Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Feeding Chickens

While I am no expert on raising chickens I received this Anonymous comment several days ago on a post I did on taking care of chicks. 

"I'm growing some chicks. i got them pretty small but have had them for about a 1 1/2 months. They won't eat just anything, which I don't like. They don't care for sweet potato scraps and they won't eat the sorghum or the sunflower from the extra cheap bird seed I bought. They don't even like potatoes that much. They also crave too much fat and protein. A lot of times if it ain't a bug they don't want to hear about it. They go crazy over scrap meat. I don't like that. How do I make them less picky. I can't remember the breeds. But I have one white/yellow and 2 black chicks. The black chicks are very slow to catch on to new food and they all follow the bigger white/yellow chick. I'm sure he is a rooster."

I had to snicker as it reminded me of my 11 month old grandson sitting in his high chair refusing food from a spoon. He only wants it if he can feed himself. A couple of points I would like to make......

1. Chickens are naturally foragers or opportunistic feeders. They walk around my yards and scratch and peck all day long. Most things such as potato peels and such my chickens will eat. Maybe try withholding other feed for a little and let them get a little hungry and I bet they will eat it : ) If not remember to rake it up and dispose of it so as not to get any sort of insects (maggots) in it.

2."they won't eat the sorghum or the sunflower from the extra cheap bird seed I bought."
Are you giving them grit? Your chickens when they were young and I am assuming you were feeding them commercial chick food had grit in it. Once they start eating grain or big chicken feed they need grit in the crop to digest any grain and it must be kept available at all times. Even if our chickens free range we still always have a small tub of grit available for them. My husband and I help alot of kids in our area with their 4-H poultry projects. We got a call a while back from a parent asking us to come look at their sons chickens that they were dying. The birds when we got there had plenty of feed and water but were starving standing in their pens because they had no grit in their crop to digest the ingested food. Eventually the crop gets impacted and the chicken dies. Along with that grit I would suggest a little ground oyster shell for the calcium. This is available at most feed stores.

3.   "They go crazy over scrap meat. I don't like that."

Some people do give their chickens and poultry meat but I do not. Once we went to a kids house who also had chickens as a 4-H project. They had been feeding their chickens raw meat scraps also. Their chickens were dying also. My husband cut open the crop of one of the dead chickens and it was full of undigested meat and the entire crop was impacted with maggots. Sorry to be so graphic. My other fear is that by feeding them meat that I could inadvertently cause them to become cannibalistic toward each other. Chickens will peck each other to death. I have seen a hen have a bleeding sore and the other chickens peck it until she dies. I always quarantine any bird with injuries and stay away from meat.

Also in this hot weather if you do throw meat to them it would not take long to spoil. Below I have a link to a site describing botulism symptoms in poultry.

Botulism in Poultry

Also never let anything stay in there long enough to get an infestation of maggots. Always pick up anything that could spoil and dispose of it.

Chickens are not hard to keep with a little care. I feed my chickens "Scratch"  which I buy at the feed store every morning.  It is a mixture of grains which I throw out for them to scratch around in. I also throw them some cracked corn and laying mash every evening.

In between I give them cooking scraps and vegetables from the garden. In the winter I give them regular bird suet when it is very cold . You can buy it or find plenty of recipes on the internet.

When I pull those young weeds from the gardens I give them to the chickens first to scratch and peck around in.

At least every week they get fresh wheat straw thrown into their pen to scratch around in. As a treat throw them in a head of lettuce or cabbage.

I let them out to forage only when I am outside in the area to watch them because we have a very bad problem with stray dogs, cats and even foxes and coyotes are not far off as we live near the woods. The top of my chicken yard is covered with mesh to protect them from owls and hawks.

Lots of fresh water daily especially when it is hot. And keep their cage clean !!  I clean my chicken house every week composting the straw and litter. I rake my chicken yard every week and collect anything that they don't eat such as twigs, corn cobs or anything that may have been left over.

I keep a small container of clean wood ashes in the shed. Every so often I throw a pile in the corner of the chicken yard for them to roll in. This helps to control mites and parasites and chickens naturally love to dust.

If you get into trouble here is a wonderful site describing chicken diseases that may also help.

Poultry Diseases

If you take good care of your chicks they should give you fresh eggs and entertainment for years to come  .

Good Luck Anonymous!

I would like to hear if anyone else out there feeds their chickens meat!

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter


  1. I feed my chickens meat (not poultry). I cut the cooked meat and fat in tiny pieces. They get it about three times a week. That's how often we have chops, steak and a roast. The rest of the time it's casseroles or meatloaf, yes they get a bit of those if there's anything left over. I feed them leftover cooked fish, too. So far no cannabalism...they're pretty happy birds.

  2. Thanks for this post, CQ. Good to know for when we get chickens. :)

  3. Great advice! Have a wonderful day.


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