Giving goodies to your chickens is a great way to earn their trust and get them to love you! Chicken treats are also very helpful for use in training your flock to come when called. It's quite a sight to see the procession that follows me every time I walk across my yard---even when I'm empty handed. I look like The Pied Piper of Hamelin, but with large birds marching after me instead of rats!
When to Dole Out the Good Stuff and What Chicken Treats are Safe for Your Flock: It's sometimes hard to wait, but I usually keep my baby chicks on chick starter only, and delay giving them chicken treats, until the chicks are old enough to be in an outside coop. Chick starter is formulated to be easily digested by the chicks. Once the chicks are outside, they will naturally pick up grit, in the form of sand and tiny pebbles from the ground, which aids them in digesting grass, bugs, or treats. If you choose to give chicken treats to your chicks before they are living outside, you'll need to provide a small dish of sand or parakeet grit in their brooder for them.
Most of your leftovers will be safe for your flock, but try to avoid salty foods. It's okay to give your chickens fruit that has gone a little soft, such as strawberries or tomatoes that no longer appeal to you, but if there are any signs of mold or the food is spoiled - toss and do not give to your flock. Moldy food is toxic to chickens. Occasional cookies, pasta, or breads are fine, but make sure poultry feed makes up the main part of your flocks' diet or you may see a reduction in the number of eggs you collect. Citrus is another food that should not be given to the chickens because of the acidity, although my flock seem to have figured that out themselves. They do not touch the citrus fruit that falls from our trees. Garlic and onion won't hurt your flock, but may give a strong taste to the eggs. According to My Pet Chicken's free chicken care e-book, it's also important to avoid feeding your flock avocado skins and pits, bones, raw potato skins, long cut grass (can clog their digestive system), and chocolate.
My hens love the following fruits and veggies:
- Watermelon and cantaloupe, including the seeds
- Strawberries (our hens get all our strawberry tops)
- Blueberries, Raspberries, etc
- Fresh or cooked Pumpkin (pumpkin seeds are a natural dewormer - grind or chop raw seeds for best results)
- Fresh Spinach (a great source of greens during the winter )
- Turnip and Mustard Greens, Kale, and Clover (I've just planted some Chicken Salad seeds for these greens and am sure my hens will love them)
Good protein sources:
- Scrambled or Boiled Eggs (this is not cannibalistic - baby chicks digest the egg yolk right before hatching, which makes an egg yolk their first meal)
- Fish (remove the bones before giving the fish to your flock)
- Earthworms (home-raised are best, since they do not carry parasites - click here to see Les' info on raising your own)
- Crickets (check your local pet store)
Other yummy, but healthy chicken treats my hens love:
- Cooked Oatmeal
- Flaxseed (I mix it into their oatmeal or scrambled eggs)
- Corn/Scratch (use sparingly, as a dessert only - too much and you'll see a drop in egg production)
- Sunflower Seeds
- Plain Yogurt (great calcium source with helpful probiotics)