Everyone loves a tasty treat, and chickens are no exception! Treats can be both a nutritious supplement to their layer feed as well as an enjoyable snack. Not all foods should be fed to your chickens. Foods to avoid include dried beans, chocolate, avocados, apple seeds, grape seeds, onions, rotten or moldy food, and potatoes (cooked, raw, or peels). All of these foods contain substances that could potentially harm your chickens. Dairy products can contain beneficial protein and calcium, but should be given sparingly as they can cause diarrhea. Starches, such as bread, should be fed in moderation as well.
Here are some good choices that your chickens will enjoy:
Grains and Seeds
Scratch is one of our chicken’s favorite treats. It is a mixture of grains such as cracked corn, wheat, oats, and millet. You can find it for sale at every feed store or you can make your own mix. We also give our chickens flax seeds and black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS), both of which are a very nutritious snack. Sometimes to keep our chickens occupied, we will buy them a large birdseed block to peck at. It keeps them busy and gives them a yummy treat at the same time!
Fruits and Veggies
Except for those mentioned above, all fruits and veggies make a good treat for your chickens. They can be picky when it comes to these treats, but they seem to especially enjoy melons, peaches, berries, pomegranates, leafy greens, corn, and tomatoes. We often feed our chickens fruits and veggies straight from the garden, which they really enjoy. Some of their favorite treats from the garden are broccoli leaves and carrot tops.
Mealworms are an enjoyable treat for chickens that is nutritious and full of protein. You can purchase mealworms or you can raise them yourself.
Remember, feed treats in moderation. Although they do have some nutrition, they are not a substitue for their regular feed. If chickens consume too many treats it can lead to obesity, nutrient deficiencies, decreased egg production, and problems with internal organs.
You can feed these treats to young chicks, but they need to have a source of grit in order to properly digest them.
For more information, Backyard Chickens has a great chart here listing lots of treats your chickens will love.