Is chicken scratch feed beneficial for your chickens? In this article, we laid out some facts you need to know before buying these feeds. Read more to find out.
All About Chicken Scratch Feed
What is Chicken Scratch Feed?
Raising chickens is one of the most favorite hobbies of homesteaders like you. It is an enjoyable hobby, especially if your hens already start laying eggs. And using rewards like chicken scratch, you can also train chickens to do tricks and build a certain sleeping routine.
You might be wondering â what exactly is a chicken scratch? Well, it is a type of feed that consists of variations of grains and seeds that hens love to eat. It may contain the following:
- Cracked sunflower seeds
- Cracked corn seeds
One famous trivia about chicken scratch is that its name originated from early farmers who throw away their leftover seeds and grains as snacks for chickens. Hens love this kind of feed, which helps farmers avoid wasting leftover seeds. The feeds also help farm owners stretch their regular chicken feedstocks longer.
What are the Differences Between Chicken Scratch and Regular Chicken Feed?
Chicken scratch and regular chicken feed are both types of food; But, there are several differences between them.
First, the regular chicken feed has more nutritional value which ensures healthy birds and high-quality chicken eggs. Regular feeds usually contain the following minerals and nutrients:
- Protein Carbohydrates
- Vitamin A and D
- Calcium carbonate
Meanwhile, chicken scratch is the equivalent of junk food for chickens. You can use scratch and regular feed together to chickens to entice them to eat more. But, make sure to only include one teaspoon worth of chicken scratch to ensure that your chickens are eating healthy.
According to Poultry Extension Org, the daily consumption of your chickens should depend on their energy requirements and environmental temperatures. Your chickens should get sufficient vitamins and minerals from their feeds so they can sustain their daily activities.
Otherwise, they will become lethargic and even show signs of depression. Also, during hot weather, their feed intake decreases. The opposite happens during winter as chickens eat more to sustain their body heat.
Second, chicken scratch is very easy to find. You can buy them in almost all pet stores. On the other hand, chicken feeds, especially the high-quality ones, can only be found in farm-and-fleet stores.
Pros of Feeding Chickens With Chicken Scratch
Despite the low nutritional content, there are still plenty of uses for chicken scratch feed.
First, you can use chicken scratch to help your hens build trust in you. When you first buy hens, you have to bear in mind that they would need some time to adjust to your homestead. One way to help them loosen up is to give them some scratch. In this way, your hens would also be able to teach themselves to eat from their hands. And at the same time, build their natural scratching habits.
Second, you can train your chickens some new tricks using scratch as a reward. This is similar to a dog trainer using biscuits as rewards to train dogs. Since scratch is a delicious treat, they will gladly feel comfortable enough to be handled and petted.
Third, the chicken scratch can help you can entice your chickens to eat more. You can sprinkle a handful of chicken scratch feeds on your hensâ daily diet for additional flavor.
Lastly, the chicken scratch can help chickens stay warm during winter. You can give them a few teaspoons of scratch before bedtime. Doing this will help them feel full at night and would also spur their digestive system to produce heat. As a result, they will get a good nightâs sleep and be less moody the following day.
Cons of Feeding Chickens With Chicken Scratch
On the other hand, there is a downside to feeding your hens with chicken scratch.
As mentioned earlier, one major downside to feeding hens with chicken scratch is that scratch does not have balanced nutrition as compared to chicken feeds. Therefore, you should not use scratch as your hensâ primary food. It should only be used as occasional treats or as a small addition to their meals.
Another major con is that feeding your hens with too much chicken scratch may result in thinner hens and smaller eggs. Since scratch does not have enough nutrients, your hens will be unhealthier. As a result, you might not be able to get lots of healthy meat from them which may be dangerous for you and for your family, as discussed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, they may not be able to lay as many eggs as other hens who are fed with a balanced diet. Their eggs may also be noticeably smaller and lighter. Plus, they will be less energetic and even show signs of depression.
How Much Chicken Scratch Can I Feed my Hens?
As a rule of thumb, the chicken scratch feed you should give your hens should be no more than 10% of your hensâ diet. This means that you can use around one tablespoon of scratch with your chicken feeds for additional flavor. Some homesteaders give their hens scratch daily, while others use scratch strictly as a reward.
The amount of scratch you will give your hens would ultimately depend on your feeding habits. As long as you are not overfeeding, the hens will be fine.
One sign that will tell you that you are feeding too much scratch is seeing a lot of leftovers. When your chickens are already full, they will leave the scratch on the ground and it will become wet and event moldy.
If this happens, clean it up immediately. The leftover chicken scratch feed can attract insects and vermin. And to avoid leftover scratch, you can observe what your hens can consume within twenty minutes. After that timeframe, clean up the remaining chicken scratch feed.
Remember, only use chicken scratch in moderation. If you notice that your hens are less energetic and that theyâre laying fewer eggs, this may be a sign that you are giving them too much scratch. If this happens, reduce the amount you are giving them. Or, stop giving them scratch completely. Consult with your veterinarian if you donât notice any improvements.
Want to learn how to make homemade chicken scratch? Watch this informative YouTube video by Appalachiaâs Homestead With Patara:
Truly, chicken scratch feed is a delicious treat for your hens. They can help you make your hens feel more comfortable in your homestead. But, as a poultry parent, always remember to feed your chickens properly. Always mix chicken scratch with enough regular chicken feeds to make sure that your hens are getting all the nutrients they need.
Have you ever made homemade chicken scratch? Share your ideas in the comments below!
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