Do you ever give your chickens a treat of chicken scratch? It’s a huge hit with them.
They’ll run when you shake the bag, but are they allowed to keep it after they do? Is there any benefit to them? Do they really need it?
While it’s tempting to spoil our hens with a constant stream of tasty treats, it’s important to keep in mind that they also require a healthy, balanced diet.
Raising chickens may be a fun hobby, especially if you give them treats every now and then. Feeding chicken scratch, which most chicken breeds enjoy, is an excellent way to achieve this.
What is chicken scratch, and how do you use it? More information can be found here.
What is Chicken Scratch, and how does it work?
It is believed that the term “chicken scratch” was first used to refer to the practice of feeding leftovers and stale seeds from a harvest as well as small kitchen trash to hens as a means of supplementing their diet in the days when feed pellets and balanced nutrition were available.
Chicken scratch is a sort of feed made out of a variety of seeds and grains that chickens love to eat. It could include broken maize, barley, wheat, oats, or sunflower seeds, for example.
Chickens will forage for it in the ground and among their bedding, as the name suggests.
This inexpensive alternative to commercial chicken feed is a blend of several different types of seeds. Scratch often consists of corn that has been either cracked or rolled, barley, oats, wheat, sunflower seeds, milo, and millet.
Quantities of each shall be established in accordance with costs. Since sunflower and milo seeds are more expensive in bulk, scratch that contains a higher percentage of these seeds will be priced slightly higher.
Scratch, which we now associate with prepackaged feeds, has actually been around for a lot longer than that.
Birds will “scratch” around the soil to pick up every last bit of food as a reward, hence the name.
Scratch could have started with early farmers throwing out their leftover grains and seeds for birds to rummage through. The chickens enjoyed it, and farmers were able to avoid wasting food by feeding it to them.
Early farmers were able to stretch their standard chicken feed by providing scratch.
How Much Should You Feed Your Chickens Scratch?
Chicken feed, as we all know, is specially prepared to supply chickens of varying ages and breeds with the exact amounts of nutrients they need.
For instance, the protein content of a 16% layer feed is sufficient to maintain health and egg production. Fiber and fat levels can differ slightly from brand to brand due to slight formulation differences.
Feeds will include not just the staple grains of maize, soybean, wheat, and alfalfa, but also a wide range of trace elements like selenium, copper sulfate, ferrous sulfate, and essential amino acids like methionine.
Additionally, you will give them supplemental vitamins and minerals, including calcium carbonate for shell development.
Scratch is now only given as a treat, as its lack of solid, healthy nutritional substance (it has an 8-9% protein equivalence, which is significantly lower than the feed content) means that it should only be given in small amounts.
Imagine it this way:
- Chicken Feed = A Balanced Meal
- Chicken Scratch = French Fries and Soda
Treats are something that both humans and animals enjoy occasionally, but they shouldn’t replace a healthy diet.
In order to maintain your hens healthily and productive, you must provide them with well-balanced food.
If a hen’s diet is inadequate, the first symptom is that she stops laying eggs, or the eggs she lays have a thin or no shell.
Your chicken’s body will absorb all the nutrients it requires to stay healthy. If her food is poor, she will start to lose weight, lose energy, and lose her feathers (through small molts), among other symptoms.
As you can see, providing your flock with nutritious feed is essential to their well-being. Treats can be given if desired, but only in moderation and not on a daily basis.
Chicken scratch has a low nutritional value, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed it to your chickens. However, you should make sure that your chickens’ diet isn’t entirely homemade.
As a result, one rule to follow is to ensure that scratch grains account for no more than 10% of your chickens’ diet.
A significant volume of leftovers is one clue that you’re feeding too much scratch. Chickens will leave the scratch on the ground when they are full, which can become moist and moldy.
Insects and vermin can be attracted to leftover chicken scratch. You should clear up any residual chicken scratch as soon as possible. Keep track of how much you’re wasting so you can adjust your feeding the next time.
Feeding your birds only as much as they can consume in a 20-minute period is a decent rule of thumb. After that period of time has passed, you should clear up any leftover scratches.
Chicken scratch, when used in moderation, is unlikely to harm your chickens’ health or ability to lay eggs. If you see a reduction in health or a fall in egg production, it’s possible you’re giving chicken scratch too much.
Reduce the quantity of chicken scratch you give or stop giving it altogether. Consult a veterinarian if you do not see any improvement.
Chicken Scratch vs. Chicken Feed: What’s the Difference?
Despite the fact that chicken scratch and chicken feed are both types of food, there are a few distinctions. The most important is nutritional value.
Minerals and nutrients like selenium and calcium carbonate are added to commercial chicken diets. As a result, healthy birds and high-quality eggs are ensured.
Chicken scratch, on the other hand, is the equivalent of putting junk food in your child’s mouth. Because it lacks the minerals provided in commercial chicken feed, this is the case.
As a result, it’s not a good idea to make it a regular part of your chicken’s diet. Instead, offer it to your hens just on occasion as a treat or to augment their diet.
Standard chicken feed will cost more because it contains higher-grade components. Even so, the additional money you spend will result in a better egg output in the long run.
