Oats are a common agricultural crop grown worldwide as livestock feed and for human consumption. If you’ve ever wondered what creatures enjoy munching on oats in the wild, you’ve come to the right place!

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Horses, cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, squirrels, mice, voles, deer, elk, and many types of birds all readily consume oats.

Mammals That Eat Oats


Oats make up a large part of many horses’ diets. The hardy cereal grain provides horses with essential nutrients like fiber, protein, fat, and vitamins. Most nutritionists recommend horses consume 1-2 pounds of oats per 100 pounds of body weight per day.

Oats are an excellent source of slow-release energy to fuel horses’ active lifestyles. The fiber in oats also promotes healthy digestion. Many competitive horses eat oat-based feeds to maintain peak condition.


Whole oats and oat hay are nutritious feed options for cattle. The high fiber and protein in oats support strong muscles and bones. Cattle farmers often plant oat crops to use as cattle feed. Feeding cattle oats is also economical since the cereal grain grows well in various climates.

Specifically, dairy cows produce more milk when oats are added to their diet. The beta-glucan fibers in oats increase milk output. Oats also add shine to cows’ coats.


Goats can eat and digest whole oats well. The digestible fiber in oats aids healthy rumen function in goats. Boer goats, dwarf goats, pygmy goats, and dairy goats all thrive when supplemented with oats. Goat farmers sprinkle raw oats into the animals’ hay feed or pelleted goat feed.

The carbohydrates in oats provide goats energy to play and forage. Oats also contain vitamin E, selenium, and vitamin B12 for immunity and growth in young goats. Since goats love variety, oats make an appetizing addition to their diet.


Sheep can safely consume oats too. The grain’s nutrients help meet sheep’s nutritional requirements. Oats supply sheep steady energy, protein for wool and muscle development, and important vitamins and minerals. Both hair sheep and wool sheep benefit from eating oats.

Shepherds often mix whole or crimped oats into pelleted sheep feed or alfalfa for added nutrition. Lambs especially require adequate protein from sources like oats for proper growth. Overall, sheep enjoy eating oats and experience improved body condition from the oat grain.


Corn is the most common cereal grain fed to pigs, but oats have nutritional benefits for swine too. Oats contain more lysine and fat than corn, providing pigs extra protein and energy. The beta-glucan fiber in oats also supports healthy digestion in pigs.

Farmers include raw oats or oat byproducts in pig feed to save on feed costs. The fiber-rich oat hulls leftover from milling make economical filler. Both young pigs and sows produce well when oats are incorporated into a balanced diet.


Whole oats make a healthy treat for pet rabbits and farmed meat rabbits. The digestible plant protein helps rabbits develop strong muscles. Rabbits also get fiber for digestion and B vitamins for appetite and growth from oats.

Since rabbits’ digestive systems are delicate, oats should be given in limited quantities. No more than 1-2 teaspoons of oats per 6 lbs. of body weight is recommended at a time. Avoid feeding rabbits oats daily to prevent intestinal issues. Overall, oats in moderation benefit rabbits.


Oats are one of the many plant foods gray squirrels, red squirrels, flying squirrels, and ground squirrels eat. These nimble critters hoard oats to eat later. Squirrels sniff out and dig up buried oats with their keen sense of smell and long-term memory.

The carbohydrates in oats help squirrels maintain an active lifestyle. Squirrels benefit from oats’ nutrients like niacin for a glossy coat, manganese for strong bones, and protein for repairing tissues.

So while squirrels will eat just about anything, oats make a nutritious part of their varied diet.

Mice and Voles

Oats stored as cattle and goat feed draw mice and voles looking for an easy meal. Mice such as field mice, deer mice, and prairie voles enjoy burrowing tunnels through oat grains to eat the germ and starch inside.

Whole oats provide these small rodents carbohydrates for energy and B vitamins for growth and healing. While too many oats may cause digestive upset, the grain supplements mice and voles typical diet of seeds, fruits, roots, and insects.

Farmers may view mice and voles as pesky oat thieves, but the grain does sustain them.

Deer and Elk

Deer, elk, and moose graze on oats meant for livestock, especially in winter when other foliage is scarce. Nutrient-rich oat hay makes great emergency food during harsh weather when wild ungulates struggle to find plants to eat.

