Do you know what’s good…and what treats are bad?
Chickens are voracious little critters who will happily peck up any tidbit on the ground, but they also harbor the talent of looking cute enough to beg for treats. Given that chickens are omnivores, the variety of food they eat is impressive… but, which treats are safe and healthy for your little backyard dinosaurs and what should you avoid?
What CAN chickens eat?
Simply put, chickens will chase down and gobble up anything in their path such as: grains, bugs, most vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs, sprouts, bread, cheese, meat, fish, eggs, popcorn, melons, rice and yogurt. Just feeding these straight out the back door is totally fine. But, if you want to give your flock a little something special, here are some treat ideas that you can easily whip up in the kitchen!
- Oatmeal Balls: Warm up some dry oatmeal, mix with enough water to turn it into a dough-like substance, roll them into balls and top with seeds or nuts. Refrigerate for about an hour. Toss them out into the yard and watch the chickens scurry around to nibble on these chilled treats!
- Watermelon: No BBQ is complete without slices of watermelon…but don’t throw out those rinds! Simply toss them out to the chickens for a summery snack that will also keep them hydrated.
- Frozen corn: Simple yet effective for hot summer days. Simply pour the contents of a can of corn (water and all) into a ziplock bag. Zip shut and place in the freezer. Unbag and toss this frozen block of yumminess into the yard and watch your chickens peck to their heart’s content.
- Cabbage tether ball: Use a kabob skewer to pierce a head a cabbage and run a string from end to end. Tie the cabbage to a stake so it hangs just out of reach and your flock will provide you with hours of entertainment while getting some good exercise.
- Omelets: Eggs and ground eggshells provide imperative protein for molting hens. Whip up a lovely omelet complete with finely ground eggshells, oatmeal, corn and maybe a herbal sprig for presentation!
- Frozen yogurt: pour plain yogurt mixed with birdseed into some ice cube trays for a super special dessert
- Meatloaf: roll some cooked chicken, beef or pork mixed with breadcrumbs, eggs, oatmeal and rice into a ball, refrigerate until firm and give your chickens a protein-rich meal.
- Fresh salad: With just a few exceptions, chickens can eat almost any veggie. Toss them a fresh salad of leafy greens, tomatoes, radishes, beets, cucumbers, peas, squash, cooked potatoes or yams, cauliflower… and whatever veggie tops you had ready to compost!
Treats to avoid
What should you AVOID feeding them no matter how much they beg?
- Anything with a pit: Stone fruits like apricots and plums are fine to feed your chickens AFTER you remove the pit!
- Avocado: These contain persin which is toxic. Avoid any part of this fruit.
- Butter: Butters are too fatty and do not provide much nutritional value.
- Chocolate, coffee and alcohol: Enjoy these treats yourself, but don’t share them with the flock!
- Nightshades: The meat of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are fine, but throw out the stems, leaves and peels.
- Fried or processed foods: I mean, it’s good practice for humans to avoid these as well…
- Dry beans or rice: Cooked is fine. Dry is a choking hazard.
- Raw potatoes or yams: Cooked is fine, but raw contains deadly solanine.
So, there you go. Now get in the kitchen and make your backyard friends some amazing treats!
What do experts say?
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About the author
Shelby Stone is a writer and communications mechanic at Small Pet Select (shop.smallpetselect.com) when she isn’t busy with her chickens, her horse Percy, Mango the parrot, and the many other animals in her family.