As temperatures fall, people and chickens alike become hungry for hot chili and hearty soup. Aside from human hunger for these comforting foods, chickens may also require extra protein and warmth during winter.
Feeding your flock a combination of pellet and whole grain feed will provide them with all of the essential nutrients for survival during winter. Addition of some scratch before bedtime may even help keep them warm overnight as their digestive processes produce energy from digesting grains.
Scrambled eggs provide your flock with essential protein and calcium needed for molting and healthy feather growth, especially during winter when rest and recovery is essential for optimal performance.
When making scrambled eggs, it’s essential to use low heat and gentle stirring. Vigorous stirring or zig-zag movements will cause the eggs to become dry and crumbly, rather than fluffy and creamy. Allow the eggs to cook undisturbed for several seconds before gently folding over.
Add ingredients like cheese, milk and/or pepper according to taste – this will elevate the flavor of your scrambled eggs! Chopped vegetables such as tomatoes, asparagus, chives or wilted spinach add color and texture; cook these beforehand so they absorb some of the heat and become soft and tender before mixing with eggs.
Oatmeal provides chickens with an easy and nutritious treat they will appreciate, providing energy-rich carbs to boost circulation while at the same time being an alternative to feeding scraps which tend to be high in fat and low in nutrition. Oatmeal also helps them digest their proteins more easily than other treats would. As with all treats, oatmeal should only account for 10% of their diet.
As chickens’ natural diet typically includes seeds, grains and leafy greens as well as insects for protein sources, it’s essential that wintertime bring supplemental snacks. You could add raw kale or spinach leaves directly to their feed or grow cold-tolerant greens in your garden to supplement their winter nutrition. Cooked squash (butternut or acorn varieties) provide extra vitamins while cayenne pepper may help hens molt faster while improving respiratory health.
Scratch grains are a mix of cracked corn, sunflower seeds, wheat, millet, barley and oats that can be purchased pre-mixed at your local feed store in feed bags. Many are produced using organic or non-GMO ingredients as well. You may also choose to create your own custom scratch mix if preferred.
Scatch grain was probably first created by early farmers as an extra treat for their flocks, offering excess or uneaten livestock grain as treats. Unfortunately, its high carb count can create an unhealthy balance in nutrient intake; for this reason it should only be offered sparingly at nighttime to provide a little boost of internal heat as the flock digests the grains and seeds.
Alfalfa pellets or mini bales (often sold as rabbit food) make another high-protein addition to a winter chicken diet that should not be overlooked, providing extra protein, fiber and essential nutrients. If offering as part of their evening feedings it would be wiser.
As temperatures drop, people become hungry for hearty foods that will provide warmth to them from within. Chickens too need energy-packed snacks during cold weather.
Chickens may become bored during winter when their time outside has been limited and no longer has freedom to roam and hunt for bugs, leaves, or other treats to supplement their commercial feed. Treats and food scraps provide variety to their diet while helping build up insulation fat stores and keeping them from becoming nuisances within the coop.
Some of the best winter chicken treats are low-cal and high-protein options, like mealworms. Mealworms provide extra fuel during molting season when your flock needs extra nourishment to regrow its feathers back. Homemade suet can also be created this way and then frozen before hanging it at pecking level in their coop for your flock to enjoy.