Will Chickens Eat Your Honey Bees? (Surprising Truth!)

do chickens eat bees

If you put a chicken coup and an apiary in the same location you don’t want the hens devouring all your honey bees!

Many homesteaders are concerned that keeping chickens and honey bees in close proximity may have adverse repercussions for both species, in particular the bees.

After all, birds are a common predator for bees in general.

And chickens are ruthless eaters! They are also very defensive, which may cause concern when keeping them near a beehive. 

So will chickens eat bees if they exist too close to one another? 

Will the bees harm the chickens if they are kept nearby? 

If you seek the answers to these questions, you have come to the right place!

The answer might surprise you! 

Do chickens eat bees?

Chickens will not eat living bees simply because bees are unlikely to land within reach of a chicken. However chickens will eat dead bees around the outside of a beehive. This is not toxic for the chickens, and clears up the debris around a hive.

If you observe a brood of hens at close quarters with bees, you’ll notice that they are very wary and cautious around bees. They instinctively know not to annoy buzzing bees. But they greedily eat up all the dead bees and other bugs lying around the beehives.

So you can safely let your chickens roam around the apiary without worrying about them gobbling up your honey bees! 

Summary:

  • Will chickens eat live bees? It is highly unlikely chickens will eat living bees. The bees are too fast and fly out of reach. And hens behave cautiously around hives of buzzing bees.
  • Can chickens eat dead bees? Yes, bee remains can be consumed by chickens and are not harmful for these birds.

Can Honey Bees And Chickens Live Together?

can you keep bees and chickens

Chickens and bees can live safely in close proximity, as chickens form a good defense for a beehive against invading insects and rodents. Bees cannot seriously harm chickens either. 

Chickens are nicknamed “little dinosaurs” for a reason. These birds are great for the homestead, but they can be difficult to keep because they are so tenacious. With that in mind, they are very low maintenance, and if you keep them well-fed and happy, they can be easy to rear and breed.

Honey bees are quickly becoming a favorite among homesteaders as well, both as a source for fresh honey and due to the significant contribution that bees make to their local ecosystem in the form of pollination.

But some homesteads are not large enough to have separate areas for chickens and bees and therefore must be kept in close proximity. 

Is this arrangement detrimental to either species? 

Can chickens and bees co-exist in the same area?

The truth is that bees and chickens can live close to one another very well. Bees and chickens can even be mutually beneficial to each other and create a form of symbiosis between them.

Honey bees can be beneficial for chickens as a food source. When bees die, the chickens will happily eat the remains, providing useful protein for your hens.

If you let your hens graze on pasture, keeping bees can also be very advantageous. Bees are tremendous pollinators and can vastly improve the quality of pasture, thereby enhancing the quality of the chickens’ feed.

One of the biggest issues for a beehive is intrusion by other insects, rodents, and even larger animals such as badgers and bears. Chickens form a very effective defense against many of these creatures that would harm a beehive.

Chickens will eat any insects that may potentially attempt to raid the hives, and they will keep all rodents at bay as well. They may even defend against larger animals such as badgers if they are feisty enough!

Bees and chickens can live very well together, even in very close proximity, and do not generally cause any harm to one another.

As we have already mentioned, chickens will happily eat honey bees that pass away, but do chickens pose a significant threat to living honey bees? Will chickens slowly pick off the population of a bee colony?

Chickens are tenacious eaters and do eat most insects if they can. Chickens will catch and eat most insects that they come across, and this is the main source of food protein for the birds. Bees do fall into the category of insects that are edible for chickens, but they are more likely to eat a dead bee than a living bee.

Most chickens will not actively eat living honey bees. Bees are very quick and typically fly surprisingly high when traveling, which keeps them well out of reach for chickens.

The bees are also unlikely to land for pollen anywhere near chickens, as any pollen-producing plants are likely to have been wiped out by the chickens long ago, forcing the bees to search further afield for their gatherings.

The fact that chickens eat most plants means there will be nowhere for a bee to land within reach of a chicken. So long as you keep a water source for the bees that are far enough away from the birds, the chickens will not actively eat honey bees.

The only real harm that chickens can cause for a bee colony is dirtying a water source. Chickens are very messy and tend to foul water very quickly. Honey bees require a consistent source of fresh, clean water to thrive, which means that chickens and bees will require separate water sources to co-exist.

Will Bees Harm Your Chickens?

We have established that chickens do not cause much harm to bees or bee colonies, but they serve to protect beehives well. However, bees can be dangerous too, which makes chicken safety another concern when keeping bees and birds in close proximity.

The reality is that bees can sting chickens, but it is very unlikely to happen. Honey bees are not particularly aggressive and will only sting another animal in self-defense. If a chicken irritates a bee or bothers the hive enough, it may get stung, but a bee sting will not cause much harm to a chicken, and it will heal quickly on its own. The bird’s plumage also offers a certain degree of protection.

Chickens can also be relatively intelligent, and most chickens will learn not to mess with a bee again after experiencing a sting. This means that chickens are very unlikely to be harmed by bees, and it is safe for them to live very closely together.

Bees will not actively attack a chicken, and they are very unlikely to swarm in self-defense due to a chicken. Other species of bees that are not used in domestic situations may cause harm to chickens, but no regular honey bees that are commonly kept on homesteads are likely to cause harm to chickens at all.

FAQ

If you are thinking of keeping both honey bees and chickens, here are a few other questions that you might consider:

Can chickens eat honey?

It is perfectly safe for chickens to consume honey, and some evidence suggests that it can also be beneficial for these birds. 

Honey is not toxic or poisonous for chickens.

Honey is a nutritious food containing vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. It’s commonly used for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can improve the chickens overall health and immunity.

Feeding honey to hens has been said to improve their egg laying and yield performance. Even the quality of the eggs is said to be better!

And honey has also been shown to have soothing properties for hens, by lowering their heart rate and reducing heat stress.

Try adding some honey to the chicken’s water, or dipping some bread in honey.

But don’t overdo it! 

Honey is also a form of sugar, and too much can be harmful. It can lead to overheating and difficulty laying.

Are chickens afraid of bees?

Chickens are definitely wary of honey bees but they don’t exhibit signs of fear when living together.

Conclusion

If you already own chickens and are considering getting some bees as well, or if you keep bees and want to rear some chickens, do not be concerned about how well these two species will co-exist. Bees and chicken get along very well and can serve to benefit one another.

Been and chickens can live together safely without fear of either species being negatively affected at all. Chickens protect bees, and bees are too quick to be eaten by chickens while living, but when they die, the chickens gain a source of protein. Bees and chickens are safe to keep in close proximity.

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