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Scratch Grains: Winter Treat for Chickens

If you have ever fed your chickens scratch grains then you know that they go absolutely nuts for it.

They scramble around pecking up the various grains and seeds as fast as they can, fighting and scratching for each last piece (hence the name 'scratch'!).

Not very nutritious, but a great cold weather energy source for the chickens and they love it! I toss a scoopful into the run each afternoon in the winter a few hours before dark.

Scratch Grains: Winter Treat for Chickens

As soon as I go into the storage room where I keep the bag of scratch, my girls know they are going to get some and they all gather excitedly at the door.

Since its not nutritionally complete, scratch is not a substitute for layer feed, but should be considered a treat.

While the mixed grains are nutritious, they only contain about half the protein that chickens need in their regular diet, so should be only given after your chickens have had a chance to fill up on their regular feed.

More importantly, the body heat generated digesting the corn and grains in the scratch helps keep chickens warm during cold nights, so it should only be fed during the colder months.

It also gives the chickens something to do when there aren't any bugs or grass to keep them occupied.

Homemade Scratch Grains

All of the major chicken feed distributors sell pre-bagged scratch grains which contain a variety of grains, but you can also easily make your own.

As an alternative to commercial scratch, you can easily mix up bulk grains purchased from your feed store or local grocery store.

Try a blend of cracked corn, oats, barley, wheat, flax seed, sunflower seeds, unsalted peanuts, walnuts, dried cranberries or raisins... your girls will love it. Or you can even purchase bagged bird seed mixes.

Store your scratch mix in a rodent-proof container in a cool, dry location. Toss it on the ground or in your coop, it's a great way to help beat winter boredom and cabin fever.

Remember, it's a treat, so should be fed in moderation, preferably just before bedtime to take advantage of its warming properties.

Berry Box Scratch Treat Toy

 You can also fill empty plastic berry boxes with the scratch and put them in your coop or run.

Your chickens will love kicking them around to get the treats out. This is a great way to keep them occupied and busy doing something other than pecking at each other if they are confined indoors due to bad weather.


Ultimate Scratch Grains

If you  really want to treat your girls, you can add some other fun add-ins to either a commercial scratch grain mix or start literally "from scratch".

This recipe is my girls' favorite --> Get the recipe


(recipe courtesy Hobby Farms Magazine)

Garlic-Infused Olive Oil Scratch Treat 

Another variation is to add some garlic-infused olive oil to a mix of scratch and layer crumble. The olive oil and garlic adds more great antioxidants and nutrition for your girls.

This amount of garlic-infused olive oil scratch is enough for about a dozen chickens.

  • Mince three garlic cloves and put them in a glass with 1/4 Cup olive oil.  
  • Set the glass on a sunny windowsill or warm spot for 3-4 hours.  
  • When ready to use, stir the oil mixture into 2 Cups of layer crumble and 1 Cup scratch and feed immediately.  
  • Discard any leftovers.

If our flock is any indication though, there will never be anything left!  My girls love this recipe, I urge you to try it.


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