Hens that are well-fed produce more meat with higher nutritional benefits.
The following are some more significant distinctions between chicken scratch and chicken feed:
The amount of protein present.
Chicken scratch normally contains less than ten percent protein, whereas high-quality chicken feed has between 15 and 18 percent protein.
Calcium levels are high.
The calcium level in chicken feed should be around three percent. Chicken scratch, on the other hand, usually has very little calcium in it. Eggshells with a low calcium concentration can be exceedingly thin.
Scratching is not encouraged by chicken feed.
As a result, your chickens may be unmotivated to scavenge for bugs or to overturn their litter to keep things clean.
Chicken scratch is frequently available at department or pet supply stores. Chicken feed, on the other hand, is typically exclusively accessible through farm-and-store outlets.
Chicken Scratch Grains Feeding Instructions
You may now learn how to use chicken scratch now that you know the difference between it and ordinary feed.
When supplied properly, the chicken scratch can be a cost-effective and enjoyable solution for your chickens. Here are some fundamentals to consider.
How Often Should You Feed Scratch to Chickens?
The following guidelines apply to treats in general, including chicken scratch:
It’s best not to feed your chickens more than 10 percent of their daily ration in treats.
So, you want to know how much that will set you back.
One-half cup of chicken feed is the recommended daily allowance for a chicken. In other words, if there are 10 chickens in a pen, each one will get 2.4 teaspoons of scratch because a half cup has 24 teaspoons. That’s about two beakfuls for each chook.
It may not seem like much, but the enjoyment, physical activity, and company of their flock mates throughout the activity will more than makeup for the cost. They are always up for a good time when it involves searching for bugs or seeds as a group.
You’re overfeeding if there are still seeds on the floor at the end of the scratch session, and this can attract pests and other predators.
Scratch should be fed to birds in the evening to ensure that they receive the majority of their daily nutritional requirements met.
Using chicken scratch to entice chickens into the coop at night is an effective first step in teaching your feathered friends to settle in for the night. You can stop giving them the scratch as soon as they understand the concept of nighttime.
Spreading it across the bedding will get the girls moving about before bedtime, and it will help keep the bedding clean.
There is no defined interval for feeding chicken scratch as long as you do not exceed the acceptable limitations. Some farmers will give it on a daily basis, while others may only offer it on rare occasions.
It all depends on your feeding practices and whether or not chicken feed or scratch is available.
Scratch is frequently mixed in with conventional chicken feed by those who feed scratch on a daily basis. This is an excellent strategy to avoid overfeeding your hens.
If you chose this strategy, however, you should not give additional scratch as a reward because this will lead to overfeeding.
When Should Chicken Scratch be fed?
Many people give their chickens scratch when they first acquire them because it helps them build trust. They can train birds to eat from their hands in this way. It’s possible that this will make egg harvesting easier in the future.
If you’ve been raising chickens for a while but have never fed them scratch, it’s never too late to start.
When teaching hens new tricks, those who show or train them may use scratch. This is similar to a dog trainer employing treats to get good outcomes.
Chicken scratch, according to many trainers, has enabled their hens to grow so accustomed to being touched that they may now be considered pets.
Giving scratch to chickens has the advantage of encouraging natural scratching habits. As a result, if your chickens have been sluggish recently due to illness or bad weather, the scratch can help them bring their activity levels back up.
Chickens, like people, require extra food throughout the winter. As a result, during a cold time, you might want to provide chicken scratch. This will stimulate their digestive tract to produce heat, which will aid in keeping the birds warm.
Although scratch might help chickens stay warm, it should never account for more than 10% of their total diet. If your chickens still require additional nutrition, feed them standard chicken feed.
You might want to provide your birds with chicken scratch right before night. This will make your hens feel full at night, allowing them to get a better night’s sleep.
Crumble is great for getting new chicks used to you and associating you with positive things when you initially receive them (food). As kids get older and more mobile, it’s time to switch to cooking from scratch.
Once the chickens taste the food you’re offering them, training them to eat out of your hand is a breeze. It can also be used as a “prize” in training to reinforce desired behaviors or encourage change.
They probably used chicken scratch to train those birds you see on YouTube doing tricks and completing obstacle courses.
We’ve established that a handful of chicken scratch every night goes a long way toward ensuring their safe return to the coop after sundown.
In addition to being a motivating tool, it can be used to thank patients for undergoing unpleasant but essential procedures like delousing. Your hen’s return to you will be encouraged if she is rewarded for good behavior.
Eventually, the birds will understand you are not a threat and will start flocking to you.
In the colder months, a nighttime scratch might provide a small rush of heat that will last throughout the night. The grains generate some extra heat during digestion, which helps to keep them warm.
Final Thoughts on Chicken Scratch
To your surprise, not all keepers utilize chicken scratch.
When used in the “honeymoon phase” of training, it helps reward a bird for persevering through a challenging experience, making it ideal for use with backyard flocks.
Getting rid of the scratch and replacing it with a tiny bag of moderately priced birdseed is a great option if you’re strapped for cash.
In this manner, you may feed the chickens fresh seeds without having to constantly replace old seeds (well away from the chicken yard).