The taste of a delectable omelet or plateful of fluffy scrambled eggs could be a strong motivation behind owning and caring for your flock of chickens but don’t be surprised if you find yourself growing attached to more than just the fresh eggs.
From Bantams to Barred Rock and Cornish to Cochin, the chicken varieties you might have in your backyard are as diverse as the chickens themselves. Like dogs, cats and other common pets, each chicken is sure to have and readily showcase a personality all their own.
While some chickens are friendly and others curious, offering a treat to your hens is a great way to reward your best egg producers, and to get to know and appreciate the diversity of your feathered friends.
Whether you are looking to reward your flock or just spend some time with them, it is important to understand what treats your chickens should get, which behaviors to reward, and how often they should get treats to ensure they remain healthy, happy and producing the best quality eggs.
Why You Should Treat Your Chickens
They Want Your Attention!
Offering your chickens a sweet treat is about more than just the food. Treating your chickens is a great way to share your time and attention with your birds while getting to better know each one’s personality.
Getting a yummy treat is fun, but what your chickens really want is your attention. Just like a dog or cat, your chickens will come to appreciate the time spent with you. Pretty soon you may find a chicken, or two, following you around the yard or even snuggling up in your lap, but don’t be disappointed if this does not happen. It all goes back to those chicken personalities!
Check out this article highlighting 10 of our favorite friendly chicken breeds for families with kids
A Major Plus in the Winter
Intermountain winters are famous for being cold and snowy. While fresh powder and much-needed moisture can be a pleasant sight, they also provide some challenges for your flock. Winterizing your coop, using heat lamps and switching to a higher protein feed are a few great ways to help your chickens face the winter, but so are treats.
During the winter months, your chickens’ diet will need to be supplemented with energy-rich foods. Many chicken treats such as Poultry Scratch or those containing whole grains and corn can easily provide this needed energy boost to help keep the birds’ metabolism running which increases body temperature.
Be careful when feeding treats in the winter months. Just like humans, chickens require a balanced diet to remain healthy and loading up on treats is not the best practice. Use moderation keeping in mind that treats and other supplements should not exceed more than 10% of the birds’ overall diet.
Learn more about winter chicken nutrition by reading Why Your Chickens Need More Protein in Winter
How Often To Treat Your Chickens
Treating your chickens can help you not only get to know your chickens but share your attention with them. You can treat as often as you feel the need, but keep in mind that constantly treating your chickens can be harmful.
Chicken treats should not exceed more than 10% of the birds’ overall diet. Ensure that you are feeding your flock a well-balanced feedstuff throughout the year and the treats you feed them are simply a supplement to this (like dessert).
When you do treat your chickens it is a good idea to limit the amount you feed to no more than two tablespoons per day. Also, be conscientious of potential foods and produce scraps that could be harmful to the chickens or impact their egg-laying production.
The Best Treats for Your Chickens
Our IFA Favorites
IFA brand treats and feeds are specially designed by our in-house team of poultry and nutrition experts to ensure your chickens are not only happy but healthy and continuing to produce the hearty eggs you enjoy. Consider adding one of our specialty IFA treats to your chicken feeding program for a healthy and nutritious snack that will have your flock running.
IFA State Fair Blend
The IFA State Fair Blend is a fun and fantastic way to treat your chickens. This blend contains peanuts, popcorn and sunflower seeds that are sure to not only please but give your chickens a taste of the summer. It is a great way to share your love of summer and the taste of carnival classics with your chickens.
IFA Garden Medley
IFA Garden Medley chicken treats are a sure favorite for your flock. The treats contain a fun variety of ingredients that incorporate delicious nutrition and garden-fresh colors into one. Your chickens enjoy carrot chunks, pumpkin seeds, raisins and peas while you enjoy watching them showcase their personalities.
IFA Cowboy Crunch
IFA Cowboy Crunch is a power-packed treat with mealworms, sunflower seeds and anise oil in a mix of whole grains. The treats make a great supplement to your feeding program while being an exciting and nutritious treat for your chickens to hunt and peck.
Mealworms and Boonworms
Mealworm and boonworm treats are well-known favorites that many chicken owners treat their flocks with. These treats consist of the dried larvae of insects that will not only please your chickens but promote the natural foraging instincts of the birds. Plus, mealworms and boonworms are great treats for baby chicks.
Whether you want to get to know your individual chickens or simply perform an inspection of the birds, poultry blocks are a great way to gather your flock while encouraging instinctive pecking and scratching behavior. The blocks are often a blend of whole grains and seeds that chickens are sure to “flock” to.
Scratch is like candy for chickens. It is not a complete feed meaning it does not contain the necessary nutrients to support and promote healthy performance in the birds. As a blend of quality grains, scratch should be added to your feed program as a supplement or treat.
Homemade Foods From Your Table
A tasty treat for your flock doesn’t necessarily have to come from a store. Chickens enjoy many of the same fresh foods, fruits and veggies that we enjoy. Green vegetables such as lettuce, kale and cabbage are great go-to’s as well as beets, broccoli and even watermelon.
Remember the same nutrition rules apply to home-fresh treats as specially formulated ones. You should be careful not to overfeed treats by making sure that your treats are no more than 10% of the chickens’ diet.
Treats To Avoid Feeding Chickens
A chicken’s digestive system is very different from ours. It is important to understand potential problem foods and the impacts that these could have on your chickens or even your fresh eggs.
Scraps That Are Toxic to Chickens
While chickens often enjoy table scraps or small bites from your personal food selection, there are a number of these that can be toxic to the birds.
Avocado pits and skins, citrus and chocolate are all foods that should be avoided for this reason. You should also avoid feeding your chickens any moldy or rotten foods as these too can be harmful.
Foods That Negatively Affect the Way Eggs Taste
If fresh and tasty eggs are important to you it is imperative to understand that certain foods can affect the flavor and quality of the eggs that your chickens are producing. Garlic and onions are two such foods that should be avoided as these tend to cause an off-flavor in the eggs produced.
Ask an Expert
Finding the perfect treat for your flock is completely up to you, but if nutrition, productivity or just overall health is a concern we can help you find the perfect treat.
Visit your local IFA Country Store to speak with one of our chicken experts and let us help you find the best and most nutritious treats to compliment your feed program. Stop by to discover our IFA brand feeds and treats or pick up a classic snack sure to keep your flock happy, healthy and productive.
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Information for this article was provided by Dennis Christensen, M.S., P.A.S., Feed & Nutrition Advisor, Draper IFA Feed; and Jill Singleton, Feed and Nutrition Category Manager, IFA.
Photo credits: Gabby M., Vanessa S. and Nate L.