There is nothing quite as satisfying as a happy flock of chickens. I’ve developed a good relationship with my chickens through care, gentle handling, and the occasional treat or two. I love to watch them run toward me when I come outside. When they see me, they’re usually hoping for attention and a snack.
Over the years, I’ve learned what chickens can and can’t have for snacks and what they really enjoy for treats. Read on to learn more about some different treats for chickens that will make them come running every time you step outside.
You’ll be pleased to know that many of the treats you can feed your chickens are items that you have in your pantry or your fridge. If you don’t have a composting system, you may be throwing potential treats for chickens into the trash. Here are some common food items that can make excellent treats for your flock.
Oatmeal can be an excellent treat for your chickens in the winter. Cook the oatmeal to make it soft and warm. Pour it into feed pans in the coop for a warming oatmeal treat. If you’re feeling especially generous, cut up some bananas or strawberries, and add them to the oatmeal.
Chickens will go crazy over cottage cheese straight out of the tub! Serve cottage cheese cold in the summer for a cooling treat. The bite-size pieces are easy for chickens to eat and they love the cheesy taste. You can also add chopped broccoli to make it extra special.
Yogurt is another dairy product that your chickens will love. Stick with plain yogurt as flavored yogurts can be full of sugar and have other added ingredients. Yogurt is a perfect summer treat to help cool off your chickens. You could even take it to the next step and know exactly what ingredients you’re feeding your chickens with homemade yogurt.
Chickens will eat many of the fruits that are good for them, but they are especially fond of berries and melons. They tend to avoid citrus fruits — which is good because they can be dangerous for chickens to eat.
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Use caution when feeding fruit as treats for chickens. Many fruits are high in sugar and shouldn’t be offered in large amounts. Grapes and raisins are two examples of fruit that your chickens will go crazy over but should be fed in very small amounts due to the high amount of sugar. Also, many fruits have a high water content and can lead to diarrhea. That said, bananas, strawberries, and cherries make good fruit treats for your chickens.
Cantaloupe And Pomegranate
When feeding cantaloupe or pomegranate to your chickens, don’t worry about the seeds out. Chickens will eat the seeds and the flesh of the fruit.
Blueberries are a favorite of most chickens, so look out if you have blueberry bushes they can reach!
For a fun and cooling summer treat, cut watermelon into cubes and freeze them. Place the frozen cubes into water buckets in the coop. Your chickens will love pecking at the fruit floating in the water.
Chickens love vegetables. Feed chickens vegetables that are fresh and not canned. Canned vegetables are usually packed with high levels of salt that aren’t good for your chickens. Squash, Brussels sprouts, corn radishes, kale, and sweet potato make great treats for chickens.
Chickens can eat potatoes as long as they are cooked, but don’t feed chickens raw potatoes. Not only are they hard to eat, green potatoes are toxic. Mashed potatoes are a favorite for chickens but they don’t have much nutritional value. Sweet potatoes are much healthier than yellow or russet potatoes.
Squash is something chickens will enjoy both raw or cooked. Softer skinned squash like zucchini and summer squash will be consumed entirely (from the seeds to the flesh). Squash with harder skins are tougher for chickens to eat.
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For spaghetti squash and pumpkins, cut the squash in half or in pieces so the chickens can get to the seeds and fleshy parts. They will pick the skin clean, and leave behind the rind.
Chickens love to eat corn of all kinds. One of the best ways to provide corn is to hang corn on the cob in the run. Your chickens will get a treat and entertainment that lasts for hours. But don’t feed corn in the morning. Corn is a favorite food of chickens and they will fill up on it if they eat it in the morning.
You may be feeding meat scraps to your dog or cat, but don’t forget about your chickens. Chickens are omnivores and need meat, too. Trim any fat from the meat before you feed it to your chickens. Cook the meat and cut it into small pieces. You can feed your chickens any type of meat including poultry, red meat, and fish.
Don’t worry about creating cannibal chickens if you feed them poultry. They won’t associate their fellow chickens with the cooked poultry you give them. If you don’t feel comfortable feeding them poultry, you can always stick to red meats and fish.
Depending on the size of your flock, you may find you are overrun with eggs. If that’s the case, you can scramble eggs as a treat for your chickens. Just scramble and feed.
Don’t ever feed your chickens raw eggs or throw extra eggs into the coop, however. Your chickens may learn the eggs they lay make tasty treats which could lead to egg-eater chickens. It can be hard to break an egg-eater habit, so avoid the problem by cooking eggs before feeding them to chickens.
Store-Bought Treats For Chickens
There are many store-bought treats for chickens out there. Many of them can be found in your local feed store or ordered online. Here’s a list of treats that you can feel good about feeding your chickens.
Manna Pro Garden Delight Poultry Treat
This premixed treat is made with pumpkin seeds, broccoli, golden raisins, sweet potatoes, beets, green peas, and sunflower seeds. It also has oregano and thyme which are proven to be natural antibiotics for chickens.
Happy Hen Treats Party Mix Mealworm And Oats
This treat is made with ingredients your chickens will love. Mealworms, corn, oats, sunflower seeds, and peanuts are all included in this mix. Mealworms are full of protein and a favorite treat of chickens. The mix is an excellent choice if you want to provide a little extra flavor.
Fly grubs are an excellent treat if your hens need a calcium boost. Mealworms contain about 0.05% calcium while fly grubs contain 5%, so you provide your chickens with both protein and calcium when you feed fly grubs.
As mentioned, mealworms are go-to treats for chickens. Just a few mealworms can have a significant impact on the amount of protein your chickens consume. Mealworms are the perfect treat for training chickens as they will go crazy over them. If you use a deep bedding system in your coop, toss some mealworms into the bedding to have your chickens turn the bedding for you.
When To Give Your Chickens Treats
Chickens will eat treats any time of day, so you have to be careful about when you offer them. If you feed treats first thing in the morning, they may not eat their feed during the day. Chickens only consume about one-third cup worth of food each day. If they fill up on treats, they won’t eat.
There are many treats out there that are good for your chickens and offer nutritional benefits but aren’t a source of complete nutrition for them. Restrict treats to less than 10% of their daily diet (a beakful or two).
The best time to provide treats for chickens is in the evening. They won’t spoil their appetite for the day since they’ve already eaten their feed. This is also a great way to get your flock back into the coop. You can use treats to train your chickens to come to the coop before dark by scattering treats on the floor of the run.
Don’t overdo it when it comes to treats. Chickens that overeat can become overweight. This can be especially dangerous for hens as it can lead to oversize eggs. Oversize eggs may sound like a good problem to have, but it can lead to egg binding, egg yolk peritonitis, and vent prolapse.
How To Know If Treats Are Safe
There are a few things that you should keep in mind to make sure that treats are safe for your chickens to eat:
- Avoid treats high in sugar or salt.
- Avoid treats that are highly processed as they contain large amounts of salt or sugar (e.g., pepperoni, pickles, store-bought bread).
- Don’t feed moldy foods. Mold can be toxic to chickens.
- Don’t feed foods with alcohol, caffeine, or chocolate.
- Avoid foods that have been sprayed with pesticides. If you don’t buy organic, wash the fruit before feeding.
Even with these safety limits, you can find numerous treats available for your chickens. Feed them in moderation to have a flock that is healthy and happy.