Ok what exactly is "scratch"


In the Brooder
10 Years
May 26, 2009
I have seen some references to "scratch" and realized I must be missing something.

I feed them Starter crumbles and let them run the yard for food. (about to change soon). I put down some grit too.

When I went to tractor suppy I didnt see anything labled "scratch"

I have 6 young 8-9 week old mutts (Red-sex Links).
Scratch is a mixture of grains, mostly corn, that some people feed to their flocks for a variety of reasons. I mix a little in with their pellets during the winter to help keep them warmer in the winter time. Other times, I'll give them a little as a treat or snack. Corn is full of fats/oils, so you don't want to give them scratch as their entire food source. They will get fat and have problems laying.
So it sounds like there is no defigned bag of "scratch" I can buy

Can I use any corn mix for scratch?

I have bag of wild bird food that is made of Cracked Corn, Milo , Sunflower and Grains . It has 8% Crude Protine , 4% Crude Fat, 6% Crude Fiber

can I use something like that ?
Yes you can use wild bird food, although it is pricey on a per unit basis.
There IS a defined scratch feed and it is composed of many things. It originated as spoiled, frozen or otherwise unusable grain which was unfit for human or livestock consumption. These were all ground coarsely together to help release their nutrients and fed as either a wet mash feed, as tossed grain and sometimes as a sort of pelleted feed. It was only called scratch in recent years, because when it is tossed on the ground or in the litter, that is how the chickens get it, by "scratching" for it.

The grains that comprise its makeup can be varied, but they are normally

Cracked corn
Cracked wheat
Crushed oats
BOSS (black oil sunflower seed)

... there can be many more, byproducts of the milling and feed industry. Where I live here in South Carolina you can buy it at WalMart!

Scratch satisifes the ability of the chicken to process seed and grain feeds in it's crop. It is not easily broken down, however, and requires they have access to grinding grit and plenty of water. The same is true of wild bird foods.

Scratch grain also demands a good bit of energy to process as food, so I find it rather unlikely that a chicken will get "fat" on a strict diet of scratch.

Added to it's list of vices, is the fact that it is not a complete and balanced nutrition source, so is seen primarily as a supplement feed.

So the real question is, "Are you missing anything if you are not feeding it?" If you are giving regular commercial feed along with green feeds as available, I'd have to say no, not really.
Scratch has three names around here:
Scratch grains - a mixture of corn and other grains, as Davaroo explained.
Chops - cracked corn without other grains added.
Scratch - ground corn that looks like cornmeal and is great for making a mush out of by adding warm liquid.
If you ask for a bag of "hen scratch" at our co-op, what you'll be given is a bag of finely ground corn as I described above. Not exactly something that the hens can peck and scratch for as it's as fine as baby powder.

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