When chickens eat treats, they’re not eating feed, which is their primary source of nutrition. The ingredients in commercially prepared feed are carefully calculated by poultry nutritionists to ensure that a chicken’s daily vitamin, mineral and protein requirements are met. Supplemental foods (treats/snacks) replace a portion of those essential dietary elements to some degree. Excessive treats, even healthy ones, can cause any of the following: obesity, reduced egg production, malformed eggs, habitual laying of multiple-yolked eggs, vent prolapse, protein deficiencies, feather-picking, fatty liver syndrome, increased risk of heat stroke and heart problems.
1. Scrambled Eggs– it may seem ironic to feed chickens eggs, but the truth is that eggs are an outstanding source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin E and beta carotene.2 During a molt, eggs are one of the best sources of protein to feed a chicken. Feather production and egg production are very protein-intensive and mealworms can help provide the protein necessary for these nutritionally demanding processes. Chickens will unequivocally not develop a raw, egg-eating habit as a result of eating scrambled eggs.
|Cooked eggs are an outstanding source of protein for chickens, which is
particularly helpful during a molt.
2. Pumpkins are packed with antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, minerals including copper, calcium,potassium and phosphorus, dietary fiber and protein in the seeds. Pumpkin seeds contain 30 grams of protein per 100 grams of seeds.1 When in season, I make my flock “a sweet pumpkin treat,” as a nutritious snack. Some studies suggest that pumpkins and other varieities of squashes are rich in the amino acid cucurbitacin, which is a paralytic agent to various worms found in the digestive tract such as tapeworms and round worms.
3. Mealworms are a good source of protein, reportedly containing 49% to 51%. They can be purchased live or dried and can also be farmed very easily at home. During a molt, mealworms are a particularly smart snack choice.
4. Suet Cakes– Suet Cakes are commercially available treats for chickens that are intended to entertain them and fulfill their natural pecking instincts. They can be purchased at feed stores on the cheap. I have only purchased the product once or twice, but have always thought there had to be a more nutritious and economical option. I made my own treat block recently and am much happier knowing that my homemade suet cakes are a healthy, fresh, nutritious treat for my flock.
MYTH: Chickens should not eat raw potatoes or potato skins.
FACT: Chickens should not eat GREEN potato skins. The green color indicates the presence of solanine, a toxin that affects the nervous system when consumed in large quantities. However, the average, healthy human would have to eat 4.5 pounds at one sitting to experience any neurological effects. Similarly, a chicken would need to consume large quantities of green potato skins to experience any effects. The leaves and stems of the potato plant DO contain high levels of solanine and are toxic to chickens. The take-home message? If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t feed it to your chickens.
MYTH: Chickens should never eat onions.
FACT: Chickens can eat onions, chives and garlic in small quantities, occasionally. Sufficient quantities of onion and garlic can be harmful to chickens, causing hemolytic anemia, aka: Heinz anemia. “The alkaloid N-propyl disulphide is present in cultivated and wild onions, chives and garlic, and affects the enzyme, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase in red blood cells,” which can cause Heinz anemia.
“Allicin, which gives garlic its odor, is also a strong oxidant. In rare cases, this chemical can be dangerous and can cause Heinz body hemolytic anemia, as well.”
If you wouldn’t eat a bowl of raw onions, chives or garlic,don’t feed them to your chickens as a side dish.