Blogger Kaylee Vaughn shares ideas for high-protein chicken snacks, from kelp to sprouts.
Healthy, high-protein snacks can help support your chickens during molting season! Here are 10 healthy snack ideas for your flock!
Each year, as summer fades into fall, my yard and chicken coops become littered with feathers. Soon after, I start noticing silly-looking bald spots on my chickens! Luckily, this is a completely normal process that happens to chickens every year, called molting.
What is molting?
During the molting season, chickens loose their feathers and regrow new ones. Since feathers have a high protein profile, our chickens use a lot of protein to rebuild their beautiful plumage. Because of this, egg production often drops or stops all together during this time.
Molting generally begins in late-summer or fall, when the daylight hours begin to shorten. It can last anywhere from a month to four months, depending on your chicken’s breed, unique genetics and health.
During the molting season, it is important to keep your chicken as healthy as possible. Health inspections should be performed on a regular basis to check for mites and other health concerns. Try to reduce stressors, like introducing new chickens, during this time of year.
And, of course, fresh water and a healthy diet are critical to keep your chickens healthy year-round! During the molting season though, you can spoil your chickens with some extra-healthy snacks to help support them while they grow their new feathers! Snacks rich in protein, healthy fats and vitamins will help your flock get back to looking their best!
10 High Protein Snacks to Feed your Chickens During Molting Season
Cooked eggs are one of the best and highest protein snacks you can give your chickens. It’s important to cook eggs before feeding them to your chickens to discourage egg-eating habits in your flock. Scrambled eggs are easy to cook up and feed to your chickens. Or, you can ,hard-boil a bunch of eggs, let them cool, crack the shells and then feed both the egg and the shell pieces to your chickens. The shells are a great source of calcium!
Yes, chickens can and will eat chicken! In fact, they love eating cooked chicken! If you cook up a chicken for dinner, you can give the bones and scraps to the chickens. They will pick all the left-over meat scraps and skins off the bones. Be sure to pick up the bones once your chicks are done feasting to prevent attracting predators!
Fish is another healthy meat that your chickens will love! Both fresh raw fish and cooked fish make great high-protein snacks. Plus, fish is also high in healthy Omega-3 oils! Some chickens love fish so much that they will catch minnows and other small fish from streams and ponds if they have the opportunity! If you don’t have access to fresh fish or if you don’t regularly eat fish, a can of sardines or tuna will make your hens just as happy!
Similar to fish, your chickens will also enjoy shellfish snacks during molting season. If you have shrimp, crab or lobster for dinner, save the shells and scraps for your chickens. They will also enjoy the meat – if you feel like sharing!
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds make an easy, healthy treat for your chickens. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, either shelled or hulled, are easy to source and your chickens will love them! Black oil sunflower seeds are especially high in healthy linoleum oil. Sprinkle seeds on top of your chicken feed, or feed an entire pumpkin or sunflower head for an extra entertaining snack!
Organs & Meat Scraps
While organ meat might not be a popular snack for people, your chickens will be very excited for it! If you butcher your own meat, or if you know someone who does, consider using the organ meat and scraps as a healthy snack for your chickens. You can feed meat scraps and organs to your chickens either cooked or raw (as long raw scraps are fresh and have been handled properly).
Sea kelp is an excellent supplement for your chickens, both during molting season and year-round! It’s high in protein and also high in essential vitamins and minerals to help boost the overall health of your flock. You can buy dried kelp supplement and add it at a 1-2% ratio to your chicken’s regular dry feed.
Chickens eat a lot of gross things (like bugs!) which can be a real benefit for your garden! If you are able to let your chickens free range in your garden for a bit, they will find all sorts of yummy snacks – like grasshoppers, pillbugs, earwigs, crickets, worms and grubs! If your chickens don’t have access to fresh bugs, you can buy freeze-dried bugs and mealworms for them instead.
Sprouting beans and legumes is a great way to give your chickens extra protein. Plus, the sprouting process makes the nutrients and minerals more bioavailable so it’s easier your chickens to absorb. Beans and legumes (such as mung beans, peas and lentils) can be easily sprouted in just a couple of days!
Chick or Broiler Feed
Most commercial layer feed ration contains around 16% protein content. During molting season, it may be helpful to increase the amount of protein that your chickens receive in their feed. You can do this by mixing chick feed or broiler feed (which contain about 18-20% protein) with their layer feed or by providing it as a separate snack throughout the molting season.
Kaylee Vaughn is a suburban homesteader, caring for chickens, goats, and a large garden on a little less than an acre. She and her family strive to create the most efficient homestead possible in the small space we have available. Her chickens are not only beautiful yard ornaments, but also a vital part of their homestead management practices! “We utilize them to produce manure, control pests, turn compost, and more.” Kaylee’s nick-named them “the gardeners” because they are always in the garden, working hard – and redecorating on occasion, too! You can follow Kaylee through her website.