Episode 8 – In this episode we discuss which treats are safe to feed to your urban chickens or backyard flock.
The FDA has discovered Salmonella in packages of Kirkland Signature Course Ground Malabar pepper which is sold exclusively at Costco stores. This has nothing to do with chickens, except that it points out the wide range of food items that can be contaminated with the disease. The FDA estimates that 7% of imported spices are contaminated with Salmonella.
I brought this article to your attention because of the way in which anti-backyard-chicken folks (the Not-Tenders) like to use the Salmonella issue to further their agenda. In reality, very few people have Salmonella issues related to backyard chicken keeping. If you are thinking about getting started with chickens, don’t let the “S” word scare you away. But you may want to listen to Episode 3 of the Online Chicken School Podcast to learn some best practices first.
You can read the full article on the black pepper issue here: http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2014/06/black_pepper_sold_in_costco_st.html
I Learned That the Hard Way [02:55]
We have decided to institute a new feature discussing wisdom we had to learn by doing it wrong the first time. This first one pertains to watering your chickens.
When I built my first chicken tractor, it was a bit of a beast. It had an eight foot by eight foot footprint and it was heavy – at least by chicken tractor standards. I knew I wanted the watering system to use chicken nipples attached to a length of PVC pipe inside the tractor which was fed by a five gallon bucket that hung outside the tractor. This had two important benefits: the water storage didn’t take up valuable space inside the coop, and it would be easy for me to refill the water supply while remaining outside the coop. So far so good.
I used a five gallon bucket outside the coop thinking that the more water it held, the less often I would have to refill it. While that was true at the beginning, my five gallon bucket soon became a resort town for algae and my chicken’s water turned bright green. Yick!
I scrubbed the bucket clean every time I noticed that the water was starting to turn, but it was happening more frequently.
Finally, I started filling the bucket with less water more often. Eureka! We have not had any more algae issues since.
The moral of this story is to only give your chickens enough water that they can consume it in 24 to 48 hours. You are better off filling the water every day or two than having your chickens drink that nasty water!
What Treats Are Safe to Feed Your Chickens? [07:38]
Before going through the list, however, we should discuss a few issues first. Always feed treats in moderation. The commercial feed they normally eat is very carefully designed to give them the right balance of nutrients they need for their stage of life. When you feed them treats, even healthy ones, you offset part of that balanced diet with unbalanced foods.
This effect is exaggerated in baby chicks. While chickens at just about any age can have treats (along with some grit to help them digest it), giving the young ones a treat can drastically effect their nutritional balance. Much more so than an adult chicken. This is because baby chicks eat much less feed every day, so even a small treat is offsetting a large portion of their daily intake when compared to an adult bird.
Personally, we wait until about six weeks to give treats, right after they leave the brooder and begin living outside full time.
The Treat Chart [12:55]
We put together a reference chart that you can print out and hang on the refrigerator so that you can remember which treats are good and which treats are not so good. You can find the chart here.
The Bad Treats [14:00]
These are the things you don’t want to feed your chickens: citrus, rhubarb, candy, high-sugar foods, and chocolate. Additionally, don’t feed your chickens foods that are spoiled, moldy, oily or salty.
Onion is safe in small amounts, but is poisonous in larger quantities. It will also taint the taste of eggs layed by your hens.
The Good Treats [15:35]
Fruits and vegetables that you can giver to your chickens include apples, asparagus, beets, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peaches, peppers (bell), pumpkins, pumpkin seeds, raisins, squash, strawberries, tomatoes, turnips (cooked), watermelon and zucchini.
You can also give your chickens proteins from your kitchen. Chicken and fish are okay so long as they are cooked. Meat scraps are good, but avoid the fatty parts. You can feed eggs to your chickens, but scramble or otherwise cook them so that they do not get a taste for raw egg. Finally, mealworms are a great protein to feed your chickens.
In the starches category, you can feed them breads, oatmeal (raw or cooked) as well as cooked grits, pasta and rice.
Finally, applesauce and yogurt are also yummy treats for the flock.
The Sorta-Maybe Treats [24:27]
The following food are okay as treats, but you need to follow some guidelines when you do.
Avocado is great but don’t let them eat the pit or peel.
Bananas are good, but not the peel.
Beans are good, but they need to be very well cooked.
Cereal like Cheerios are fine, but not suggery brands.
Cottage cheese is high in fat, so feed in moderation.
Grapes are good if they are seedless. Also, cutting them in half helps the chickens get them down.
Air-popped popcorn, without the butter and salt is good.
Finally, potatoes are okay, but never feed green peels to the flock. There is some debate about whether the potatoes should be cooked. If you want to play it safe, cook the potatoes. But whether cooked or raw, never feed chickens green potato peels.
Seasonal Treats [27:55]
Some treats are better in the summer and some are better in the winter.
Blueberries, cherries, melons, tomato, strawberries, watermelons are great summer treats. They are easy to digest and help keep the chicken’s body temperatures down. Also, many of them contain water which helps with hydration during the hot summer months.
Cooked oatmeal and grits are great in the winter to help them keep warm. Also, scratch and starches take more energy to break down, which raises the body temperature of the chicken, making those better winter options than summer ones.
Final Thoughts [29:55]
Thank you for listening to our podcast! If you enjoy the show, think about following us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/onlinechickenschool
Don’t forget to download your copy of the Chicken Treat Chart!