What are "Scratch Grains," & do my chickens need them?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by farmgirlsomeday, Mar 1, 2014.

  1. farmgirlsomeday

    farmgirlsomeday Chillin' With My Peeps

    131
    3
    78
    Feb 23, 2014
    When I buy my layer crumbles at the feed store, I notice bags of something called "scratch grains" available. Can anyone explain to me how this item fits into a feeding plan for laying hens? Thanks!
     
  2. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,319
    446
    221
    Apr 12, 2013
    Boulder, Colorado
    Scratch grains is a blend of whole unfortified grains Typically they are a combination of corn, oats and milo. They are called scratch because you throw them on the ground as a treat and the chickens "scratch" them seeking them out. The scratching satisfies the most basic desire a chicken has to peck and look for food. It keeps them busy but because it isn't a balanced feed it should be offered in a limited amount (about 1/4C per bird) It's nice to have some to use as bait when you need to gather them up before they typically return to the coop. A 50# bag with a few hens will last forever. Instead of buying a big bag, you can just get some sunflower seeds, wheat berries, split peas or any other whole seed (cherrios work too) out of the bulk bins at the grocery store.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. oldrooster

    oldrooster One Crazy Nut

    My Aunt uses scratch as feed, I think the version she gets has lots of corn in it, usually just during cold weather, because it has more calories and makes her hens warmer. at least thats what the old timers say. I think she does give them layer rations on ever 3rd or 4th day to try to balance it out some tho, and they get scraps and free- range in winter when possible.
     
  4. DanEP

    DanEP Chillin' With My Peeps

    982
    70
    166
    May 15, 2010
    Cadiz Ky
    Scratch is a treat kind of like candy, your chickens will love it and will eat a lot of it if you give it to them. I give a little scratch to my girls almost every day but limit it to about three cups for 30 chickens. Chickens don't need scratch if they have a balanced layer feed available but it's a nice treat that will make them come running to you or will help get them back into the run when you need to lock them up. Just make sure that its no more than maybe 10% of their diet. I have a friend who feeds his girls scratch for their main diet cuz that's what his grampa and his dad always fed em and they did just fine. Well awhile back I hatched out some chicks and gave him half. All of my girls were laying at 20-222 weeks and his didn't start till start till 3 months later and I was getting more eggs from 22 girls than he was with 40. I'm no expert but it seems to me that good food and a little scratch and some greens make for healthy happy chickens that produce more.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Sarevan

    Sarevan Chillin' With My Peeps

    448
    43
    103
    Sep 30, 2013
    White Swan, WA
    This is my experience with ONLY scratch grains as feed.

    The previous owner of our new Roo and young hen fed them just scratch grains, besides table scraps. The hen was underweight her keel (breast bone) was very prominent. He was underweight but not as bad both had weird runny poo. Both treated for worms and mites/ lice.

    We feed layena pellets and during the quarentine time both gained weight, he became more peppy crowing to announce his presence to our hens. The hen had laying problems with her first egg was a strange partially hard shell, when she was finally able to expell the egg there was a lot of bright red blood with it. I helped her with calcium, warm bath and massage to get the egg out. There was a loud "pop" when the egg came out. I then worked on her to stop bleeding but as it was internal I couldn't do much. I thought she was going to be ok as she was back to her loud annoying self but 4 hours later she died from internal bleeding. The egg had ruptured a portion of her reproductive tract about 2 inches inside.

    I figured it was from not being given proper feed to help with egg production, she went insane on the oyster shell during her quarentine. Or she just had a problem in her egg formation system that would have killed her anyway. She was barely enough for a pot of soup.

    I will not ever just feed chickens scratch grains, the breeding and manipulation that has been done to them no longer allows them to eat a diet that way. As an occasional treat to make them stir up bedding YES as only feed NO.
     
  6. woodmort

    woodmort Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,168
    30
    201
    Jul 6, 2010
    Oxford NY
    I mix scratch grain with black oil sunflower seed in equal amounts and feed it, primarily, during the cold months and, usually, when I close the birds in for the night by tossing it on the floor of the coop. It not only gives them something to do but the extra calories are important when the temperatures drop below freezing. Also I have a couple of birds that would rather stay out at night--even at 10 below--but will come in for their treat. Otherwise, I don't use it on a regular basis--I believe it puts on extra weight that laying hens don't need, I'd rather they eat a balanced layer diet.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by