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COLD WEATHER - How much is too much scratch?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by bigoakhunter, Dec 4, 2009.

  1. bigoakhunter

    bigoakhunter Songster

    Jul 29, 2009
    Last month or two i have given treats, pumpkins, greens etc. Since colder weather started I have been giving 11 pullets about a pint jar of scratch each afternoon. When it gets really cold or like now high of 27 degrees today and low of 20 tonight, would it hurt to give them scratch in morning and agian in late afternoon? The girls seem much more reluctant to come out into run in this weather. Up to this week they would spend all day out in run.

    Just wanted to check and see if I can give them more scratch or will I get fat hens?

    BYC Rocks! I love the forum and the input we get here!

  2. fiberart57

    fiberart57 Songster

    May 31, 2009
    Yes, I believe you can give too much scratch. I was recently on vacation and my neighbor, who loves my chickens, fed them scratch with abandon. I came home to a thick layer of it on the ground of their run and pale, claylike poops from the girls. (I think that he thinks of them as his grandchildren and feeds them junk food.)

    Scratch is not as nutritionally complete as their commercial food; having said this there's a recent post about raising chickens without commercial feed that's pretty interesting and informative. I choose to feed mine commercial feed. I give them a small amount of scratch, 3/4 cup, split between six hens before bed so they have a full crop at bedtime. My scratch is homemade and I don't have much corn. It does add fat and fat in laying hens is not good.

    I think in the winter it's a little more important to increase their protein intake because they don't have access to the bugs and things that they do in the summer. This can be done by getting meal worms or crickets from the pet store, changing their feed to one of higher protein or giving them a little bit of raw meat like hamburger. Also, some fish foods are good. There's a need for caution using things like cat food because of the salt. But don't give them too much high protein food; they're omivores.

    It's possible to make your own mixture of scratch that they'll eat, or throw some safflower or sunflower seeds out for them. These are pretty nutritious. Hulled are expensive, but chickens have no trouble digesting BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds) with the shell. You can also give them left over salad fixings or get throw away produce for them from the grocery store. Also, you can get alfalfa cubes, soak them in water until soft and feed these for extra nutrition.

    It's true that the chickens of my dad's childhood ate leftovers and whatever they could catch but it's easier for me to feed them a scientifically sound diet because I worry about illnesses and the like. Also, yesterday I got four eggs from four layers and it's dark and cold here in Colorado.

  3. Plain Old Dee

    Plain Old Dee Songster

    Oct 30, 2009
    Seminole, OK
    Well finally!!! I've been going crazy trying to figure out what BOSS was! Thanks fiberart57, for clearing that up for me! I'll pick some up asap to add to my mix of scratch. My hens waste most of the commercial scratch mix, so I've been feeding them a couple of handfuls of oats and a bit of cracked corn. Not much corn. My 21 chickens eat it all and beg for more, but I make them eat their mash, first! [​IMG]
  4. dragonlair

    dragonlair Songster

    Apr 29, 2008
    Mine get BOSS too, since I also give it to my goats and horses. When its cold, I add dry cat food, suet cakes for wild birds and bread. They get corn and oats as a treat, since I have it for the horses and goats.
  5. panner123

    panner123 Songster

    Jan 15, 2007
    Garden Valley, ca
    When it gets cold out, I add cracked corn to the feed in the afternoon. Whatever it does to the body fat I could care less. What it does do is increase the body temp during the night. This helps to keep them warmer in unheated coops. Since I have cut back the number of chickens, they are all in heated coops. But they still get a small amount of corn to help them stay warm. My new neighbors think I spoil my critters for they all have heat at night and the chickens get an added amount of light at night. Could this be the reason I get more eggs this time of year than they do? You bet. There was a time that chickens only got corn and what they could find to eat. So I guess you could say, it won't kill them. When I am getting one ready to be culled, all it gets to eat for the last month is corn. Puts the weigh on.
  6. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    "A general rule of thumb is to feed only as much scratch as the chickens can consume in about 20 minutes, or about 10 to 15 percent of their total daily food consumption. . . . Table scraps and greens . . . The same rule applies here: the total supplementation of scratch and table scraps should be no more than can be cleaned up in about 20 minutes." Oregon State University, How to feed . . .(click on scratch grains)

    Make sure they have their commercial feed, free-choice.

    A laying hen will eat between 1/4 and 1/2 pound of food each day. You may decide to give them 85% to 90% commercial feed and the remainder as table scraps, greens, scratch, BOSS, etc. They can really pack away the feed when it gets cold and that is because of their need for added calories.

    I weigh my feeder before it is refilled. That is a very simple thing to do and it tells me if the hens are eating enough feed and if I'm giving too many snacks. But, if there's any time that you could loosen up a little on some added calories for them, it's during the real, real cold weather.


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