The protein in oats also helps deer and elk recover from the demands of mating season. Field-grown oats lure foraging deer in too. Even a small oat snack bolsters wild ruminants’ health. Allowing wildlife to judiciously share oat crops ultimately supports the entire local ecosystem.

Birds That Eat Oats


Geese are waterfowl birds that belong to the Anatidae family. They absolutely love eating oats! In fact, oats make up a significant part of the diet for domestic geese. Oats provide geese with an excellent source of carbohydrates and fiber.

Geese have traditionally been used for weed control in oat fields. Their grazing helps stimulate the growth of oat plants. Interestingly, geese produce a natural weed killer through the oils on their feathers as they graze among the oat plants.

Overall, oats are a fantastic addition to the diet of domestic geese.


Similar to geese, ducks are also waterfowl that thrive when oats are added to their diet. The high fiber content found in oats supports good digestion and gut health in ducks. Additionally, oats provide ducks with lasting energy due to their complex carbohydrates.

Both domestic and wild ducks will eagerly feed on fresh or dried oats. When feeding oats to ducks, it’s important to ensure the oats do not get wet and spoiled. For best results, give ducks a daily portion of dry oats and provide them with adequate fresh water.

Oats are an excellent source of nutrients for these amazing waterfowl!


Chickens absolutely love pecking at oats! In fact, most chicken owners include oats in their flock’s diet. Oats offer chickens a wealth of nutrition including B vitamins, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. The fiber in oats also promotes good digestion and can help minimize pecking behaviors.

Oats can be fed to chickens either whole or crushed into smaller pieces. Scattering oats in their coop or run gives chickens something productive to forage for. For best results, feed chickens a handful of oats per bird 2-3 times a week.

This scrumptious treat offers endless benefits for your feathered friends!


Believe it or not, turkeys go nuts for oats! These large birds relish the taste and nutrition offered by this grain. Whole oats or oatmeal provide turkeys with antioxidants, fiber, and protein. The high phosphorus content also supports bone health in these heavy birds.

Turkeys that free-range will naturally scratch around fields to uncover any oats they can find. For domestic turkeys, sprinkle some oats into their feed or offer a serving as a supplement. The usual feeding rate is 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup of oats per turkey.

Without a doubt, oats are an awesome addition to the diets of turkeys of all sizes!


In the wild, doves will readily feed on any oats they discover while foraging. These graceful birds thrive when oats are added to their diet. The carbohydrates in oats provide doves with an easily digestible source of energy.

Oats also offer protein for growth and renewal as well as dietary fiber for digestion. When feeding doves, sprinkle some oats on top of their seed mix or offer it freely in a separate dish. Be sure to provide grit as well to aid in digestion.

For added fun, scatter some oats on the ground outside to encourage natural foraging behaviors. Oats are clearly a great choice when feeding backyard doves!


Sparrows are opportunistic birds that will eat almost anything, and oats are no exception! These busy birds appreciate the nutrition offered by oats. The protein helps growing fledglings while the carbohydrates provide an energy source. Sparrows also like the texture of oats compared to other seeds.

For best results, mix a few oats into traditional bird seed mixes. Sparrows may take time to try oats, but once they do, they will keep coming back for more! Tree sparrows, house sparrows, and other species all enjoy pecking away at nutritious oats.


Finches are delightful songbirds that will happily feed on oats when given the chance. The small size of oats makes them perfect for finches and their tiny beaks. Oats offer finches dietary fiber for digestion as well as carbohydrates for energy.

They are also rich in B vitamins, magnesium, and other nutrients finches need. Mix in a few oats with traditional finch seed mixes. You can also sprinkle oats in hanging feeders or platform feeders. Species like house finches, goldfinches, and purple finches will all enjoy nibbling on yummy oats!

When and Why These Animals Eat Oats

Oats as Livestock Feed

Oats have been a staple livestock feed for centuries. Farmers often feed oats to horses, cattle, sheep, and other livestock as a nutritious source of carbohydrates and protein. Oats are an excellent source of energy and help livestock grow strong muscles and bones.

Most livestock are fed oats daily as part of their regular diet.

Farmers include oats in feed rations year-round, but usage may increase during colder months when animals need more calories to stay warm. The fiber in oats also helps livestock maintain digestive health.

Some pregnant or lactating animals receive additional oats to support their increased nutritional needs. Overall, oats provide a safe, affordable, and readily available feed source for livestock producers.

