Can You Feed Chickens On The Ground?

Chickens are reared for eggs and they also make healthy food with a lot of protein and other essential vitamins and minerals. However, it is important to feed the chicks properly.

In this article, I will get to know some methods and approaches that may help us in getting the right answer to the question can you feed chickens on the ground? It also may perhaps help us to know what chickens eat from the ground.

It’s perfectly fine to throw scrabs and treats on the ground, but you should feed the chicken’s main food off the ground. While ground feeding can be beneficial for your chickens, it’s vital to be vigilant about leftover food to prevent attracting rats and other pests. A tray or feeder will keep the food dry and free from stools and other contaminants.

A Few Things Before I Get Started

Before I get started with the various things related to feeding chickens, I need to keep a few basic things in mind. To begin with, chickens in general, and free-range chickens in particular, will not overeat. Therefore, in most cases, there is no risk of overfeeding them.

Hence, whether you feed them on the ground or through other means, they tend to eat only what is needed by them. Even if you keep extra pellets or grains, you can be sure that they will not empty everything. Hence, this should go a long way in answering the question of what do chickens eat from the ground.

You should feed them only what they are ready to eat. Extra grains or pellets, if any should be collected and stored and should not be left on the ground or elsewhere. This will for sure attract pests like rodents and mice and you could have a big problem at hand.

Benefits of Feeding Chickens on the Ground

While most promote feeding chickens using feeders or trays, feeding chickens directly on the ground has its unique set of advantages. As an experienced chicken keeper, I’ve observed several benefits that come with this method, which can contribute positively to the health and behavior of your flock.

Natural Foraging Behavior

One of the most significant benefits of ground feeding is that it allows chickens to engage in their natural foraging behaviors. Chickens instinctively scratch and peck at the ground in search of food, which is a crucial activity for their physical and mental well-being. This foraging process helps keep chickens active, reducing boredom and stress that can lead to undesirable behaviors like feather pecking among flock members.

Improved Digestion

Ground feeding encourages chickens to eat slowly and more naturally, picking at food bits at a time, which can aid in better digestion. This method mimics their natural eating patterns found in the wild, where chickens would spend a considerable part of their day foraging for various seeds, insects, and greens. The varied diet they can access through ground feeding also contributes to a more balanced intake of nutrients.

Enhanced Immune System

Feeding chickens on the ground can expose them to a small amount of dirt and microorganisms, which can help build a stronger immune system. This exposure is similar to the concept of the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that some exposure to germs and microorganisms in early life reduces the risk of developing allergies and strengthens the body’s defenses against diseases.

Considerations for Leftover Food: Preventing Unwelcome Visitors

While feeding chickens on the ground has its benefits, especially in promoting natural foraging behaviors and aiding in pest control, it’s crucial to address the potential downside: the risk of attracting rats and other pests with leftover food. Leftover food, if not managed properly, can turn your chicken coop into a prime target for these unwelcome visitors.

Rats, mice, and other rodents are opportunistic feeders that are constantly on the lookout for easy food sources. Leftover chicken feed that remains on the ground overnight is a significant attractant for these pests. Once they discover a consistent food supply, they can become persistent visitors, and their presence can lead to a host of problems, including the spread of disease, stress to your chickens, and potential damage to your coop and property.

Beyond the immediate concern of attracting pests, leftover food can also spoil or become moldy, posing health risks to your chickens. Spoiled food can harbor bacteria and fungi, leading to illnesses that can affect the overall health and productivity of your flock.

While ground feeding can be beneficial for your chickens, it’s vital to be vigilant about leftover food to prevent attracting rats and other pests. By carefully managing feed quantities, promptly cleaning up leftovers, and securely storing feed, you can maintain a healthy and hygienic environment for your chickens that discourages the presence of unwanted pests.

This rat is a chicken house pest

Which Is The Best Feeding Method?

There are many questions that come to the minds of chicken owners. They have many different feeding methods in their mind and they would like to know which option is the best. Experts and those with experience always believe that chickens should be fed off the ground.

This may sound a bit new and perhaps even odd. If you look at some old movies, you may come across chickens being hand-fed as the owners toss corn and other food items to the chickens.

While the above image may look picturesque, I should keep in mind that the circumstances could be different. Chickens may have different behavioural patterns. For example, some chickens may not be free-range. In other words, they may be kept in a small range of space and their movement could be restricted and confined.

They could be living in their droppings. Hence, you have to keep these things in mind when deciding as to the best option when it comes to feeding chickens. I need to also bear in mind that throwing feed on the ground for chickens bearing reared in a coop is a completely different cup of tea.

It is not the same as tossing a few corns here and there for those who have run off the yard (source).

The Risk of Illnesses Should Be Kept In Mind

When one mixes feed with droppings and if you are not careful about it, you could be exposing the chickens to sicknesses and illnesses. Many chickens fall ill and are exposed to the risk of different types of parasitic infections, coccidiosis and other types of illnesses.

While treating a few of these infections may be possible, in many cases it could lead to large scale death of these wonderful birds. Hence, in many situations, it may be a good idea to make use of feeders, trays or even a dish that is convenient. These are considered safe and intelligent ways of feeding your chickens.

It will help them to meet their hunger and nutritional requirements. More importantly, it also could help them to stay away from feeding their own faeces.

However, if the feeding area on the ground is cleaned regularly, it may not be a bad idea to feed them on the ground. But this could be a good idea only if the chickens have enough space to move around.

Otherwise, as suggested above using a dish or feeder could be the best option. The type of feed that is used could also have a bearing on the method of feeding. Some types of feeds may not be good enough for feeling on the ground and this should always be kept in mind.

Which Feeds Are Considered Healthy?

While chickens love a variety of foods, when it comes to healthy eating and nutrition, there are a few feeds that are considered to be the best. I am listing down a few of them for the benefit of our readers.

Worms are considered to be one of the most favourites feeds for chickens. They love them a lot and they are also quite rich as far as nutrition is concerned. However, it may not be possible to always feed worms to chickens on the ground. They often get mixed with dirt and mud and this could make them risky from the health point of view. Therefore, if you are planning to feed worms to the chickens, it would be better to use a dish or a feeder.

Porridge is another favourite food for chickens, though they prefer to enjoy this only during the winter months. Porridge is always semi-solid and therefore it is quite obvious that it has to be fed in a bowl or dish. Feeding porridge to chickens of the ground is simply not possible because of obvious reasons.

Apple cores, grains and cereals are also considered to be stapled diets as far as chickens are concerned. These are easy to feed and there is nothing wrong if these are spread over the ground. However, as mentioned earlier, it is important to make sure that the entire area is clean and totally free from bird and chicken droppings.

Regular chicken grit in a hand

Importance of Correct Feed

While the method of feed is vital and critical, equally important is the need to make sure that the feed is right in terms of nutrition, freshness, quantity and quality. If the diet or food is not right, it could lead to many problems. It could result in reduced egg production.

The size of the eggs could be small or they also could be abnormally shaped. You also could find the chickens restless and they could be seen feather picking.


Hence, it is important for us to bear in mind that you should plan your feed properly and choose the right method keeping in mind the habitation of the chickens. Further, the frequency of feeding, the feeding types and other such things are also important considerations that should never be lost sight of.