I don’t know about you, but I love spoiling the heck out of my chickens. My husband loves it even more than I do. They run to greet my husband when he comes home from work as if he has bread in his pockets. Knowing him, he just might 😉 For us, having healthy chickens is equated to happy chickens on a healthy diet.
Top 10 Ways to Have Healthy Chickens
A quality chicken feed will provide most of the nutrients that chickens need. Giving them treats that also provide nutrition is a great way to spoil your chickens. Besides diet, there are a few other things that chickens need in order to be healthy. Let’s take a look at all the things we can do to have healthy chickens…
1.Provide Them Grit – Chickens need grit to help them grind their food since they don’t have teeth. I don’t provide grit because my chickens free range, and we literally live in a sandbox (which is great grit material). Thanks Florida! If your chickens are free-ranging they may pick up small pebbles while they are scratching and pecking around on the ground looking for bugs. If they are not free-range, you may want to provide them with grit.
2. Give laying hens calcium – When I first got chickens, I bought oyster shells. My chickens wouldn’t have anything to do with this stuff. So instead, I just use their own eggshells for calcium. After I boil eggs, I save the shells, to give to them later or crush the whole boiled egg (shell and all) and give it to them. They love to eat boiled eggs! To save eggshell to give to the chickens late: Place them on a sheet pan and bake them on the lowest setting for 15 – 20 minutes. Keep them in an airtight container.
3. More Protein – Most chicken feed has the necessary amount of proteins that healthy chickens need. I like giving mealworms to my chickens when they are molting. A little extra protein helps them to grow they beautiful feathers back in.
4. Healthy Snacks – See healthy snack ideas below!
5. Keep’em Busy! – Keep your chickens busy with some boredom busters, see a list below.
6. Keep Their Living Quarters Clean and Dry. – I’m a fan of the deep litter method. You can use whatever method you like as long as you keep them clean to the best of your ability.
7. Have a Chicken First Aid Kit – Being ready to treat a sick or wounded chicken can be the difference between saving a chicken and losing one.
8. Let’em Free Range – You don’t have to free-range your chickens, but they’re probably the happiest when not stuck in a cage. If you simply can’t free range your chickens a great compromise is the fenced version. Something between being caged and being free ranged. Providing a fenced area for your chickens to roam will help them live a happy and healthy life too.
9. Chicken Dust Bath – Provide them with a way to bathe themselves in dirt, sand and/or other materials. If your chickens don’t have access to dirt/sand then you can make your own Homemade Chicken Dust Bath.
10. Provide Clean Water – Providing clean water is one of the most important things you can do for chickens. Make sure you clean out those waterers too. It’s not enough to just fill up the waterer. I use a scrub brush, and my favorite cleaner for this is Dr. Bronners. It works wonders and it lasts a long time.
Healthy Chickens Snack Ideas
The vet once told us that we were giving our dog too many treats, and that’s why she’s fat. We had to cut the unhealthy snacks from her diet and provide healthy ones instead. This ensures that even when she’s snacking she’s getting what she needs. When you give your chickens treats think about the impact it will have on their eating habits. Will it spoil their dinner? Giving them snacks packed with nutrition is the best way to go. Note: There is such a thing as too many snacks!
- Cooked Rice, Beans, and Mixed Vegetables (Especially nice on a cold day, when served warm) – I like to add herbs from my herb garden.
- Boiled Eggs – I crush shells and all, and my girls and guys go nuts. This is definitely one of their favorite snacks! As you know eggs have protein but they also have calcium which is good for egg production.
- Frozen Mixed Veggies, are great for chickens on a hot day.
- Scrambled Eggs
- Warm Oatmeal – We love to have warm oatmeal on a cold morning. You can some of their favorite fruits if you like! Don’t give chickens uncooked oatmeal, rice, or beans.
- Fruit – Chickens enjoy many kinds of fruit. Just don’t give them a whole bunch of apple seeds, they contain a tiny bit of arsenic. They would have to eat a lot I would think for it to hurt them, but I like to be safe.
- Garlic – The lady I bought Camo (our mascot) from said she gave her chickens raw garlic cloves, and she never had a sick chicken. I can’t seem to get my chickens to eat garlic like this but if you can more power to ya! Garlic has many great properties and nutrients.
- Dried Herbs – There are some herbs chickens just aren’t interested in. Like rosemary, yep my chickens won’t touch it. I have several plants that they haven’t destroyed even though they are within their reach. However, they ate my mint. Other suggestions are lavender, oregano, parsley and sage. My chickens haven’t touched my sage, or parsley either now that I think of it. I do give them oregano in some beans, rice, and veggies sometimes.
- Black Oil Sunflower Seeds – These little seeds are packed full of protein and other nutrients.
Keep’em Busy Snacks & other Boredom Busters
- Head of cabbage – Use this nifty little treat hanger.
- Rolling Meal Treat Ball – You can fill it with mealworms, seeds, and other stuff.
- Chicken Pecking Block Recipe (coming soon) – Or just buy one
- 3 Awesome Reasons For Feeding Pumpkin to Chickens
- Provide a dust bath for chickens
- Add some roosts, logs, a chicken swing or other things to jump/play/exercise on.
Things not to do
- Let them fill up on snacks. They are like kids with the snacks, every time you go outside they come a-running asking for treats! Don’t let them fool you into always giving them some kind of treat. Foraging for their food is one of the best ways for them to get what they need and less of what they want.
- Use scratch as food. Scratch is a treat. It doesn’t have the required nutrients to keep chickens nourished, healthy and thriving. If you want healthy chickens, the best place to start is with a good feed.
- Give them too many scraps. Yes, they love the scraps, but you want to make sure they are getting enough protein by allowing them to eat enough of their regular feed or eating bugs, and whatnot.
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