Do Birds Eat Jumping Worms? (Chickens and Other Bird Species)

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You may have seen the jumping worm, often referred to as Asian jumping worms due to their origin, and freaked out.

Or you heard that they’re an invasive species and wanted to find out if these crazy worms had any predators! Birds are the first thing that came to mind. Ours too. Surely, birds will eat jumping worms?

We did hours of research to find out whether any birds eat these invasive jumping worms. Our findings were quite surprising..

The answer to the question is yes, some birds eat jumping worms, but many birds won’t. The reason they won’t isn’t yet clear. One theory is that they’re more slimy and don’t taste as good to birds as the more common earthworms species. Another theory is that they wiggle so much that the bird spits it out.

But there is more to it. Let’s explain in more detail whether Asian jumping worms are even beneficial to birds and which species will eat them.

Will Birds Eat Jumping Worms?

Most birds will most certainly try to eat jumping worms, like they do other earthworms. Some species are more than happy to gulp them down.

But many will spit them out due to them being too slimey, tasting bad/different or because they are too active.

Chickens seem to have no trouble eating the jumping worm and even adult jumping worms (more on this later in the article).

Why do Some Birds Not Eat Jumping Worms?

It’s difficult to say for sure, since there isn’t that much difference in look and texture of this invasive species when compared to other earthworms.

They are more slimey than their European counterparts though, which is one theory for why some birds spit them out.

The other theory is that they thrash around in such an erratic manner that the bird gives up or doesn’t like the sensation when eating these invasive earthworms compared to other worms.

When is Eating Jumping Worms Bad For Birds?

Studies show if the soil these earthworms reside in are high in toxic metals like mercury, lead, cadmium and others, then these Alabama jumpers (another common name for this invasive species) accumulate these metals in their body.

As you can imagine, this could have negative health implications for any birds that eat these worms.

For this reason, it’s also not recommended to feed your domestic birds, like chickens or turkey’s the jumping worm.

These toxic metals can also be passed down into their eggs and the meat of the animal.

However, you can have your soil tested for excess levels of these metals and if your soil has a healthy concentration, then feeding your chickens Alabama jumpers is absolutely fine. (As long as they eat them!)

Do Chickens Eat Jumping Worms?

We touched on chickens briefly in the last few subheadings, but the question remains. Do chickens eat jumping worms?

Although our research showed that these worms aren’t a chicken’s preferred food source, a look on some forums showed that some farmer’s chickens absolutely loved them!

Here’s one owner on a forum talking about her experience:

My chickens absolutely binged on them! According to my research, chickens aren’t supposed to like eating jumping worms, but I guess mine didn’t get the memo.

So, although they’re not supposed to like them, some do!

Are Jumping Worms Good for Chickens?

Whether they are good for your birds or not, all depends on how much toxic metal is in the soil where you get your worms from.

Jumping worms high in toxic metals are not good for your chickens, or for you!

These metals will be passed down into your chicken’s eggs and any meat derived for consumption from the chicken.

Either way, earthworms aren’t a main staple of a chicken’s diet so whichever worm you feed your chickens, it should be done in moderation as they are omnivorous.

Worms in moderation are good for chickens, though as they contain nutrients like protein and amino acids which they might not otherwise get from plants and plant-based foods.

Are Jumping Worms Beneficial or Disadvantageous For Bird Species?

Jumping worms don’t offer many benefits to any bird species whether they are ground-nesting birds or bird species that nest above ground.

In a study, jumping worms increased greenhouse gas emissions by 50% more than worm-free soil.

This was also 25% more than the more common European earthworms like nightcrawlers and red wigglers.

How does this impact birds?

These emissions from the soil surface infested with jumping worms combined with their huge appetite for organic leaf litter on the ground means that local plant populations can go completely extinct.

This means a lack of leaf litter for ground-nesting birds, who like to hide their eggs from predators.

It also leads to a lack of food since plants, seeds, and other animals like bugs/insects which they like to eat, will also either die out or leave the area to find healthier forests.

The only benefit is for those bird species who do eat jumping worms, but even then, there is the risk of heavy metals spread in high-risk soil areas which can harm birds.

Summary and Fun Facts

Hopefully, we’ve clearly answered the question “do birds eat jumping worms” .

Ironically, there is no clear answer as some birds eat them and some don’t. It doesn’t seem to be species dependent either but we’d guess that larger birds will have a better time of eating them.

It is expected that as the species becomes more common, birds will simply get used to their taste and erratic movements and consume them more regularly.

Overall, they aren’t very good for birds just by simply existing – since they tend to kill off birds’ natural resources.

Food and shelter sources are affected, such as the organic matter on the forest floor, plant roots (by disrupting soil structure), and cause their animal sources of food to disappear (like bugs and insects).

The other thing to be wary of is their ability to accumulate high levels of toxic metal.

Fun Facts:

  • Among the best management practices and control methods includes adding diatomaceous earth to soil to get rid of the worms (it causes abrasive damage to their skin)
  • Some fishermen use this worm as fishing bait which has increased their numbers when they escape.
  • As a result, they are a prohibited invasive species for environmental conservation in some places in North America and other locations.
  • Moving plants infested by jumping worms is a bad idea and leads to their spread. Avoid moving plants without checking.
  • To check for these worms in your plants, you can mix a 1/3 cup of ground yellow mustard seed with a gallon of water. Then pour slowly into your soil or compost piles. Any worms will surface to the top. Your plants won’t be negatively impacted.
  • Jumping worm castings (their poop) are very gritty and have been compared to the texture and look of coffee grounds. This can cause altered soil around the top layer.
  • The jumping worm doesn’t need a partner to reproduce! One worm can lay egg cocoons on their own.
  • They have sometimes been referred to as “Snake worms” due to their side-winding movement
  • You can identify a jumping worm from their milky white clitellum toward the top of their body. It is closer to their head than other worms. It is also more flush than other worm species whose clitellum’s swell out beyond their body.
  • Adults die over the winter periods and are most active between July and October.
  • However, their cocoons can survive the winter by dehydrating to prevent them freezing! The embryos can then continue to develop when the weather is warmer.
  • Their cocoons can survive and develop for two years!

Do you have any experiences yourself with birds eating this species? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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