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Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by hamard, Jun 19, 2016.
Is it possible to overfeed my chickens hen scratch, They prefer it over lay mash
It is absolutely possible! Most birds I encounter are overweight (some morbidly obese) due to overfeeding of scratch. Listen here:
Scratch is not good for chickens.
Lots of people don't get this, so I'll go ahead and repeat it. Scratch is not good for chickens.
Think of it like a really rich food - it's the chicken version of chocolate cake. Delicious, and something you could so easily eat a ton of, but nutritionally empty and not at all good in large amounts. That's what it is to chickens. And to continue the metaphor - sure, a bite of chocolate cake each day, or a slice each week, wouldn't be a problem. But you eat a whole bunch of it every day... that's a problem.
I once did the math on this. Most reputable poultry folks will quote 10% of the diet as the absolute maximum for scratch. For your typical mature laying hen, this is 1/2 tablespoon a day. That's not much at all, is it? But if you think about the size of a chicken's body and how much they eat each day, it definitely becomes obvious how that could be 10% of the diet. Any more than that, and you're risking your bird developing nutritional deficiencies, bumblefoot due to obesity, and reproductive issues due to a lack of necessary nutrients and minerals like calcium.
If your hens have been eating a significant amount of scratch recently, and you suspect they are obese or otherwise unhealthy, then I would recommend cutting out all treats and scraps for several weeks. Force them to eat their layer feed and nothing else. After this, you can introduce treats again, but be very careful feeding scratch. Better alternatives to scratch which they will enjoy just as much include fruits and veggies, and even protein-rich items like scrambled eggs or ground beef, in small amounts. Mealworms are a great option as well, but they can be quite fatty, so don't feed them too liberally!
Most scratch is made up of the same grains that are in chicken feed. The argument of food versus candy or cake is rather amazing & off point. It is the same grains, but is not balanced for your chickens. Scratch in moderation everyday is not going to kill your chickens or make them fat if it is only a treat. Would love to see where the Tablespoon calculation came from, never heard that one. If you only throw your chickens scratch once a day & only a small amount, they will have to eat their chicken feed or starve. Feeding them too much of anything other than balanced feed can be a problem also. All things in moderation.
thank you for your reply. I will defiantly cut the scratch back.