Cracked corn is a widely used staple in commercial bird seed mixes, and put simply, is dried corn kernels that have been crushed or broken into smaller fragments. Cracked corn is usually made from maize, and is often included as an ingredient in feed sold for wild and domestic birds.
Cracked corn is exactly what its name suggests – dried corn kernels that have been cracked into smaller pieces to make it easier for birds to digest.
Whole corn kernels are dried and then ground into smaller pieces using grinding machinery, with coarser fragments ideal for small backyard birds to feed on, leaving little waste behind.
Corn offers many nutritional benefits to the diets of wild birds and domestic poultry alike. It is a useful source of energy as it is high in carbohydrates, comprising around 62 percent of each whole kernel. Other important elements include fiber and protein (19 percent), water (15 percent) and oil (4 percent).
Cracked corn can be offered to backyard birds all year round, although is particularly welcome in winter when it provides a relatively inexpensive high-energy food source.
Chickens, Turkeys, Geese, Quail, Grouse and Ducks are among the best-known lovers of cracked corn, and it’s a popular choice for feed for poultry and fowl as it is a high-energy food that is relatively inexpensive.
Common backyard birds that are known to enjoy cracked corn include American Goldfinches, Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays, which will readily feast on feeders stocked with ground corn kernels. Mourning Doves, Dark-eyed Juncos and House Sparrows will feed on cracked corn scattered directly on the ground and will forage for the small fragments alongside other seeds and grains offered.
A Northern Cardinal. Common backyard birds that are known to enjoy cracked corn will readily feast on feeders stocked with ground corn kernels
Many birds that are partial to cracked corn are ground-feeding species, and it’s recommended to simply sprinkle the corn directly onto short grass or onto areas of patio or decking. Scattering cracked corn underneath shrubbery and other low-lying bushes will also help to attract ground-feeding species that prefer feeding under cover such as Towhees and Quail.
Tray feeders or platform feeders are often the most suitable feeder types for cracked corn, allowing birds to peck at individual pieces.
You can either feed cracked corn by itself or mix it with other types of seed. In seed mixes, it’s a good idea to keep the proportion of cracked corn to a minimum level so that birds do not simply overlook it in favor of different seeds.
Because cracked corn is dry, it is less likely to spoil and can be stored for long periods of time, as long as it is kept away from moisture and pests. Storage in sealed, airtight and waterproof containers is recommended. These should be kept at least 6 inches off the ground and 4 inches away from walls to prevent any damp or insects getting inside.
An Eastern Towhee - Scattering cracked corn underneath shrubbery and other low-lying bushes will also help to attract ground-feeding species that prefer feeding under cover
Although cracked corn is a common and popular choice of feed for wild and domestic birds, it should not be their only source of food and should be offered in moderation only.
Overfeeding birds with cracked corn can cause obesity, which may lead to heart disease, digestive tract problems and respiratory issues. Although cracked corn contains essential carbohydrates, its protein and fat contents are relatively low, and extra supplements would be needed to create a properly balanced diet.
Spilt birdseed attracting rats and mice to back yards is a common problem. Feeding cracked corn is recommended if you want to avoid this issue, as it is a relatively waste-free choice. As kernels are cracked into small pieces, no sprouting of weeds will occur when fragments do fall on the ground.
Mold developing on stored supplies of cracked corn is a concern, and not always easy to see. Offering moldy corn to birds brings a multitude of health risks for birds, and any discoloration or powdery growth you notice on your feed should be treated with extreme caution. To avoid mold or rot, cracked corn should be stored in dry environments where no moisture can spoil the grains.
The nutritional value of cracked corn is pretty similar, regardless of whether it is organically or non-organically grown. However, some people believe that an organically sourced product is better for the health of birds, with corn grown without any pesticides, fertilizers or genetically modified organisms. Non-organic alternatives are more widely available and usually less expensive, but some synthetic pesticides may be used during production.
Cracked corn should be sold in airtight packaging, with biodegradable plastic a more suitable and practical option, although more eco-friendly paper or cardboard alternatives are also available.
Chickens, Turkeys, Geese, Quail, Grouse and Ducks are among the best-known lovers of cracked corn
Using corn sourced from sustainable farms is a good way to reduce any negative environmental impacts of feeding cracked corn to birds. Finding suppliers that are GM-free and do not use pesticides, fertilizers or additional chemicals in cultivation or production is a great start, and where possible brands that offer eco-friendly packaging are a great choice.
Cracked corn isn’t just a favorite of wild birds; other backyard wildlife that may be attracted to cracked corn include deer, squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons and it can be used to divert their attention from your other feeders and feeding stations.
Making homemade cracked corn is relatively straightforward, after drying fresh-picked corn on the cob. Once dried, shell the corn, removing the kernels from the cob, then grind the kernels in a grinder into roughly chopped pieces on a coarse setting. Even without a grinder, the same effect can be achieved by placing dried kernels into a sealed plastic bag and using a hammer to gently crack them into pieces.
Blue Jays are known to enjoy cracked corn
Cracked corn and cornmeal are both manufactured from corn kernels but have different properties and uses. Cornmeal is ground into a fine powder, similar in consistency to flour, while cracked corn is crushed into coarser pieces with a rougher texture. Cornmeal is primarily used in cooking, while cracked corn is most often used in animal or bird feed.
You can use cracked corn bought at the grocery store to feed wild birds, but you’ll need to check that it is safe for animal consumption first, and does not contain any harmful preservatives or additives.
Cracked corn and whole corn are essentially the same, although cracked corn is, as you might expect, cracked into smaller pieces ahead of sale. Birds may find the cracked variety easier to eat and digest, particularly smaller birds that may struggle with swallowing the whole hard kernel.
Many birds will readily eat cracked corn as a staple part of their diet, both at backyard feeders and at poultry farms and by those raising domestic chickens and turkeys. A safe and inexpensive option that will attract a wide range of small and larger birds, cracked corn is best offered alongside other nutritious grains, seeds and nuts as part of a balanced and healthy diet.
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