treat your chickens right

‘Treat’ Your Chickens Right

Should you give your chickens treats? Of course!

Just like any other pet, chickens love a special treat. They will respond with excitement when they see you coming with mealworms or table scraps. But, let’s make sure you’re having a positive impact on their health and using treats in an appropriate manner. Truth be told, the overfeeding of treats can seriously harm the production, health, and well-being of your birds.

According to Nutrena’s The Scoop From the Coop, a treat is “anything that you feed your birds that is not grit, oyster shell, or a commercial ration (layer feed, all flock, etc.)… We don’t count oyster shell or grit as treats; these are additives that help with digestion (grit) and calcium supplementation (oyster shell). Anything else, however, should be considered a treat and fed appropriately. This includes scratch grains.”

Nutrena recommends limiting treats to 10-15% of your birds’ diet.

Why? When chickens are not getting the nutrition they need, they can start feather pecking, eating eggs, and decreasing egg production.

Companies like Nutrena and many others have developed chicken-feed recipes based on decades of research. They’ve gone to great lengths to understand what chickens need in their diets to develop into healthy, productive birds. This results in precise rations of protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids; overfeeding treats puts these rations out of balance.

Following this routine from Nutrena will keep your treat amounts within healthy ranges:

  1. Pick your treat of the day and make it something your birds really enjoy! Mealworms, fruits, vegetables, and insects are all good treats.
  2. Give your birds only what they will clean up in 15 minutes. Do this one time a day to prevent disrupting their diet.
  3. Be a hero to your birds and enjoy your 15 minutes of fame!
  4. Repeat daily.

Murdoch’s supplies healthy feed and treats for chickens and chicks, including dried meal worms and scratch grains. Our experts encourage supplementing the treat list with healthy table scraps, with exceptions.

Here are a few common table scraps that you should avoid feeding your chickens:

  • Avocado pits and skins are toxic to chickens. Avocado flesh is safe for them.
  • Rhubarb, especially stalks that have been frozen, can act as a laxative in chickens.
  • Spoiled and salty foods can produce wet feces and, depending on the food, be toxic.
  • Onions can cause a type of anemia.
  • Chocolate is toxic to chickens.
  • Coffee grounds have no nutritional value and contain caffeine.
  • Pasta is OK in small amounts, fed sparingly.