Treats - What exactly is considered a "Treat" for a Chicken vs. Food for a Chicken?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by OC Chick, Feb 5, 2017.

  1. OC Chick

    OC Chick Out Of The Brooder

    Hi Backyard Chicken Keepers! Can you please explain the difference to me between "Treats" for chickens vs. regular "Food" for chickens? My four backyard pullets are 17 1/2 weeks old and have not started laying yet (I've heard some pullets lay early, mine aren't showing any signs yet of being ready). They have a coop and an enclosed run that they hang out in most of the day, and then have a 150 square foot area in my very small suburban backyard to dig for worms and eat some grass (most of which is gone by now). My intention is to give my girls as much of a natural feed diet that they would get if they were pasture raised, which means I'm doing a lot of guess work since there aren't a whole lot of pastures where I live. [​IMG]

    Currently I give my pullets Scratch & Peck feed for their "main" food source; am growing mini portable pastures of Peaceful Valley Omega 3 Forage Blend in garden flats (they get 1 flat a day to trim down); I purchase crickets, waxworms & mealworms for them because my yard doesn't really have many bugs (unless you count ants and my girls don't eat those); and then will give them green carrot leaf tops, kale, cucumbers, and ends of chopped veggies. Generally I've stayed away from feeding them dinner leftovers as a personal choice, though I have given them organic brown rice & oatmeal as a way to try to get them to eat the powder in the Scratch & Peck feed.

    So looking at what I'm feeding my chickens, what is considered a "treat" and what should be "full access"? And of the "treats" how much per day per chicken? Is there something else I should be feeding them that you recommend? I don't know how many bugs/worms/crickets chickens would get daily in a pasture, or if they would ever have access to veggie gardens. I know feeding your flocks can be a sensitive issue for many backyard chicken keepers, and there are a lot of opinions on the subject, but I would love and appreciate any insight you can give me. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2017
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    I think this is what I'd do: Ferment their main source of feed. Give them access to the greens. Then give them a few of your various sources of insects every day. I think you are in a climate where you could raise Black Soldier Fly Larvae. These are a wonderful option of protein and calcium. Self sustaining. All you have to do is keep feeding the BSFL bin with compostable fruits and veggies, and the larvae will crawl off directly into the run or into a collection container. If you've not yet converted their run and coop into deep litter, consider doing that also. That will give them a much more "natural foraging" experience as well as creating a healthy soil/compost that will inoculate their guts with healthy bacteria and fungi to improve immune systems, digestion, and cut your feed bill.
     
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  3. pnwoldie

    pnwoldie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It sounds to me like you are doing an outstanding job. They will lay when they get ready. What kind are they?

    Everything you mentioned is good for them. I also feed the Scratch & Peck and I get it about the powder. Sometimes I moisten it, put it in a pan and leave it in their run until they get bored and eat it. Maybe it's fermented by then! My 7 consistently get 1 cup of BOSS (black oil sunflower) in the shells every afternoon, and it has allowed me to train them to follow me wherever I want them to go.

    I have so much respect for people who ferment the food all the time but I am just far too lazy for that. Although mine do get clabbered goat milk (curds & whey) and kombucha scobies for probiotics.

    My hens are not perfect; one of them lays a HUGE egg with a thin shell. Every time. I've not been able to identify which one it is. It's either a huge RIR, a normal barred rock, or a small scruffy looking RIR. I'm actually wondering if it's the small scruffy one, and she puts too much into the eggs? I use those eggs for cooking. I figure, I'm not going to worry about how much they lay, although they've done great this winter. I usually get 4-5 eggs per day out of the 7.

    This is weird -- I had 9 hens and one day I got a grand slam -- 9 eggs. The next day a hawk killed one. Several weeks went by, and I got another grand slam -- 8 eggs this time. The next day the hawk got another one. So far I have been extremely vigilant about the hawk and they haven't gotten near as much outside-the-run time. And have not gotten another grand slam either. Oh -- and names of the hens the hawk got were Thelma and Louise. Twilight zone?
     
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  4. Pstock44

    Pstock44 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I like pnwoldie's "grand slam" description. [​IMG] I have 3 out of 6 laying right now and get a grand slam every 2-3 days. Anyway, off your topic so....I'm new, got my hens last fall and have been feeding them layer feed since I got them. They get scraps as I get them, cuts off tomatoes, green peppers, leftover veggies, cooked rice, even occasional meat scraps. They go crazy over all of it. Every so often I hang a cabbage up for them. They've done well, have grown a lot (they were about 5-6 months old when I got them) and look great!

    I have been continuously looking at alternative ways to feed and have started to give them a mix of scratch grain, whole oats and black oil sunflower seed (all from my local co-op). I give them about 3/4 of a "solo cup" a day and they have free access to layer feed. They also have access to oyster shells if they decide they want it. I've been doing this now for several weeks and they seem to love it and run towards the run fence looking for their feed or treats whenever I go outside. I've also noticed they are eating some of the oyster shells too and my egg shells are thicker than store bought eggs.

    I've also seen where people have made a short raised bed in the run, covered it with 1/2" wire mesh a couple inches above the soil and planted different types of vegetation for the chickens to browse on.The mesh allows them to only eat the tops of the plants and its a self sustaining garden.

    Like I said, I'm new so I'm still experimenting but thought I'd pass on some ideas. Hopefully if I'm doing something wrong someone will let me know but so far things seem to be going along very nicely.
     
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  5. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    I don't call feeding a variety of things "treats". My flock free ranges and eats a "treat" at every step, if that's the case. [​IMG] As long as what you are feeding is highly nutritious and doesn't lean all towards carbs and you are presenting a balanced ration to them each day, I'd let them pick and choose what they will eat.

