Do Horses Eat Chickens? Break the Myth of Horse’s Digestive System

By Zunnun Ahmed •  Updated: 08/11/22 •  6 min read

Recently I’ve watched a video of a horse eating chicken.

And start thinking – what’s going on!!!!” 

As far as I know, horses live on a plant-based diet, so why are these horses eating chickens? Do horses eat chickens?

Well, horses’ digestive systems are designed to process plant-based foods only. That’s why horses do not eat chickens in general. But if they are hungry and there’s nothing else to eat, the horses may eat a little chicken to survive.

Sounds a little confusing?

I get it. First, you must know the equine’s digestive system and the side effects of eating chickens.

Understanding Horse’s digestive system: Are horses omnivores or herbivores?

Herbivore animals only eat plants, and their digestive system functions in such a way to digest plant diet. Carnivores, on the other hand, basically depend on a meat diet. Their digestive system is designed to eat and digest meat.

Omnivores are fundamentally a combo of herbivores and carnivores. 

That means they eat both plants and meat. For instance, humans are omnivores. But are horses omnivores or herbivores?

Horses are herbivores. 

So, they can eat and digest plants only. Their digestive system is not designed to digest meat.

Horses have flat teeth that give them the excellent ability to grind grasses and turn them into energy. They are “hindgut fermenters,” meaning they use bacteria to ferment fiber.

Then why is there proof that horses are eating chicken?

CuChullaine O’Reilly, in his book “Deadly Equines: The Shocking True Story of Meat-Eating and Murderous Horses” 2011, wrote a story about a horse who used to eat raw meat. 

And this is also the weird behavior of horses.

Since then, the debate began on whether horses are herbivores or omnivores. Horses rarely can have canine teeth to help them with chewing fleshes. But they don’t need those teeth since they are herbivores.

Interesting fact: Due to the horse’s lower esophageal sphincter, they can not vomit even if their digestive system can not assimilate certain foods.

Do horses eat chickens

Do horses eat chickens in the wild?

In plain words……Horses in the wild are on a reckless adventure. 

No one is controlling them, and they can eat whatever they want.

As herbivores, horses in the wild also follow a plant-based diet. Usually, there’s no lack of plants in the wild. But sometimes, horses may face a lack of plants to eat.

Here is the deal……

Horses in the wild may eat chickens if no other options are available. Desperate horses only eat small animals such as chicks to satisfy their hunger.

You will never see a horse or a herd hunting and eating large animals. They don’t usually go hunting for food.

Interestingly, horses are not the only herbivores who will eat meat if desperate. In fact, chickens also may eat meat, which is usually herbivores.

According to UCSB Science Line, all herbivores except koalas will eat meat if there is no other option. This is due to their survival instinct.

Related: Is Rye Grass Hay Good For Horses?

Do horses eat live chickens? Why did the horse eat the chicken?

In general, horses don’t eat live chicken. 

They won’t eat chicken at all unless they are hungry, as I discussed above.

However, horse-eating live baby chicks went viral a few years ago. Then people started wondering why the horse ate live chicken.

Look closely at the video……

You will see there is no food in the trough. That means the horse is probably not getting enough food. Besides, you can not see the whole body of the horse. You only can see the neck, which looks skinny. My guess is that the horse has been starving lately.

The horse ate chicken in the video because he was starving. When he saw some chicken in front of him, he started to eat them live to satisfy his hunger.

This is the only conclusion I can make out of that video. 

Horses will mainly eat meat when hungry, and there’s nothing else available. The skinny neck and empty trough are evidence that the horse was hungry. That’s when the hen entered his stalls. As the horse was hungry, he started eating the chicks. 

Make sense now?

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What about baby chicks? Can a horse eat a baby chicken?

Horses, as herbivores, do not eat baby chicken. 

I know I said this million times.

But the point is if their stomach is empty and they have nothing to eat, they may eat baby chicken instead of going for hens or roosters.

Even in the viral video where you have seen a horse eating live chicken, the horse only went for the chicks. 

There was also a hen, but the horse did not try to hurt her.

That’s because horses don’t eat meat, and they will always avoid large animals even if they are starving. But what will happen to horses if they desperately eat some chickens? 

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Are chickens toxic to horses? What happens if a horse eats a chicken?

Raw chickens include campylobacter bacteria and sometimes come with salmonella. These bacterias are not deadly but can be toxic to horses and humans.

Gastroenteritis is the primary side effect if a horse eats campylobacter bacteria in chicken. It can cause….

The disease can be transmitted from the horse to humans who are cleaning stalls and grooming the horse.

Horse ingesting salmonella in chickens can cause sickness in the intestines and foals. It can cause the horse to be lethargic and have a fever or diarrhea.

Eating a little amount of chicken meat or only a few chicks may not have any negative effects on the horse. But if the horses eat a large number of chickens, they can have a lot of side effects.

Common treatments for horses ingesting a large number of chickens include using antibiotics, intravenous fluid therapy, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. The horse may also require plasma treatment.

These treatments usually help the horse to recover fluid lost due to diarrhea and reduce the side effects of infection.

However, keep in mind that these are not the only treatments, and depending on your horse’s condition, the medicines vary.

Related: How Much Does A White Horse Cost? (Quick Facts)

To sum up this burning question-Do horses like chickens?

Typically, they will avoid meat as they are herbivores. But they may eat chickens only if they are starving (badly).

If your horse has eaten a large amount of chicken meat accidentally and is facing complications, consult a vet ASAP.

Zunnun Ahmed

We are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.

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