5 things I add to their feed, and 10 treats I give them
One of the first things people ask me about backyard chickens is about what they eat. Chickens are omnivores. When left to their own devices in the back yard, my royal flock scratches and pecks for seeds, eats blades of grass, and finds insects and little critters. In fact, Antoinette (the leader of the flock) has even caught a baby snake!
But, I don’t just leave them to their own devices. I feed them a mixture of grains every day. And also feed them “treats” (scraps from the garden or the kitchen). Here’s the breakdown of what my backyard chickens eat.
What backyard chickens eat every day
My base feed mixture comes from Scratch and Peck Feeds. I like this company because they offer organic, whole grain feed without a lot of additives. Because the chickens are still young, I choose their organic grower feed. Once the girls begin laying eggs, I’ll begin feeding them the “layer” feed. The base feed includes the following:
• Flaxseed Meal
• Fish Meal
• Ground Limestone
• Flaxseed Oil
• Vitamin and Mineral Pre-Mix
To enhance the feed, I add the following to a 25-pound bag of base feed:
1. 1 cylander of old fashioned oats
2. 6 oz of sliced almonds (for vitamin E)
3. 1.5 cups of sunflower seeds
4. 1 cup food-grade diatomaceous earth (prevents parasites and keeps bugs out of the feed)
5. 1 cup of an herb mix, which includes garlic, ginger, parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, nettle, calendula
In addition to their every day feed, chickens need probiotics and garlic to keep their immune system healthy. So, a few times a week, I mix a probiotic solution with oatmeal and crushed garlic. This combination makes my stomach turn, but my royal flock loves it! It enhances their immunity and keeps them happy. Alternatively, I have also fermented their grains and given them probiotics this way (I’ll have to tell you more about that in another post).
I also leave out oyster shells (for calcium) and grit (for digestion). They eat those two items as needed.
What backyard chickens eat as a treat
When I feed the chickens treats, I whistle at them. This teaches them to come when they are called. Training chickens to come when called helps me a lot when they are roaming around the backyard and I need to gather them (or, I can’t find them).
Treats pretty much consist of kitchen scraps, not-so-perfect veggies from the garden, or fruit/veggies in the fridge that are a little too old to eat (but aren’t moldy). Chickens don’t care if their fruits and veggies are old or aren’t quite perfect.
Some of their favorite treats include:
Figs. Oh the figs. They love to eat the skin, the flesh, and the seeds. Since figs turn quickly, older figs get served to my chickens often. Because Antoinette is the leader, if I feed the chickens figs, she tends to eat all the treats. So, I cut the figs into smaller bits so that Wilhelmina and Tikal can enjoy some figgy treats too.
Watermelon. They love both the seeds and the flesh of watermelon! It is a welcome treat on a hot, dry afternoon.
Carrot shreds. I buy a broccoli and carrot shred mixture to put on top of my salads for the week. By the end of the week, whatever is left in the bag is old, but isn’t moldy. The chickens don’t love the broccoli, but will pick through the shreds to get to the carrots!
Cantaloupe. I feed the chickens the seeds and pulp from any melon or squash. They enjoy both the juicy pulp and the nutty seeds.
Pumpkin. Now that it’s getting to be fall, I eat a lot of canned pumpkin. This afternoon, I scooped a spoonful in with some oatmeal and gave it to the chickens. They went nuts over the orange stuff.
Tomatoes. The seeds are their favorite. I give the chickens both ripe and unripe tomatoes from the garden if a bug has gotten to them. As long as there is some flesh and seeds left, the chickens don’t mind.
Shrimp tails. Reminder: chickens are omnivores! So, the tails from grilled shrimp are a real treat. I have never seem these chickens squabble so much over a treat, especially when there is a little bit of shrimp left in the tail – watch out!
Berries. Any type of berry that is turning south is a treat for these backyard chickens. Even frozen berries are welcome.
Cucumber. While the chickens tend not to eat the skin, they love cucumber seeds. It’s funny to watch them peck the seeds out of a cucumber.
Eggplant. I had some leftover roast eggplant this evening, and I wanted to see if the chickens would enjoy. Boy, did they! Skin and all. Special note: I tend not to roast my veggies with salt (if I need salt, I add it at the table). Salt is not good for chickens, so I don’t give them cooked foods where salt has been added.
Well, there you have it! That’s what my chickens eat. Did you find anything on the list surprising?
What types of eggs should you buy? Let’s clear up that “farm fresh” label.
You’ve been there before. You are in the dairy aisle, facing 20 different options for eggs. The aisle is cold, so all you want to do is move your cart along so that you can begin feeling your toes again. So, you compare prices (quickly), choose a brand that’s recognizable, and maybe you choose a carton that says “farm fresh.”
