How Keeping a Green Iguana Can Help a Poultry Flock
By Johnathan David of Everything Reptiles
Green iguanas have become a popular pet due to their bright colors and bold personalities. Indigenous to South America, this species can be seen from Mexico to Argentina in the wild and is considered to be an invasive species across some southern states, including Texas and Florida.
Called “the chicken of the trees” in Spanish, as their meat apparently has a similar taste and texture.
Despite occasionally being kept for meat, green iguanas are also often kept alongside chickens as the species share many similar qualities.
As a result, the two species can make unlikely companions. However, owners should know what to look out for if they are planning to keep these two species side by side.
Part 1 – Why Iguanas?
Not only can iguanas provide interspecies companionship for your chickens, but iguanas may also be able to keep flies in your coop at bay! Though iguanas are mostly herbivorous, they have been known to eat flies, grasshoppers, and tree snails. Like chickens, they will be able to help keep your garden pleasant and pest free.
Iguanas’ fly-eating habits mean your chickens can live a peaceful life, free from the pests that may have previously bothered them. Not only this, but iguanas have even been known to eat mice on occasion, which may help with your pest control in another way!
There has recently become a surge of interest of people wanting to keep a reptile alongside their chickens to protect from predators and keep flies at bay. Unfortunately, picking the reptile for the task can be a little tricky.
Green iguanas are the perfect candidate for this. As herbivores, they are unlikely to attack and eat your chickens, beyond occasionally raiding their nests. Some species of snake will eat bird eggs and some eat chicks, so they do not make a good match for a chicken coop.
Equally, chickens will attempt to eat frogs, lizards, and newts, as they provide an excellent source of protein, and so they would not be compatible with side-by-side living. Green iguanas are much larger (usually growing to around five feet) and tougher, chickens are unlikely to attempt to eat them!
Part 2 – Iguanas
In parts of America that are warm enough for these ectotherms, it is perfectly reasonable to keep iguanas and chickens side-by-side in the coop. You could, therefore, allow them to live free-range, alongside your chickens, especially if you provide a “hot-spot” with a UVA lamp for them to bask!
However, if you live in areas that have particularly cold winters, you should make arrangements for your iguanas to come into a vivarium for the long winter months, as they will freeze in the cold!
Green iguanas need a diet of primarily leafy greens, fruit, and vegetables. It is important to ensure your iguanas have a ratio of two to one calcium to phosphorus in their diet, as without it they can become quite unwell.
Misinformed green iguana owners will often feed them iceberg lettuce, as this appears to be the norm in the media. However, while this will hydrate them, it does nothing for them in terms of nutrition, and as a result, it should be avoided as much as possible.
A Word of Caution
There is evidence of wild green iguanas tucking into bird’s eggs when food is scarce or their diet is lacking in essential proteins. As chickens lay their eggs relatively unexposed on the ground, this would make an easy and tasty snack for an iguana. Consequently, you should be sure to feed your iguanas a balanced diet or you may not have any eggs to collect from your chicken coop!
When handling iguanas, you should be sure to wash your hands before and after handling, especially before eating. Iguanas are known carriers of Salmonella, which can be deadly to humans.
Keeping Your Iguanas in the Yard
Iguanas are considered to be an invasive species in some parts of the country, including Florida. There they are considered to be a pest animal, and are not loved by members of the public!
In order to avoid introducing a potentially invasive species into your local ecosystem, you will need to take certain precautions.
Iguanas are excellent climbers and have even been known to climb across rooftops to get where they want to go. Therefore, if you are going to keep them outside with your chickens you will need to take precautions to ensure your iguanas stay in your garden!
The wire will need to be buried several feet under your yard fencing to ensure they cannot dig their way out. Putting sheet metal around your fencing can make the surface slippery and make it harder to climb.
You will also need to ensure there are no “bridges” in the form of trees overhanging your fences, as iguanas will simply climb the trees and walk out! This applies to your home too: you will need to iguana-proof the walls of your property to ensure they cannot climb the walls and leave!
Part 3 – Chickens
The keeping of chickens has increased in popularity over the past 20 or so years, as many Americans begin to return to traditional values. Depending on where you live, there may be regulations on the number of chickens you are allowed to keep, and it is important to check this before investing in a flock.
Chickens are hardy animals that will require very little modification to their lifestyle to live alongside an Iguana.
Like iguanas, they enjoy a diet of leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables. Experts recommend feeding grass cuttings, weeds, cabbage, and cauliflower leaves. This is similar to the recommended diet for the iguana, and so the two will be able to feed alongside each other. However, chickens will also need pelleted chicken feed to keep up their levels of protein.
As with iguanas, they should not be fed iceberg lettuce as it has little to no nutritional value.
If you are looking for a flycatcher to live among your chickens, look no further! If you live in a warm part of the country where it is possible to keep reptiles outside, then green iguanas could be the perfect candidate.
Mostly herbivores, green iguanas can live happily alongside chickens. In turn, they are too large to be considered a yummy snack for your chickens, and so the two can live quite happily side by side!
Do you have a multi-species garden at home? Leave us a comment all about it below.
Johnathan David leads the editorial team at Everything Reptiles. A reptile hobbyist since childhood, he has years’ of experience in herpetoculture and has cared for geckos and skinks.