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How Many Treats Should I Feed my Chickens?

How many treats should you feed your backyard chickens? Find out the correct answer and learn what some of the most nutritious treats are for them.

We all love spoiling our pets - and our backyard chickens are no different. But too many treats can make them fat, cause fatty liver syndrome, reduce egg laying performance and lead to other health problems. 

So how many treats are too many?

This is one question I get asked all the time by readers. Other chicken experts offer recommendations that range from "chickens should only eat layer feed and never be given any treats" to "give them anything you would eat yourself".

How Many Treats Should I Feed my Chickens?

So, how many treats should you feed your chickens?

I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of never and always! I know, I know, not very helpful. But let's be realistic. One of the major benefits of raising chickens in addition to their fresh eggs is the fact that they reduce food waste to almost zero. 

Do I sometimes feed our chickens leftover fast food, baked goods or white pasta, sure I do. Do I do it regularly? No I don't.

Chickens on farms have been eating garden and kitchen scraps for generations (except in the UK where it's illegal to feed them anything that has passed through the kitchen) and turning all that leftover food that would otherwise go to waste into nitrogen-rich manure for the garden.

What Kind of Treats Should I Feed my Chickens?

As a family, we eat lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains and seafood. So the leftovers our chickens get are generally healthy. I also share weeds from the yard (when the chickens can't free range) and herbs and plants from the garden with our flock. 

I try to give our chickens treats every day, especially if they can't get out to free range for a bit in the afternoon. 

(On free range days, they're pretty much on their own  because I figure they can find their own bugs, worms, seeds and the like)

But on a normal day, I give them a bit of this, some of that. Whatever we have leftover from dinner the night before, anything that needs to be trimmed back in the garden, sunflower seeds, warm oatmeal, etc. 

But it stands to reason that the healthier your family eats, the healthier your chickens will be if they're sharing your diet. So be aware of what kinds of foods you're eating that might not be too healthy for you or your chickens - i.e. too salty, sweet, fried, processed, etc.

How Many Treats is Too Much?

But how much is TOO much when it comes to how many treats to feed your chickens? Well, here's a simple formula:

A chicken eats about 1/2 cup of feed a day. Treats should be no more than 10% of their diet. 

Half a cup is 8 Tablespoons, so 10% of that would be 8/10 of a Tablespoon. So, roughly figure on under a Tablespoon of treats per chicken per day.

This is how Much a Chicken Should Eat in a Day
Daily Feed Ration = 1/2 Cup 

This is How Much Should be Treats
Daily Treat Ration =  Just under one Tablespoon per Hen

Note: I don't consider "green" treats (including grass, weeds and herbs) in the formula since they are allowed in pretty much unlimited amounts - being what a chicken would naturally eat in a free range situation. I am only talking about kitchen scraps or commercial chicken treats.

So it's a good idea to limit treats to the healthy variety (heavy on the veggies, light on the cookies!) and limit the daily amount you're offering to your flock. 

And then go right on "spoiling" your flock! After all, they spoil us with delicious fresh eggs daily!

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