    If I had to have confined birds, I'd build grow frames for planting of intentional, highly nutritious greens and keep a variety of greens there. I'd also hang planted pallets along the fence so they could have even more greens that could not be destroyed but merely picked and grown again. You can also trellis pickling cukes up the sides of your run...the blossoms will attract squash beetles for the chickens to eat and they can also eat the cukes that grow.

    I'd also use a healthy deep litter mix in my coop and run, with emphasis on the variety of materials to be used.....if you can build a good 10 in. to a foot of composting material in your coop, you will attract more bug life than they will find out on range in that tiny yard. The chickens will add the manure, all you need to do is add the leaves, yard rakings, dried grass clippings, kitchen scraps, wood chips, small additions of straw and hay, etc. As long as you have a good variety of materials and particle sizes, you should be able to create a good food bank right there in the run, while keeping your flock healthier, keeping the mud, smells and flies to the minimum or gone altogether, and will give them a more natural habitat. At farm stands and supermarkets they will have places for corn shucks when people want to shuck the corn before purchase...these are great to place in a coop and run litter, as are corn stalks. Most people will bag up their leaves in the fall if they live in town....these can also be collected for free materials for your coop and run throughout the year.

    You can forage for additional food items~pumpkins are easily had in the fall due to folks decorating with them....allow these to ferment/rot awhile before feeding and the nutrition will have changed for the better and the chickens will eat them more readily...the seeds are a great vermifuge. Where you find pumpkins you may also find straw bales....try to scavenge for these also, as they can be used as litter in the run or kept as bales to sit around in the run...these will attract worms and bugs under them, which you can expose to the chickens every now and again for more food. Apples and other fruit can be had by placing ads in the paper for any fruit drops or garden waste people don't want. These too can be fed fresh or fermented...they will eat them either way.

    If you know anyone who fishes, have them keep all the fish they catch and give you the small or trash fish they don't want to keep.....put them out in the hot sun and these will grow maggots quicker than you can take a step...as soon as they do, feed them to the flock. They'll eat the whole thing, maggots too. Feed them fresh ginger root after they consume the fish...this will help remove any worms or worm eggs they may have consumed in the process.

    Ideas for "treats" are endless....even though my birds free range and find their own variety, I still provide them with stuff that I grow, find, create, etc. Can never have too much variety in the diet.
     
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  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Treat by my definition is anything you provide they will go out of their way to consume even after nutritional requirements are met. A treat will be consumed even though a bird is satiated on its complete diet. Insects, in my experience. constitute the class of food items they consume over everything else.
     
  7. OC Chick

    OC Chick Out Of The Brooder

    @lazy gardener Thank you for the feedback! I've tried fermenting their feed, but they refuse to eat it and I end up just throwing it away. I've contemplated trying to raise Black Soldier Fly Larvae thinking that would be a great source of "free" protein. Do you know if it smells? So far my coop & run are odorless & fly free (unless it rains) thanks to hardwire surrounding the setup and letting lots of fresh air access to dry everything out. Because I'm part of the "underground" backyard chicken keepers, I don't want any foul odors to irritate/annoy my neighbors (who are aware of my chickens). What has been your experience with BSFL? How much BSFL should I give the girls daily?

    @pnwoldie Thanks for the positive encouragement! I have 2 Australorps & 2 EE's. I just got some BOSS last week and have been adding giving it as a treat (alternating between that & crickets/worms). They LOVE it! I saw a youtube video on sprouting BOSS and am currently giving that a try (they've sprouted but have to grow green now). That is so crazy about your Grand Slam Hawk Experiences!!!! Poor Thelma & Louise (love the names!). Looking forward to some hawk free grand slam experiences in my coop!

    @Pstock44 I use "Solo" cups too to measure my feed! I have been wanting to build one of those wire mesh raised beds to use with my mini portable pasture flats to see if they would last longer. Our feeding sounds similar so I am super stoked to hear that things are going well with your chickens laying.

    @Beekissed Thank you for all the info! I have been doing the exact opposite - raking everything out of the coop & run every other day - I'm a bit of a "type A clean freak" and was thinking I was avoiding having bad bacteria/mites that would kill my little flock - and my girls have been missing out on the benefits. It sounds like you are an expert in the chicken keeping field. How long did it take you to get a healthy deep litter going? I'm glad to hear that a "variety" of foods is not considered "treats". I'm working on an "intentional" chicken garden, growing veggies specifically for them, and will definitely try trellising cucs!
    This is my coop & run set up (we built it on the concrete patio & then promptly moved it to the dirt area designated for the coop) Would a deep litter method work in here?

    [​IMG][​IMG]





    @centrarchid Great rule of thumb! My girls will devour the bugs/crickets/worms regardless of how hungry they aren't. What do you recommend as a daily amount?
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2017
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Meal worms are my default because of availability and relatively low cost. The treat is usually applied as 20 to 30 meal worms per serving. Instar is last or second to last before pupating. Servings given irregularly so birds become excited when I give specific signal but otherwise ignore me. Birds getting meal worms are a working birds that have some level of training that helps them respond even when they are taken to places they have never been to before.
     
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  9. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Quote: I don't see how it would work with a coop that small and a run that short....deep litter is by definition and actuality..deep. Best just to keep on cleaning it out as you have but you may wish you could have a DL system when your run gets muddy in rainy weather....the compacted soils won't absorb or drain well, leaving puddles that are perfect little petri dishes for bacteria. Sweet lime may help during those times.
     
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  10. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    I am not in a climate where I can raise BSFL, so I couldn't advise you. But... if I could raise them, I'd surely be doing so. You might be able to raise your coop/run up on a higher perimeter wall. That would allow you to do DL in the run.
     
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