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Winter can be a bummer for our livestock as much as ourselves. Snow can make foraging downright impossible for smaller creatures like chickens or ducks. Winter treats can help to keep chickens busy and alleviate the boredom from being stuck in the coop. Giving them treats and activities helps to prevent health issues as well as behavioral problems like pecking each other, cannibalism, or pulling out their own feathers. It doesn’t take a lot to create winter chicken treats your flock will love, but the joy you’ll be giving them is absolutely priceless. They’ll pay you back with better, healthier eggs and lots of opportunities for a chuckle.
Homemade Winter Chicken Treats
Chicken scratch is easy to make yourself and is a great heat-generating winter chicken treat. Make your own by mixing together grains like oat and barley, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and raisins or currants. Toss out a handful or two in the morning and once again at night. You can even make two varieties of scratch, one with cracked corn for the evenings. Scratches like these help raise the body temperature through digestion which helps keep them warmer during the cold, snowy winter.
If you just don’t have the time to make a scratch by hand, Tractor Supply has a fantastic scratch treat that hits all the high points – flavor, high protein, and fun! Check out their Pampered Chicken Mama Powerhen Treat mix here!
Chickens are big foragers. They love fresh green vegetables and bright, lush green grass. So when the winter rolls around and there’s nothing good to eat their nutrition can suffer. This means egg quality decreases and you can easily see it in the color of their egg yolks. Give them some fresh greens! It’s a great way to motivate yourself to grow lettuces in a cold frame for your home! They like them and their bodies start to crave the missing nutrients as much as ours do in the winter. Plus, the vitamins in the greens improve the yolk quality so your eggs don’t lose nutrition!
Give your girls a little extra protein and enrichment with live mealworms. If you can’t find them then they’ll enjoy freeze-dried or dried ones just as much. Or, break out a can of tuna and let them enjoy a real treat!
Warm It Up
Make your girls a lovely warm breakfast as a homemade winter chicken treat and surprise them. Warm foods such as oatmeal with raisins, and lentil or split pea soup are a great treat they will definitely enjoy; remember, however, to give these treats a bit sparingly. Soak in water and then cook in beef broth, let cool, then head out to the coop.
If you’re not comfortable giving your girls oatmeal, consider doing the same thing with another grain such as barley or cracked corn.
Being cooped up can affect the gut flora of your hens. They can’t forage, they’re pretty stuck eating just their feed. Yogurt can help. Create a fun yogurt they’re more likely to really enjoy by mixing in some sunflower or flax seeds. Yogurt helps improve gut flora through probiotics and also helps improve their general immune system.
Fun and Games Winter Treats
Solve boredom problems by creating games for your hens to play. A common and fun enrichment activity is tying heads of cabbage and hanging them from the ceiling. You can also toss in a pumpkin or other winter squash – just break it open first! You can also let them have last night’s spaghetti. The noodles look like worms and they’ll have fun trying to steal from each other.
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Spice Up Their Life
Add some herbs and spices to their scratch. Adding a pinch of cinnamon improves circulation and boost respiratory health. A small pinch of cayenne pepper can increase laying in the winter!
Create homemade suet to give an increase in fats. Mix seeds, grains, and a little dried fruit into a solid fat such as solid coconut oil. Melt the coconut oil and mix together all the ingredients together then chill until the oil is solid again. Toss into the coop and watch your girls go to town.
Treating your hens to some healthy fun this winter doesn’t have to break the bank and can give you and your family some hearty chuckles.