Late December is special. There are lots to be thankful for and a good reason to celebrate. The solstice just passed, promising a daily addition of sunlight and signaling that spring is on the way. Then there’s a multitude of seasonal, cultural holidays and Holy Days. St. Lucia’s Day, Las Posadas, Yule Winter Solstice, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
People everywhere enjoy special year-end treats. For us, it’s stollen and pickled herring plus delicious cookies and, in some years, a tender roast beef dinner.
We remember our chickens and give them special year-end treats. They need it. Few things are as delicious to a hen as a juicy grasshopper or fresh grass shoot. By now those are just memories, and the poor birds have to make do with a diet of nutritious, but boring, commercial mash.
Jazz Up the Diet and Relieve Boredom
So, while keeping plenty of quality mash in the feeder, we jazz up their diet with these things:
Mealworms: Our chickens might not like them as much as a June caterpillar but dried mealworms are a great winter substitute, so we sprinkle a couple of handfuls in the coop every day. These treats can be bought online or in farm and pet stores.
Sunflower seeds: Many people put sunflower seeds out for cardinals, chickadees, and other birds to enjoy on frosty days. Chickens also love them. We toss a handful of black oil sunflower seeds with the hulls on into the coop. They quickly disappear.
Squash seeds: We enjoy eating butternut and other winter squash during the cold days. Our chickens devour the seeds.
Scratch: Chickens love eating commercial scratch grain, a blend of corn, milo, wheat, and oats. A handful or two a day is plenty. It’s chicken candy but low in protein. Be careful when buying scratch. Some brands include a high percentage of milo, a grain that chickens don’t favor. It’s a round reddish colored seed. Try buying scratch with a low milo content.
Flock block: Each winter we buy a flock block. They’re made by several companies and are compressed scratch grain fortified with molasses and other treats. We simply put the heavy block on the coop floor. It takes the birds several weeks to eat it all and keeps them busy picking out tidbits. Farm and pet stores sell them. Some folks make their own!
On winter days, before enjoying our morning coffee and breakfast we open our coop’s pop hole door and scatter some chicken treats. We’re sure to say good morning and thanks to our hard-working hens.