I have a family of finicky eaters with dietary restrictions, which means that our fridge is usually stuffed with tubs containing casseroles, side dishes and other assorted edibles. I love to cook, so I have no problem preparing meals for my menfolk. I do, however, hate seeing food go to waste. I am therefore extremely grateful that our birds will happily chow down on our leftovers as treats, whether it’s a spicy Korean stir-fry, pasta salad or vanilla sponge cake.
While the chickens are only too happy to help us dispose of old meals, I make sure these are only occasional snacks. Our food tends to be too high in salt, sugar and fat, unhealthy for humans and undoubtedly bad for our birds. It’s a delicate balance deciding what human food is safe or unsafe for chickens—although some treats result in better-quality eggs. Their prime source of nutrition needs to be feed specifically prepared to meet poultry requirements, not what my family—or yours—doesn’t get around to eating.
Does this mean we can’t spoil our birds with bits of deliciousness? Absolutely not. I’ve found four treats formulated for chickens that have passed my flocks’ taste test.
1. Flock Party Snack Mixes
These blends of grains, seeds, nuts, dried insects, raisins and other ingredients come in colorful bags featuring a cute cartoon rooster flashing a thumbs-up. Combinations include corn and mealworm, sunflower and raisin, and oat and mealworm. There are also pressed snack cakes as well as single-item treats such as Fly Fiesta. Flock Party mixes are designed for adult birds and are available in assorted sizes. My chickens definitely give these wholesome combinations their wholehearted approval: They come running when they hear me shake the pouch.
2. Manna Pro Delights
The company that produces such chicken-keeping essentials as oyster shell, poultry grit and egg wipes also offers nonessential, nommy treats that chickens adore. Harvest Delight and Garden Delight contain broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, peas, carrots and other flavorful ingredients certain to please mature birds as well as growing juveniles. I toss a couple of handfuls in each of our runs, and our chickens spend the remainder of the day happily scratching and gobbling up the morsels.
3. Farmer’s Helper Cackleberry Nugget Treats
A different take on poultry treats, Cackleberry Nuggets are morsels offered individually rather than scattered in a run or sprinkled on feed. Consisting of ingredients such as crab meal, flax seed, peanuts and pomegranate, these nuggets pack a protein-filled punch that boosts avian health, especially during molting season. These are recommended for layers and breeding adults. We offer Cackleberry Nuggets to our hens during laying season to keep them from getting too scruffy from the labors of laying.
My newest discovery, Grubblies, have become a fast favorite with our flocks, especially with our growing juveniles. I toss a small handful on the ground by the Mama Hens, who use these black soldier fly grubs to teach their young ones how to forage. They are produced in the United States by Grubbly Farms. Grubblies’ high protein is said to promote the growth of beautiful feathers, something we will test for ourselves come molting season.