As the heat of summer arrives, many farmers seek ways to keep their birds cool and happy during these oppressive months. Waterfowl are often more picky than chickens, and though they’ll nibble at most anything, they don’t always eat everything. Geese in particular will flat-out reject one thing but gobble down the next.
Most poultry treats can be shared around a mixed flock, but some offerings are appreciated more by one species than the next. Here are a few of our barnyard’s favorite summertime snacks.
Dried mealworms are packed full of proteins, and they are a great treat for any bird. I feed them throughout summer and winter, because in the wintertime they give a nice energy boost. Geese, who are largely vegetarian, will most often pass on the crunchy treat, but nearly any other variety of poultry will go wild for them. You can even sprinkle some in water and send you ducks diving for the treats.
Watermelons are some of the best treats to give poultry during the summer. Because they’re so full of water, they help prevent dehydration—and everyone enjoys pecking away at a few slices of watermelon on a hot summer day. Geese are particularly fond of watermelon, and they love gnawing the fruit down to the leather exterior. You can bet that anything water-related will be a hit in a goose’s book, and watermelons are no exception.
3. Lettuce Greens
Like watermelon, any leafy green also has some moisture that helps prevent dehydration. If your birds free range they might not be as excited about a greens offering, but poultry kept in a run will delight in the treat. You can hang a whole head of lettuce in the run and watch the birds pick at it all day, or just sprinkle greens from your garden around for the birds to enjoy. Beet greens, peas and broccoli leaves are all suitable. Avoid nightshade plant greens, though: Do not offer tomatoes, potatoes or eggplants. Also avoid spinach because it contains oxalic acid, which depletes calcium in bird bones.
Generally speaking, you are discouraged from feeding bread to your poultry. But I don’t mind feeding a few crusts to my birds in moderation, and they love the stuff. It is the perfect consistency for them to mash up in their beaks, and there is never a crumb left. The reason to avoid bread? Well, it’s kind of like a Big Mac for birds. It is full of fats and provides very little in the way of proteins or vitamins. But a little bit of “junk food” on occasion will not harm your birds, and they’ll enjoy the treat.
Dandelions are among the most remarkably healthy herbs you can grow, and they usually grow just like weeds in your front lawn. If you want to clean up your lawn or you just want to give your birds a special treat, dandelion greens and flowers are favorites. In fact, my pastures are nearly free of dandelions because geese quickly devour every blossom that comes up is quickly devoured by the geese, who consider them a delicacy.
Another summer heat-beating trick is to provide plenty of water for your birds. This doesn’t mean only clean, fresh water in their coop. In addition, leave a few stations with waterers in shady spots around the run or your yard. Birds appreciate the opportunity to take a sip as they make their way from one spot to another.
A few treats in the run keep your poultry happy and healthy, and they also provide entertainment during the hot summer months. It takes very little effort to delight your birds with some tasty delicacies, and they will appreciate the gesture.