Created by a chicken lover, for chickens, with inspiration from his daughter...
The Happy Hen Treats Story
Happy Hen Treats are the inspiration of a seven year old girl named Kassidi who during a trip to the pet store to buy treats for her dogs, asked her father if she could also buy treats for Bailey, her favorite chicken. Her father gently explained that treats were not available for chickens but he could quickly see that his explanation was not setting well with his daughter as she insisted they search the store anyway. After a thorough sweep of the store unveiled treats for everything from dogs, cats, cockatiels, turtles, hermit crabs, fish, ferrets, and mice but nothing for chickens, Kassidi’s disappointment turned to determination and she wasn’t going to rest until her little backyard pet had what every other type of pet already had…treats!
Less than a year later Happy Hen Treats developed Mealworm Frenzy and declared it to be “The World’s First Treats for Pet Chickens”. Thanks to one little girl’s vision and determination, chickens across the country can enjoy a special treat developed especially for them.
Because so many others share Kassidi’s passion for raising and caring for pet chickens, Happy Hen Treats continues to expand their line of quality products.
A member of the BYC staff got an exclusive interview with the creator of Happy Hen Treats, Byron Parker.
Q. What got you into raising poultry in the first place?
A. I’m the dad that had his daughter with him when he walked into a farm store to buy a shovel and only a shovel but walked out with a shovel and a box of baby chicks. That was nearly twenty years ago and I’ve had chickens in my backyard ever since.
Q. What was the process of designing a treat for chickens like?
A. The process to find a safe treat to feed chickens was fairly simple, there was tons of information available in books and online from reputable sources including BackyardChickens.com (who posted a handy chicken treat chart a few years ago) that helped me eliminate any ingredients that could be potentially harmful to chickens. Although I did select ingredients that could be nutritionally beneficial to chickens, I didn’t place an emphasis on this since my primary goal was to provide a treat that chickens would go crazy for and not another feed product. Feed companies have spent a lot of time and money to formulate a nutritionally sound feed that promotes proper growth, development, and overall wellbeing and that feed, in most cases, should always play the biggest role in a chicken’s diet. After all, I wasn’t looking to create the main course; I was trying to make dessert!
Once I narrowed my list of treats down to around twelve possibilities, the fun process of trial and elimination began. I knew from the start that everything I was offering the chickens was something they liked and I was curious to see if they would have a favorite and if I would be able to distinguish which one it was. I placed twelve cups on the ground in a large pen and then placed three chickens at a time inside to sample the buffet. They sampled the buffet just like you or I would, taking one or two pieces here and there until they found something like sunflower seeds that excited them to the point where they decided to load up their plates. However once one of the chickens found the dried mealworms…it was all over! Sunday brunch turned into a full blown feeding frenzy and nothing else seemed to exist to the chickens except that one cup of mealworms. The results were the same with every group of chickens I introduced to the buffet and it quickly became clear that mealworms were the chicken’s favorite treat and I couldn’t have imagined a more positive reaction than the way those chickens were reacting to mealworms. Many of my friends and co-workers described it as a feeding frenzy too and so the name Mealworm Frenzy was born.
Q. Did you face any challenges along the way?
A. I’m sort of an obsessive compulsive person and because this was such a big and important project for our company I probably spent more time with chickens than I did with my family for a year during the development phase. I felt like I wanted the approval of every chicken in the country before our company launched the final product and so I traveled around to as many flocks as possible to make sure they loved mealworms as much as my flock did and then I would go back three or four times to make sure the positive results I was getting weren’t a fluke.
Getting people to take me seriously when I told them I was developing treats for chickens was a bit of a challenge. When I would contact potential suppliers for product or packaging materials, I often had to explain in length about the backyard chicken phenomenon that’s occurring to get them to take me seriously. The funny part is many of the people I spoke with would suddenly remember that they did in fact know someone who kept a few chickens in their backyard and that they treated their chickens like pets too!
Q. What is your favorite part about raising chickens?
A. Sitting on the back porch in the evening and watching the kids interact with the chickens beats any television show we could watch inside. Put a bag of treats in a child’s hands and stand him or her in front of a flock of chickens and that child will feel like a King or Queen! My kids love that our chickens will follow them anywhere they go when they’re holding a bag of treats and they like to toss a little bit out here and there as if they were showing pity on the poor and hungry villagers in their kingdom. Occasionally my four year old son will take off running if one of the hens gets a little too close for comfort or decides to jump for the bag and help herself, but I think that kind of drama is what keeps my son interested.
Q. Do you have any fun anecdotes about your experiences creating Happy Hen Treats?
A. Apparently Mealworm Frenzy from Happy Hen Treats is a great way to treat many of our backyard friends. We have a local pet store owner that I approached about carrying our new treats on his shelf when they were first released. He was kind enough to consider it but didn’t think they would do so well in his pet store because he said his customers were dog and cat owners and didn’t have chickens. I suggested that his customers may in fact have chickens but weren’t asking for products for chickens because they weren’t
traditionally offered in most pet stores. In no time at all he reported rapid
sales of Mealworm Frenzy and was quickly reordering more for his shelves. A few weeks later I went to his store to speak to him about the success of the product in his store and while waiting for him to finish ringing up a customer, to my pleasant surprise, I actually witnessed a woman remove two bags from his shelves and take them to the counter to purchase them. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to interview an actual customer so I quickly walked over to ask her some questions, the first being; what kind of chickens do you have? She said, “Oh, I don’t have chickens, these are for my turkeys.” She told us that she had been feeding her turkeys our Mealworm Frenzy for weeks and they just loved them. After explaining that I had developed the treats she was buying for her turkeys, she invited our staff out to witness first-hand how much her Rio Grande Wild Turkeys loved our treats. Sure enough those beautiful giant birds came running when we shook a bag of Mealworm Frenzy and there was no need to reach your hand in the bag because her turkeys were happy to stick their heads right inside and help themselves (check out the pic!)
What do you do to treat your chickens? Let us know in the comments - we're always looking for ideas on how to make our chickens eating happily!