Chickens are a special and fun addition to your backyard whether you just want a couple hens to provide your family with a few home raised eggs or if you want a large number so you can sell the fresh eggs to earn a few extra dollars. Either way if you are anything like me you will want to give them the best diet possible. So what do healthy treats for your backyard chickens look like?
Vegetables For Tons of Fun
My chickens love their vegetables and at the top of the list are greens such as lettuce, cabbage, kale and dandelions. Greens are packed with phytonutrients and provide natural sources of calcium and vitamins A, C and K. Greens are a great choice for your chickens.
Tomatoes are loaded with the anti-oxidant called lycopene. Lycopene has been known to reduce the risk of some cancers in humans and they are highly valued by my chickens, they always eat them first.
Carrots are loaded with beta carotene and have been known to have anti-carcinogenic properties for people so they are considered to be a good choice for chickens. My chickens are not real fond of them (I give them to them shredded or diced small), they will eat them but usually after they have eaten the other greens and tomatoes first. They will eat the green tops as well.
Fruits And Berries
Fruits such as apples, pears, melons and berries are nutrient rich and are high antioxidant foods and they are a great addition to your chickens diet. In the summer months you can easily make an ice ring filled with diced up melons and berries for a cool treat.
My chickens love berries, all berries including blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Berries are loaded with vitamins and phytonutrients. We always give greens and berries together so they have a variety of fresh produce.
Watermelon is a wonderful treat during the hot summer months. It is loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene and lycopene. And the lycopene that is found in watermelon is a type that makes it more bio available than the type of lycopene found in tomatoes.
I will cut one of the small watermelons in half and put it their run just like that. They absolutely love them, they will eat it right down to just a thin skin. It provides them with plenty of water to keep them hydrated during the hot days of summer.
Apples and pears are also good choices but DO NOT feed them the seeds. The apple seeds contain a chemical that turns to cyanide (in the human body) and we don’t know if there is a safe limit or not so it is best to stay away from them. But the flesh is loaded with phytonutrients and rich in antioxidants.
I personally do not feed oranges I have seen conflicting stories about citrus fruit being safe or not safe so I just stay away from feeding them, I choose to error on the side of caution.
High Protein Snacks
I think the number one protein snack would have to be meal worms. Nothing excites the chickens as much as meal worms. Especially live meal worms but they still go crazy for the dried ones as well. Meal worms are about 50% protein so when you want to give your chickens a little more punch of protein (like when they’re molting) look to add some meal worms to their diet.
Pumpkin seeds are another high protein source. They are about 32% protein and are also rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc, manganese, copper and phosphorous. Try to find raw unsalted deshelled seeds, the roasted ones are usually packaged with too much added salt and oils. You can also feed them in the shell and increase the level of zinc.
Sunflower seeds are also very high in protein and should be added to your chickens diet. Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, folate, selenium and magnesium.
Green Peas are high in protein as well. Peas are rich in vitamins A, B6, C and K, folate, phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, thiamine, copper and lutein. You can feed fresh or frozen peas either one will be happily eaten.
Only In Addition To A Complete Feed
So all these wonderful fresh treats should be given in addition to a well-balanced chicken feed that is appropriate for your chickens life stage. If you have laying hens than you will want to be sure to give them a feed designed for the unique needs. I feed my hens an organic layer scratch and peck and they get fed their treats 2 to 3 times per week.
If you can provide free-range access to your chickens so they can scratch for bugs and forage free choice on grass and weeds they will be healthier and happier and they can live a life closer to what nature intended. What do you feed your chickens? Do you feed natural treats? Please leave me a comment or a question below.
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