Supplemental feeding of Backyard Chickens: Grit, calcium, and treats
Supplemental Feeding for Backyard Chickens: All About Grit, Calcium, and Those Yummy Treats!
Hey there, chicken-loving pals! 🐓
Raise your hand if you’ve ever found yourself standing in the poultry section of a store, gazing wide-eyed at all the different chicken feed options available. Grit? Oyster shells? Scratch? Mealworms? Ah, the endless list! If you’ve been scratching your head (much like our feathered friends), wondering about supplemental feeding for your flock, you’re in the right place.
Today, we’re diving deep into the world of grit, calcium, and of course, treats! Let’s flap our wings and fly straight into it!
1. GRIT: The Chicken’s Toothpick!
Wait, do chickens have teeth? No, they don’t! But let me paint a picture for you. Imagine trying to digest your food without chewing it. Sounds tough, right? That’s where grit comes into play for our backyard friends.
Grit is basically small stones or pebbles that chickens ingest. These stones settle in the chicken’s gizzard (a part of their stomach) and help grind down grains, seeds, and other hard foods.
Types of Grit:
- Insoluble Grit: Hard stones or pebbles, mainly for grinding food.
- Soluble Grit: Materials like oyster shell that break down in the chicken’s system, providing added calcium.
When and How to Provide?
If you’re feeding your flock primarily commercial pellets, they might not need extra grit. But if grains or garden scraps are on the menu, a dish of grit on the side is a must! Just keep a small bowl in their run.
2. CALCIUM: For Strong Bones and Shells
Have you ever cracked open a chicken egg only to find a super thin shell? It’s a sign your ladies might be lacking in calcium.
Chickens need calcium for strong bones, especially laying hens. An adequate calcium supply ensures hard-shelled, healthy eggs.
- Oyster Shells: This is the most popular calcium supplement. Crushed oyster shells are not only rich in calcium but also digest at a slower rate.
- Eggshells: Yup! You can feed your hens their own eggshells. But ensure they’re crushed finely to avoid any egg-eating habits.
How to Offer?
Much like grit, you can provide calcium supplements in a separate dish. Chickens are fantastic at figuring out what their body needs!
3. TREATS: The Fun Part!
Ah, treats! If you’ve never seen a chicken chase a worm or leap for a berry, you’re missing out on some pure comedy gold.
Yummy Treats You Can Offer:
- Fruits: Apples, berries, and melons are a hit. But remember, moderation is key!
- Veggies: Leafy greens, carrots, and cucumbers are great options.
- Worms & Bugs: Mealworms, earthworms, or even a cricket treat are perfect for added protein.
Things to Avoid:
- Avocado: The skin and pit contain persin, toxic for chickens.
- Raw Potatoes: Green parts of a potato can be harmful.
- Chocolate & Coffee: They contain theobromine and caffeine, both of which are toxic.
4. Balancing it Out
Remember, while treats are fun, they should never make up more than 10% of your chicken’s diet. Think of them like the occasional cookie or slice of cake we humans indulge in.
5. The Real-life Experience
A little story from my own backyard: When I first began my chicken journey, I was an overenthusiastic treat giver. The result? Some overweight hens and a few egg-laying issues. It taught me the importance of balance.
6. Exploring & Experimenting
The joy of raising backyard chickens lies in the journey. Don’t hesitate to try different treats, monitor your flock, and adjust accordingly. Each chicken is unique, with its preferences and quirks.
7. Engaging with a Community
Join local groups, online forums, or even Instagram chicken communities (they exist, and they’re fabulous!). Share, learn, and grow together.
Supplemental feeding is like the cherry on top of the basic diet sundae for your chickens. While their primary diet offers them all they fundamentally need, grit helps them digest, calcium ensures strong eggshells, and treats? Well, they’re just for fun!
Keep observing, keep learning, and most importantly, keep enjoying the delightful clucks and antics of your backyard friends. Till next time, chicken buddies! 🐔💕🥚