Can Chickens Eat Barley?


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to incorporate a bit of barley in your chicken’s dietary plan? We’ve got the answer you’re looking for!

Barley belongs to a family of grains, and one of the more famous is. It has a lot of different purposes, and one of the more important is food. If you were asking yourself – can chickens eat barley, the answer is yes. Finally, one grain that is very nutritious and easy to serve.

To find out more about this ingredient and what kind of benefits it brings your chickens, continue scrolling down – there’s tons of information waiting for you!

Bring Out The Barley

Since barley is a well-known and consumed grain by most poultry, it can make up a great deal of your chicken’s diet. The recommended amount would be close to 50%. 

Barley comes in all kinds of forms:

  • Field barley: This type of barley grows in the fields. It’s also called “covered barley” because it’s covered in a hull around the barley kernel. This makes it harder to eat.
  • Hulled barley: This barley is minimally processed, which makes it harder to peel off because of the thick outer hull. 
  • Hulless barley: Unlike the previous one, this barley has a hull that is so loose that it quickly falls off during harvesting.
  • Barley grits: When barley kernels are cut into smaller pieces, they are called grits. This is also something your chick will enjoy pecking. 
  • Barley flakes: This type of barley is created by drying the grits. This is not as nutritious as untouched hulled barley, but it’s still edible.

The only form of barley that’s not recommended for chickens is pearl barley. This is cooked barley, and it’s too high in fiber for your chick to consume it – especially in larger quantities. 

How nutritious is barley exactly? Let’s see what 100 grams of barley offers. 

Calories352
Total fat1.2 g
Sodium9 mg
Carbohydrates78 g
Protein9.9 g
Calcium2%
Iron14%
Potassium6%
*Nutrition Facts: Serving Size(100Gr)

Although barley is recommended as a source of food for your poultry, there is a chance that they will not digest it as easily as corn.

What’s the feeding schedule of barley?

For starters, barley should not be included in young chicks’ diet. This grain might be too strong for them to digest, primarily because of its high-calorie levels. They might be better off pecking some corn in the beginning. 

Whole-grain barley should not be fed excessively to your poultry. With pregnant chickens, you need to double-check the amount. If you include too much-hulled barley in your hen’s diet, it might result in

  • Reduced egg production and poor quality
  • Mortality rate
  • Obesity in chickens
  • Vitamin deficiency

Dried grains should also be measured before serving them to your chickens. For example, a maximum of 20% would be sufficient in their everyday diet.

Malt sprouts are actually malted barley with removed rootlets. This is not the ideal choice for your poultry since it contains 24% of crude protein, which is too strong for their digestive system.

What benefits do chickens get from consuming barley?

First off, barley is a good source of fiber. This serves as an energy booster for your chicken – 100 grams of barley contains almost 10 grams of fiber, which is more than enough for your chicken. However, an excessive amount of this might cause stomach problems. 

The fiber amount in barley also improves digestion. It dissolves well with water and creates friendly gut bacteria.

Barley is rich in vitamins such as calcium, iron, and potassium. All of these vitamins contribute to improving your chicken’s immune and digestive system. It would be best if you regularly gave barley to your chicken, but moderately. Even vitamins can have a detrimental effect if not consumed moderately. 

It is said that barley contains phytochemicals. These are natural “plant” chemicals that can help prevent cardiac and cancer diseases. This is just a speculation for now, and it needs more research.

Consuming barley moderately can significantly lower bad cholesterol levels. Bad cholesterol can affect your chicken’s organism and provoke excessive weight gain.

The vitamins in barley can protect your hens from developing bladder stones. Sometimes, gallstones can get stuck in their bladder, and this is especially dangerous for those hens that are carrying eggs. 

The magnesium contained in barley can help protect your chickens from diabetes. This can be both useful and helpful if your chickens had a troublesome dietary plan recently or have been experiencing repulsion towards a particular food. 

Lastly, one of the biggest advantages of barley is that it is versatile – you can add it to almost anything in your chicken’s diet. It can serve both as a morning and night snack. You don’t have to worry about anything as long you serve it in moderate quantities. 

Just like any other nutrient, even barley has some characteristics that can be harmful to your animals. 

Even if you don’t consider it dangerous because it is regarded as everyday food, you will regret it if you ignore the red flags.