In this post, I’m going to talk about what all of those labels mean on your eggs.
Let me tell you a secret: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Why? Because Thanksgiving means cooking, eating, and (in my opinion) no-fuss quality time with friends and family. Today, I’m going to talk about twelve dishes that will be on my table. And, I’d love to hear from you: What is on your Thanksgiving menu this year? Continue reading What’s on your Thanksgiving Menu?→
Today, let’s talk about one strategy that can save you time in the kitchen without making you sacrifice a healthful, home cooked meal: The Roast Chicken. Roast chicken is my key to a better week. After I roast a chicken, I get about two cups of leftover chopped chicken, plus – I get a bonus because I use the bones to make homemade broth!
When I roast a chicken over the weekend, the leftovers from the roast are used in lunches and dinners for the week. This cuts my weekday cooking time, and also gives me ample opportunity to get more creative with my meals. For example, this week, I used leftover chicken in a casserole and in a chicken salad. Leftovers from this one roast chicken covered our lunches for the week and most of our dinners!
Here are ten ways to use leftover roast chicken:
1. Chicken casserole (I make mine with pesto, chicken stock, brown rice, frozen chopped broccoli and frozen artichokes)
2. Chicken enchiladas
3. Chicken salad (I make a no-mayo lemon poppyseed chicken salad or a Mediterranean Chicken Salad)
4. Chicken soup
5. Tortilla soup
6. Chicken stir fry
7. Chicken chili
8. Baked ziti with chicken
9. Chicken and dumplings
10. Pizza with chicken and pesto
Now, some of you may not want to roast a chicken, and instead opt to get a rotisserie chicken. While I think that is ok to do in a pinch, rotisserie chicken can come with a lot of extra sodium. Instead, I keep it simple. Prepping a roast chicken doesn’t take too much time, and you can do other things around the house while you wait for your chicken to roast.
Here’s how to cook a roast chicken:
1. Choose an organic chicken from the grocery (Why organic? see why by visiting my post about sustainable food).
2. Clean your sink and surrounding countertops using green cleaners.
3. Cut a small orange into quarters and place it next to the sink.
4. Fill a ramekin with a teaspoon each of black pepper, dried thyme and rosemary and place the mix next to the sink.
5. Put a roasting pan next to the sink too, and set your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
6. Open the roast chicken packaging in the sink and let all the juices run down the drain.
7. Run water over and through your chicken. If there are giblets (these are the organs packed in the chicken cavity), take those out. I usually throw them away, but some people use it to make sauce or gravy.
8. Place your rinsed chicken on a roasting pan.
9. Fill the chicken cavity with slices of orange (lemon works well too!).
10. Sprinkle herbs on and in your chicken until the top, sides, and bottom of your chicken are covered.
11. Place your chicken in the preheated oven
12. Clean your sink and counter tops while the chicken is cooking.
13. After your chicken has cooked for an appropriate time (about 90 minutes – you can see when the chicken’s juices are running clear), use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken has an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees fahrenheit. To do this, check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. (see chicken from farm to table for more information about food safety and chicken)
14. Let your chicken rest for 10 minutes, carve, and then enjoy!
On this blog, I want to present creative ideas to make you more productive. And, one way to do that is to offer you strategies that will give you more time. If you want to eat healthfully on a budget, most of the time you have to cook at home. But, this takes up so much time! By roasting a chicken on the weekend, you can use the leftovers in many different ways to make delicious, healthful meals that won’t stretch your budget.
So tell us: How do you use leftover roast chicken?
Sometimes, you just need a little something to spice up a weeknight meal. What better thing to do than a simple side? So last night, I threw together a simple side veggie to go with our entree. It took about 15 minutes to prepare and sauté – pretty good, right?
Last year, we moved from Boston to Dallas. In my frenzied packing, I frustratingly noticed the many cleaning agents under the sink. We had a spray to “kill germs in the bathroom,” a separate spray for the shower “to prevent mildew,” cleaner to “cut kitchen grease,” another abrasive to scrub the shower, and even disinfectant spray for door knobs. I was overwhelmed by the variety (and specificity) of these cleaners. I knew that we couldn’t pack and move them. All I could think about was having to start over once we reached Dallas.
Food connects us with our world view, our taste buds, and our wallets. It is an expression of our culture. Today, I am going to expand on my food philosophy. While my foundational knowledge of food comes from my science background, not all of my food choices are based on the nutrition they provide.
To celebrate National Nutrition Month, I wanted to focus on eating healthfully. Many folks don’t feel that they can eat healthy food because it is too expensive. Here are 8 tips that you can use eat healthy and save money.