Oats in the Wild

In the wild, various birds and mammals seek out and consume oats as an important food source. Oats provide essential nutrition these animals need to thrive in nature.

Birds like grouse, dove, quail, and pheasant flock to fields of oats and eat the grains directly off the stalks. Rodents including mice, voles, rats, and squirrels also scavenge on waste oats in fields or storage areas.

Larger mammals such as deer, elk, and bears may graze on wild oats when other foods are scarce.

Wild animals tend to eat more oats in fall and winter when other natural foods decrease. The calories from oats help these animals maintain body weight and survive cold weather. Oats may also be available longer than perishable foods like fruits or berries.

Overall, oats offer vital sustenance that sustains diverse wildlife.

Benefits of Oats

Both livestock and wildlife derive multiple health benefits from eating oats. Here is a comparison of some key advantages oats provide:

Livestock Wildlife
– Digestible energy for growth and milk production – Highly digestible carbohydrates
– Balanced protein for muscle building – More protein than most grains
– Fiber to support gut health – Rich insoluble fiber
– Essential fatty acids for health – Good fatty acid profile
– Important vitamins and minerals – B vitamins, zinc, iron, etc.

As shown, oats provide comparable nutritional value to benefit both domesticated and wild animals. The natural qualities make oats a versatile food source animals seek out to meet their dietary requirements.

How to Use Oats to Attract Animals

Feeding Oats to Pets

Oats can be a healthy addition to many pets’ diets. When feeding oats to dogs or cats, it’s best to serve them cooked and plain, without added sugars or flavors. Start by mixing a small amount like 1⁄4 cup into their regular food and monitor for tolerance.

Most pets will readily eat and digest oatmeal. It’s a great source of fiber and gives them steady energy from complex carbs.

For variety, try making homemade oat biscuits for dogs using oat flour, eggs, and bacon grease for flavor. Or mix cooked oats with canned food, cottage cheese, or plain yogurt for extra protein. Soaked oats can even be used as an edible “bowl” for wet cat food.

Just a small daily serving of oats can promote healthy digestion and give pets’ coats a nice shine. But introduce new foods gradually and ask a veterinarian if in doubt.

Putting Out Oats for Wildlife

In addition to domestic animals, many species of backyard wildlife will readily gobble up oats. It’s a natural, nutritious supplement for local birds, squirrels, deer, and other critters. There are several ways to set up an oat feeding station.

  • Use a flat platform feeder and scatter oats loosely across its surface.
  • Hang tube feeders filled with raw, dried oats for birds to cling to.
  • Mix oats into homemade “no-bake” food balls with nut butter, seeds, fruit, etc.

The key is giving animals easy access without excessive competition. Multiple feeders spaced apart allow quieter species like chipmunks a chance. Clean up moldy/wet oats promptly and remove feeders if causing issues between animals. When possible, combine feeding with water sources for convenience.

Oats offer carbs while most wildlife diets lack grains, so a little goes a long way nutrition-wise.

Creating an Oat Patch in Your Yard

Want to take the oats-for-animals concept further? Consider planting oats directly in your backyard or garden! As a fast-growing cereal grain, oats make a hardy cover crop or temporary pollinator magnet leading up to fall and winter.

Sow oats: Spring to mid-summer
Sun needs: Full sun
Mature height: 2 to 4 feet

Till up a patch of soil, rake smooth, and sprinkle oat grains thinly across the top, patting down gently. Keep moist until sprouted, then let grow semi-wild. The hardy plants will produce plentiful oat heads in a couple months.

Besides offering autumn/winter grazing for local wildlife, an oat patch filters runoff, builds soil nutrition, and prevents erosion in unused areas.

If you notice deer, rodents, or birds heavily relying on the patch, leave some standing oats over winter. Come spring, till remnants into the soil to enrich and re-seed. A continuously replanted oat patch becomes a rotating buffet, stimulating biodiversity in tandem with seasonal cycles.

When thoughtfully planned, the endearing sight of animals nibbling fresh oats in your yard is easy to achieve!


In summary, oats are a versatile food source relished by horses, cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, rodents, deer, birds and more. Both livestock and wildlife seek out the nutrients, minerals and fiber found in oats.

By providing oats in your backyard or farm, you can attract various animals for your viewing pleasure. We’ve just scratched the surface on all the creatures that enjoy eating oats – feel free to do more research into the diverse species that consume this common grain worldwide.

Similar Posts