You are probably dreaming of all the treats you can give your “spoiled” chicks when they reach maturity. A chicken will generally peck at anything as a chick but won’t actually eat it until they are about four to six months old. This article is about some of their favorite treats.
Besides the crumble/pellet feed that you get at your local feed store, you are probably giving them oyster shells and grit. The first “snack” usually is scratch which is cracked corn and a few other things like whole grains. They absolutely love their scratch and it is great way to “herd” your small flock back in after they have been free ranging. The truth is they will pretty much come to any food and you are now known as the “Food Champion”. Therefore you are very popular with your flock. haha They will get to know your voice, your whistle, your “crazy chicken call” or any other way you like to call them. The point is these birds like them some vittles and they know you have them.
Our personal favorite is melons! You have to introduce them chunked up at first. They love love love melon. Any kind of melon at that. When they start to recognize the rind you can throw the whole melon in there and they will peck it to oblivion. I read an article that someone slathers their melon with yogurt or applesauce and then sprinkles it with raisins and sunflower seeds and they destroy it!! haha How ever you choose to make this tasty treat they will indulge themselves.
If you are a gardener like me, you will always have too many veggies of this or that. If you aren’t giving them away then pulse them in your food processor and make a salad of chard, mustard greens, or lettuce that somehow ended up as the breeding ground for slugs (ucky). We live in the northwest and have slugs that crop up everywhere. Chickens love them. We also live on the salt water and are always on the look out for moon snails. These are the equivalent of slugs only ten times larger. They will peck the shell clean and you will have a pretty white shell to incorporate into your landscape. What a bonus!
Some really inexpensive treats that you may not think of is cooked spaghetti, carrot peels and worms! They love these long skinny things in their beaks! If you are creeped out by touching a worm even with gloves on then you can buy freeze dried meal worms. They look like little rattles from a rattle snake and the chickens devour them like popcorn at a drive-in movie. Also be on the look out with your local produce guy or gal for produce that is getting a little questionable. Chickens do not like molded and rotten food. They will not eat it. Food that lays around in their run is a great way to encourage things like rats to find a way in to your hen house. So only look for “not so pretty produce” at your local grocer.
If you have an abundance of eggs and you are just not consuming them and not giving them away fast enough, you can always scramble or cook their eggs and give them to your chickens for a little protein boost. Do not give them raw eggs. If chickens start eating their eggs this is often an irreversible habit and if you are an egg eater you will really not like the competition for the fresh eggs!
A treat that we make all the time is sprouted grains. I buy a bag from Costco. I take about three handfuls and put them into water and cook for about five minutes. Then I put a soft, mealy apple into the food processor and pulse it up. Stir these ingredients together and serve them up. They absolutely love it. Quinoa has also been thrown in as well as lentils. Remember what goes in your birds is what comes out in their eggs. Great amounts of Omega 3. With this in mind you may want to avoid greasy left overs that are high in saturated fats.
The best time to give them any snack is around supper time. By this time of the day they are done laying. Remember these are only treats and should not take the place of their laying feed. Laying feed is generally formulated perfectly to optimize egg laying and optimal health. It is the bulk of their diet. Foraging and snacking should come after that and not in large quantities.
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