Corn is technically a vegetable, but thanks to humans’ domestication efforts, it has functionally become one of the most influential ‘grains’ to shape civilizations. Humans rely on corn for essential nutrition needs. They’re not the only animal to use corn to provide them with nutrition and energy. Many non-human animals eat corn. Corn is a staple for herbivorous creatures, but carnivorous animals usually avoid it. Why? Corn is difficult for carnivores to digest. It’s also less nutritious pound-for-pound, compared to animal protein.
We’ll discuss 12 animals that eat corn. These include domesticated animals that are fed corn by their owners and wild animals that eat less palatable, wilder forms of corn.
12 Animals that Eat Corn
Scientific Name: Equus ferus caballus
The horse is an herbivorous animal that was domesticated by humans thousands of years ago. It has been used in agriculture, transportation, recreation, and therapy. Despite horses’ versatility in use cases, their digestive systems can be very finicky.
Make sure you’re careful when feeding your horse corn. Its high-energy kernel has a lot of starch that may cause some problems in the horse’s digestive tract. It may be better to feed corn on the cob as opposed to loose corn. The cob has more fiber which slows down the rate of digestion, preventing the digestive system from fermenting too fast.
Corn isn’t as common of a horse feed as oats because it’s usually used for other agricultural purposes, like the creation of ethanol, a form of automobile fuel.
Scientific Name: Sus domesticus
In the last few thousand years, domestic pigs survived by eating the refuse from human meals and food preparation. Leftover corn is just one of the many ingredients in pig slop.
Conventional agriculture does feed production pigs corn. In small-scale agriculture and local community farms, pigs may be given
Pigs also eat corn in the wild. They root around in the forest and fallow fields, where they find old ears of unharvested corn and maize.
Rooting is one of their more common behaviors. Because of their size, pigs rely on fallen ears of corn or the ability to trample standing stalks.
Scientific Name: Gallus gallus domesticus
Many types of chicken feed contain corn as a major ingredient. Corn provides carbohydrates that the bird converts into usable energy.
Both cooked and raw corn kernels are appropriate for backyard chickens. However, it shouldn’t be fed often.
Corn is not a complete food source. Chickens are not naturally vegetarian; in the wild, they would eat insects and small invertebrates while scratching around in the dirt. If you feed corn directly to your chickens, make sure it’s just a treat.
4. Black Rat
Scientific Name: Rattus rattus
Rats have been a plague upon human settlements since the dawn of permanent structures. The black rat is one of the most common pest species on earth. It has a worldwide range and eats many substances – such as glue – that people would consider inedible.
Corn is a food for the black rat. These rodents are most likely to find it by hanging around silos and in agricultural fields.
Black rats are more reliant on urban infrastructure than other rats, so they may be more common in warehouses and storage facilities. They’ll nibble through containers to get to edible food inside.
5. Deer Mouse
Scientific Name: Peromyscus maniculatus
The deer mouse may spend most of its time outdoors, but farmers still consider it to be a pest. Deer mice live in agricultural fields, near barns and silos, in open woodlands, and in wetlands.
This species is extremely adaptable to different levels of moisture and food type. They’re especially problematic because they can spread diseases and contaminate harvested grains.
Corn is a delicious food for deer mice. They’re always looking for high-energy foodstuffs. Kernels of corn have high starch content, which helps the rodents gain weight and have enough energy to continue foraging.
6. White-tailed Deer
Scientific Name: Odocoileus virginianus
White-tailed deer love corn so much that it’s the cardinal way hunters attract deer to an area. You’ve probably heard of “deer corn.” This is corn seasoned and processed specifically for deer.
In the wild, white-tailed deer eat a variety of foods including grass, leaves, young buds and shoots, and fruits and veggies. Most gardeners have experienced the frustration of having young vegetables eaten by curious deer.
Some simple way to keep deer out of your corn is to hang reflective material like tinsel or metal pie plates around the crop. You can also hang netting, but it may be more trouble than it’s worth.
7. Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
Scientific Name: Sylvilagus floridanus
While many species of wild rabbits live in North America, the eastern cottontail is one of the most widespread and well-known. It lives in most of the Midwest, Southeast, and even the Pacific Northwest.
Normally, eastern cottontails eat grasses and leafy greens. They don’t elect to eat grains because their digestive systems thrive more on herbaceous plants.
However, they will eat corn if the opportunity arises. They eat the most corn in the fall when harvest occurs. You may see rabbits looking for fallen corn out in the fields in October.
Scientific Name: Bos taurus
The cow is a ruminant herbivore domesticated by humans thousands of years ago. People rely on cows for milk, meat, and hide.
While cows might munch on an insect or two, the vast majority of what they consume is from plants. They’re the quintessential grazing ruminant.
Corn does play a role in a cow’s diet, however. Corn is a staple food for finishing beef cattle. In most production settings, cattle are fed corn before slaughter to increase their weight and heighten the level of marbling in their muscles. This makes for a better-tasting steak.
9. American Crow
Scientific Name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Farmers and horror-movie writers are familiar with this scene: crows perch on a scarecrow in a cornfield, picking off ripe kernels from an exposed ear of corn. Crows are opportunistic birds that love corn. To them, it’s a high-energy snack that’s very easy to harvest.
You can even attract crows to your yard by spreading corn out on the grass. Just make sure to keep any corn away from the house or bird feeder. It can attract rats and mice, and the presence of crows can often intimidate songbirds.
10. Common Raven
Scientific Name: Corvus corax
Thanks to legends and myths, the common raven has a reputation for being a harbinger of death. It has been memorialized in scary movies, Halloween decorations, and poems – think Edgar Allen Poe. But this black bird is surprisingly smart and social.
Ravens live in just over half of North America. Most reside in Canada, Alaska, and the western United States. Others live in Mexico.
Corn is a staple for ravens living near agricultural areas. They forage for leftover ears after harvest and may even build nests near barns and silos.
Scientific Name: Tamias striatus
Chipmunks are small rodents known for their striped fur patterns and bushy tails. These creatures have cheek pouches that enable them to gather and store food efficiently. One notable element in their diet is corn.
Chipmunks are skilled foragers and opportunistic eaters, often nibbling on corn kernels when they come across them in their habitat. While corn is not a primary dietary staple, it can provide an additional food source for these resourceful little rodents.
Scientific Name: Sciuridae
Squirrels, known for their small size and fluffy tails, are adaptable rodents found in various ecosystems. Their physical characteristics include sharp incisors for gnawing and an agile body for tree climbing. In their diet, corn plays a notable role.
While squirrels are omnivorous, they often consume corn when available. Their versatile eating habits allow them to nibble on corn kernels, along with nuts, seeds, and fruits, depending on seasonal availability.