First and foremost, barley and pregnant hens. This is by no means a good combination, at least not in huge quantities. Pregnant hens need a stronger diet, but here, barley causes more harm than good. It can considerably affect the egg production.

It would be good during the egg-laying period if you didn’t overdo it by giving barley to your hens. You should separate them from those who are not pregnant and thus serve this food more efficiently.

Another inconvenience that barely can bring your chickens is obesity. Due to the slightly stronger composition of this ingredient, it is essential to measure the amount before feeding the poultry carefully.

As we said, barley intake should not exceed 50% of the total diet. All of this contributes to the obesity in your chickens, and once this problem occurs, it can be difficult to solve.

I Want To Grow Barley Grains

If you are generally engaged in agriculture and have a larger area on your farm, you may be interested in growing barley on your own. This grain is easy to grow, and here’s how to do it.

Barley grains will grow best on cool ground. Winter barley should be planted in October, and spring barley should be planted in January.

The growth of barley is similar to wheat – they both start growing after approximately 60-70 days. These two plants are also harvested the same way – cut, bundled, and shocked to dry. 

Barley will reach its full harvest when the color of the fruit is golden. If you plan on feeding barley to your chickens, you just need to cut it and leave it to dry. However, if you plan on using it for other purposes such as malting – beer or alcohol – you might need some extra tools.

Regular harvesting is done using a sickle, and the time depends on when you sowed the seed. 

If you are dealing with larger crops, it would be best to include herbicides to keep out the weeds.

TIP: You should wear a thicker shirt and some gloves when you are on the field because barley can cause skin irritation.

Here’s a table showing some additional tips for growing barley:

Plant typeAnnual grass
Height2-3 feet
SoilWell-draining
LightFull sunlight
Growth habitGrassy
Spacing10 to 12 inches
Best used inBeer

Poultry Diet – Basics

For a healthy and accurate diet, it is important to be 100% familiar with the basic components of poultry food requirements.

Here are the 6 major components you need to include:

  • Water
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins

Let’s note the important information for each of these.

Water:Water is often overlooked when it really shouldn’t. Your chickens should be hydrated, especially during the summer seasons. Because there are so many of them in your backyard, you better keep that water bowl filled all the time. FUN FACT: baby chicks are composed of 80% water.
Carbs:Carbohydrates in the chicken diet are a tricky ingredient. Although they are essential, you should double-check the composition. A good choice of carbohydrates is wheat, barley, corn, and many other grains. 
Fat:The fat you are looking for when feeding your chickens is unsaturated. It’s usually found in corn, soy, and canola oil. Saturated fats contain more grease, and this isn’t such a good choice for your chicken, especially the young ones – it can disrupt the digestive system.
Protein:Proteins are made from amino acids, and this something the digestive system of a chicken breaks into. We have essential and nonessential amino acids. Essential acids, like their name suggests, are added to your chickens’ meals, and they can be found in canola, corn, and soy as well.
Minerals:Under minerals, we mean iron, magnesium, zinc, etc. Barley is rich in iron and potassium, for example. And consuming them contributes to the protection of your chicken’s immune system. You should include foods that are rich in iron (barley), especially during winter. That way, you will protect your chicken from getting sick. 
Vitamins:For your chickens, the intake of vitamins A, B, and D are the most important. Vitamin A is responsible for overall tissue growth and development, vitamin B for improving metabolism, and vitamin D for regulating calcium in the body. Choose your chicken’s food accordingly!

That was more generalizing than listing down the actual dietary components. It’s always good to have a clear insight into what you should and shouldn’t give your chicken.

Everday treatsSometimes treats
Leafy greens – kale or spinach Mealworms – a great source of proteins
Porridge – take oats for example, they are packed with all kinds of nutrientsCracked corn – feeding them this will make the yolk bright yellow and more fresh
Pumpkin – best served raw, not cookedYogurt – this is accepted occasionally because it’s good for gut health
Herbs – for boosting energy levelsWhole grain bread – a good source of fiber, not recommended for chubby chicks

Of course, there’s some foods that shouldn’t be included in your chicken’s diet. Here it is:

  • Chocolate – contains ingredients that are toxic to your chicken
  • Onions – this ingredient can cause instant food poisoning
  • Raw eggs – contribute to severe gastrointestinal problems
  • Avocado skin poisonous due to strong taste and toxins

Learn More: What Can Chickens Eat? Feeding Your Hens And Roosters

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