what is the importance of SCRATCH in a chickens diet??

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by lorain's fids, Sep 15, 2011.

  1. lorain's fids

    lorain's fids Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 9, 2011
    New Jersey
    My chickens are 11 weeks old now. What is the impotance of adding scratch to a chickens diet? I seen a bag of Scratch in TSS. I know many of you make your own. When you make your own do you put the ingredients in the food processor or leave the grains whole?
    We are learning as we go.
  2. TinyChickenLady

    TinyChickenLady Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'm also interested in this since mine are now 8 weeks and I think I want to make my own. So I'm gonna bump ya so we can both get an answer [​IMG]
  3. AZBootsie

    AZBootsie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 10, 2010
    Congress, AZ
    My Coop
    I don't know that it is important at all. It is mostly corn (not much nutrition). The chickens LOVE it, but if you give too much they won't eat enough of their main food. It is good for cold weather, full of calories to keep them warm on cold nights. Sorry I have never made my own and can't comment on that.
  4. goldies99

    goldies99 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 22, 2011
    i am also new to chickens...and thinking about scratch!....i dont care if i make my own...i think
    i will by a bag first to see whats in it and then maybe think about making it!...where do you throw
    the scratch??...in the coop, or on the ground outside??...if you put it in the coop can they get it
    through the pine shavings
  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Scratch means something that initiates "scratching" of the ground by the chickens. Traditionally, whatever the farmer or mill keeper had left in odds and ends for grains, got swept together and sold for "chicken feed" thus, the expression, it's cheap, it can be had for "chicken feed", or it is expensive, as in "it's not just chicken feed".

    Since people love to watch their chickens scratch around and peck for feed and it occupies them, the stores began to make and sell "scratch". There is no set formula. But the nutrition tag on the bag will tell you a lot. Run-of-the-mill scratch has only half the nutrition and normally, no mineral package that feed has. Given that scratch is now $10 a bag most places, it isn't a great bang for the nutrition buck, imho.

    It can be used to entice the chickens to gather, to follow you, etc. It has that purpose, but nutritionally, it has very little purpose. It's entirely up to the flock keeper to make these choices about feed for his/her flock. At these prices, I no longer buy it.
  6. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    It isn't all that important except in winter. It is a treat and in winter gives them something to keep them busy when no forage and to add body heat.
    In the old days scratch was thrown out as a grain supplement to what they could find free ranging.
    Now, after many years of nutritional research, a balanced grower and then layer pellets is all that they NEED.

    That said they love treats so scratch should only make up about 2 % of the diet in summer and up to 10 % in winter. That's because the more you give the lower their protein intake will be. No grains can equal beans or fishmeal in protein. Grains - especially corn are relatively low in other nutrients as well.

    I mix oats, wheat, barley and wild bird seed like millet and BOSS. Really whatever is cheap at the time.
    One exception is Black Oil Sunflower Seed which is very high in protein and vitamins and I always include some in my scratch recipe.
    Also, scratch is fed as whole grains so they can find it and a whole grain retains it's vitamins much longer than when the hull is broken.

    Scratch grains in a mix is an unknown ratio of whatever is cheap at the time so I think I can do the same buying a sack of each and mix myself and know the ratio.

    Another important thing about scratch I forgot to mention is that since the grains/seeds are whole birds need grit to digest them. The grit is usually small particles of granite that pass into the gizzard where together with that hard strong muscle grinds anything hard for digestion.
    So if you feed scratch, you must also either provide grit free choice in a separate container from the feed or allow enough free range time in an area where they can pick up bits of sand and pebbles to do the job.

    And since your birds are young you don't need it now but you should plan on another container for oyster shell once they start laying.
    This will allow the girls access to more calcium if they feel the need. Grower has about 1% calcium and layer about 4% but sometimes they need more for the egg shells. Some people crumble their egg shells and feed back to them which works but I'm fearful of providing anything that remotely resembles eggs lest they find out how good they taste.
    Also, oyster shell doesn't work as grit because it disolves in their systems and won't work to grind seeds.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2011
  7. lorain's fids

    lorain's fids Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 9, 2011
    New Jersey
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who is kinda clueless and needs info about sratch.[​IMG]
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2011
  8. jtbrown

    jtbrown Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 30, 2011
    Southeastern Ohio
    When I asked this question 4-5 months ago, I got the same answers, and that a bag should last almost a year. I kind of scoffed the year part, but it's true. I throw two handfuls in coop when girls come in from free ranging, that keeps the ones in that have already come in for night and ones outside hear the joy at treats and come running. makes putting them up easier. I can't believe how long this bag has lasted! Have fun!
  9. mikecnorthwest

    mikecnorthwest Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 27, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    My Coop
    I feed Purina Layena pellets and the hens free range in the backyard during the day. With that, I think they get all the food they need, however I also take a couple of handfuls of Purina scratch out to them once a day just as a treat. So I don't think scratch is necessarily important, it's just a treat and some bonding time with my hens.
  10. TinyChickenLady

    TinyChickenLady Chillin' With My Peeps

    lorain's fids :

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who's kinda clueless about sratch.[​IMG]

    LoL no you're never alone! I'm always learning new things. I give mine cracked corn sometimes but if it's cheaper, I'd rather make my own [​IMG]

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