many insects, including army worms.

Army Worms

Army worms are very destructive and can cause significant damage to your lawn or garden within a relatively short amount of time. Army worms are the larvae that will eventually turn into adult moths.

Chickens and wild bird alike enjoy snacking on army worms. There is no issue with your chickens eating these worms as long as they have not been treated with an insecticide.

A small flock of chickens will have a difficult time controlling an army worm infestation so you will might need to consider alternative forms of eradication if you have an issue with this pest.


Chickens will eat many types of spiders, including black widow spiders.

Black widow spiders are poisonous, but only if they inject their venom through their fangs. Since chickens will eat the entire spider before it is able to bite them, there is minimal risk to a chicken.

In general, chickens will eat spiders as they forage during the day. This is most likely why you will never find a spider web in the chicken coop–chickens will eat any spiders that are within walking or jumping distance (about 24 inches from the ground).

✅ Benefits of Using Chickens as Pest Control

The main benefit of using chickens as pest control is that you don’t have to use dangerous chemicals in your yard. Many pesticides are toxic to both humans and chickens alike.

Many people who raise chickens also grow gardens and the chemicals can end up on the food. Most backyard gardeners are choosing to grow their foods using organic methods, so chickens as pest control is a great alternative to chemicals.

In addition to pest control, chickens also provide a natural fertilizer as they search out bugs in your yard. As chickens walk and scratch the ground, they will stop occasionally to poop. Chicken droppings are high in nitrogen which is great for the plants.

Be careful letting your chickens spend a significant amount of time below fruit trees, as high nitrogen can be harmful to the fruit trees. The excessive nitrogen can cause the fruit trees to grow rapidly, resulting in bacterial blight. If you have fruit trees, let the chickens free range in the spring to eat any emerging insects and then again in the fall before the insects go underground for the winter.

If you decide to use alternate methods to treat your yard or garden for pests, consider using these non-toxic methods that are safe for chickens:

  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Vinegar (white or apple cider)
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Fly traps

⛔️ Risks of Using Chickens as Pest Control

While chickens will eat many of the common pests in and around your garden, there are risks associated with eating some of these insects that can affect the health of your chickens.

Many of the insects described above can be intermediate hosts for various types of worms that can cause health issues for your chickens, including death in extreme cases. An intermediate host will eat the worm larvae, which in turn will be eaten by a chicken. When a chicken eats the intermediate host, the worms are spread to the chicken via predator-prey transmission.

The table below outlines the different types of worms that are transmitted through each intermediate host and the time of year that the hosts are most prevalent:

Intermediate HostType of WormSeason When Most Prevalent
AntsNodular tapewormYear round
BeetlesCrop worm,
Gizzard worm,
Cecal worm,
Threadlike tapeworm,
Sawtooth tapeworm
EarthwormsForked worm,
Crop worm,
Capillary worm,
Stomach worm,
Short tapeworm
FliesForked worm,
Sawtooth tapeworm,
GrasshoppersStomach worm,
Gizzard worm,
Cecal worm
TermitesThreadlike tapewormSpring

In all instances, the intermediate host needs to be infected with the worm in order to transmit it to your chickens. It is relatively rare for backyard chickens to get these types of worms but I find this information is helpful to know so you can be aware.

In addition to worms, insects can be carriers of illnesses and disease:

InsectIllness/DiseaseSeason When Most Prevalent
Fleas and ticksPlagueSummer
MosquitosFowl poxSummer & Fall

Similar to the intermediate hosts needing to be infected with the worm before they can spread it to your chickens, the insects above will need to be carriers of these illnesses in order to pass it on to your chickens.

Another insect that might cause some issues for your chickens are slugs. It is possible for young chickens or bantams to choke while eating large slugs. As a protection mechanism, slugs will release a thick slime, which can make it difficult for a chicken to swallow.

If you ever see your chicken eating a slug, watch them wipe their beak on the ground for several minutes afterwards to wipe off the excess slime from the slug. Generally, they will not eat another slug after that one.

In addition, chickens that eat too many insects are at risk of developing obesity. This is generally not an issue for chickens that are otherwise healthy, but some breeds are more likely to binge on insects and then laze around without getting adequate exercise during their free range time (excluding during the heat of the day when all chickens laze around as it’s too hot to move).

In general, the benefits of chickens eating insects outweigh the risks. When you practice good animal husbandry plus good coop management, your chickens should be healthy and able to withstand normal exposure to these worms and illnesses. As always, contact your local veterinarian if in doubt about your chicken’s health.

You may also like


When to Feed Your Backyard Chickens – Backyard Dino November 22, 2021 - 4:20 PM

[…] all their food from free ranging. This is a great way to keep feed expenses down and practice natural pest control in your yard! Chickens love to eat bugs like grasshoppers, termites, and worms. All these insects […]

What to Know About Chickens & Fruit Trees – Backyard Dino March 23, 2022 - 10:28 AM

[…] For more details on this topic, check out Using Chickens as Natural Pest Control. […]

Comments are closed.

Copyright 2021 - 2023 - All Right Reserved. 

Youtube Pinterest