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?
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