Chicken feed treats for your chickens can be a good idea but healthy chickens rely on a good source of nutrition, so if you want a healthy flock, you need to invest in high-quality feed pellets while also providing lots of variety.
Feed pellets are created from a variety of ingredients, with good quality brands containing a mixture of wheat, maize, sunflower seed, oats, and a dash of salt. Chicken pellets are excellent nutrition for birds who don’t have access to a large area for free-ranging, but even free-range birds will benefit from a regular and concentrated source of vitamins and minerals.
Pellets are the staple of a chicken’s diet, but your birds will also be happier if they can look forward to some variety in their food, which they can get from kitchen scraps. Of course, all chicken scraps should be fresh and not contain anything that will be harmful to their health.
Chicken Feed Treats from Your Kitchen
Your chickens will enjoy a lot of the same foods from the kitchen that you do, with some foods that should be served as more of a treat to keep the menu interesting, just like people and chocolate. Here are a few foods that you should only dish out in moderation.
Bread – Chickens love bread, especially when soaked with a bit of milk, but it is fattening and low in nutritional value.
Raisins – Raisins are surprisingly high in sugar content so give tiny amounts. Too many raisins could cause renal failure.
Cheese – Dairy products like cheese are an excellent source of protein, but chickens can’t process dairy all that well.
Eggs – It might seem a bit weird to be giving your chickens eggs, but eggs are full of protein and Omega-3 fats. Only give them scrambled eggs as you don’t want them eyeing off their own eggs as a possible food source.
Beans – If you’ve got some leftover beans after dinner, they are perfectly fine for your birds, but only if they are cooked.
Yoghurt – Yoghurt contains live bacteria cultures which are beneficial for intestinal health, but as it is a dairy product they should only have the occasional small serving.
Foods NOT on the Chicken Feed List
Onions – While onions are packed full of vitamins and minerals, they don’t agree with chickens and can cause hemolytic anaemia.
Chocolate – Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to chickens.
Avocado – Avocado skins and nuts contain persin, which is very toxic to chickens. You may have heard that it’s okay to feed them the meat but why risk it?
Eggplant – Eggplants contain solanine, which is poisonous to chickens and is held in all parts of the plant including the leaves, stems and flowers.
Mouldy Bread – Not just bread, but anything which is mouldy, or can quickly go mouldy such as grass clippings, should never be fed to chickens.
Coffee Grounds – Humans can enjoy a pick-me-up in with no ill-effects, but even small amounts of caffeine can be harmful to chickens. Plus, there is no nutritional value.
Pickles – Pickles are highly processed and therefore loaded with either sugar or salt.
Essential Nutrients for Chickens
Nutrition powers and repairs the body, so every chicken should receive adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins for optimal health. An unbalanced diet can lead to conditions such as obesity, and leave you wondering where all the eggs have gone.
Commercial chicken feed provides a ready-made source of balanced nutrition. Ninety per cent of chicken’s nutritional requirements will come from their feed. Young birds have different dietary needs, so be sure to buy the appropriate feed for your chickens’ age.
In general, you should make sure your chicken feed contains a balance of the following:
* Carbohydrates for energy
* Fats for mineral absorption and cell function
* Enzymes for digestion and nutrient absorption
* Vitamins and minerals as fuel for all the bodily processes
* Proteins for repair and growth of muscle and flesh
How Often Should You Feed Your Chickens?
The question of how often you should feed your chickens is almost always answered with an “it depends.” The chicken feed you buy will have a recommended feeding schedule based on the weight and age of your chickens. Chickens are built to feed all day, so it’s okay to give them all-day access to good quality food with the occasional treat.
Hens will consume on average about 120 grams of food per day. Use this rule of thumb to measure out how much food you put in the feed bucket. If there isn’t any left the following day you need to add a little more. After a few days, you will get a feel for how much food you should leave out every day.
Here is a long list of foods that your chickens can enjoy as an occasional treat:
Broccoli, bananas and peels, grapes, pineapple, tomatoes, celery, strawberries, apples, rice, oranges, asparagus, crickets, potatoes and skins (nothing green), cabbage, popcorn (no additives), blueberries, cucumbers, cooked rice, cherries, pumpkin, meat, cheese, watermelon, carrots, cantaloupe, peaches, sweet potatoes, kale, melon, mealworms, cereal (including cooked oats), dog and cat food (rarely), green beans, kiwi, pears, nuts, zucchini, mango, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, corn, Brussel sprouts, fish, fruit (sparingly), pasta (including spaghetti)
As you can see, there’s not much from the kitchen that your chickens won’t enjoy.
If your chickens spend lots of time free-ranging, then they will eat less chicken feed. It’s also important to remember that this rule also applies when you feed them scraps, which is why you need to ensure you only provide good quality scraps that are high in nutritional value. The occasional treat once or twice a week is okay for variety’s sake.
Every chicken owner will develop their own schedule for feeding, but here’s one we like to use. Top up their feed in the mornings and let them out in the afternoon for about an hour to have their fill of worms, grubs, and bugs and provide you with natural fertiliser and weed control.
When night falls, the chickens will migrate back to the pen on their own, but you can encourage the behaviour by throwing kitchen scraps around the pen.
A regular schedule will give you a chance to monitor their eating habits, and provide a daily opportunity to check on the health of your birds while you take care of their needs with cleaning and such.
It’s essential you remove the leftover scraps every day, as you don’t want to attract pests such as flies, ants, rats and mice. Leftover food can also go mouldy quite quickly, which isn’t good for the birds.
If you have a large flock, you want to make sure your chickens can get access to food without having to go to battle for it. You may need more than one feeder, so the birds don’t feel the need to be competitive for their food.