How to Feed Chickens Scratch Grains
How to feed chickens scratch grains properly is important to know, and for many poultry keepers, this will be new information. It is important to understand that scratch grains, with or without corn, is a treat option and should not replace a balanced feed. Next, it is important to know how, when, and why feeding corn or scratch grains to chickens is okay.
Chickens keepers will argue, and argue, and argue about when and how to offer scratch grains to chickens. But the topic on feeding poultry scratch grains with corn causes the feathers to fly!
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How to Feed Chickens – The Difference Between Feed & Scratch Grains
Poultry of today are fed much differently than what was offered to them prior to the twentieth century. In order to maintain a complete balanced diet, whole grains, mash, or pellet must be offered.
Poultry feed can be offered in a dry or fermented form. However, out of all the feed options available, fermented whole grains is truly the best option to feed poultry. It not only provides poultry a balanced diet, it also allows the birds to consume less feed because it fills them more.
Laying hens will need to consume a protein level between 15% – 18%. That amount allows for the body to properly support egg production and optimal health. Any snacks, treats, rewards, and bribes will need to be offered later in the day, allowing for poultry to receive 90% of their diet from the feed being offered.
So then, what category do scratch grains fall into? They fall directly into the bribe, treat, snack, and if you feed too much you’re going to have obese chickens category.
Feeding chickens scratch grains, especially ones which contain corn, need to be offered in moderation. Strict moderation. No more than 10% of a bird’s daily diet should consist of treats. And in truth, even less if they are kept in an enclosed run.
One other thing, do not mix scratch grains with corn with feed. Poultry, especially chickens, will consume the scratch grains and corn before the feed.
The Truth about Corn
There is quite a bit of controversy about offering corn to chickens and other poultry. And since many scratch grains contain corn, it is important to address this.
It is rumored that corn, whether whole or cracked, elevates the body temperature of a chicken. This is a false statement. Corn fed chickens do not have an increase in body temperature when consuming corn. Corn is a ‘hot’ food item, yes, but only in reference to calories, not heat. There is no rise in body temperature when poultry consume it. None at all. Regardless of the season in which it is being offered. No way, no how. Please remember this.
Another fact about corn: Because it is a carbohydrate, birds that consume too much of it can become obese. Obese poultry tend to have multiple health conditions. Overheating easily is an indication that a bird is overweight. Make sure to offer corn sparingly. That allows your flock to enjoy it in a healthy manner.
With that said, go ahead and freeze scratch with corn in ice cube trays. Your birds will love this cool treat every once in awhile!
When to Feed Chickens Scratch Grains
Chickens love consuming scratched grains, love it, especially when it contains corn. My flock receives scratch with corn throughout the year, however, the flock has to work for it.
Feeding Chickens Scratch with Corn in the Summer
Many are unsure as to whether it is safe to feed chickens corn during the summer months. These individuals have been informed that corn causes their temperature to rise, which in turn will cause them to overheat. However, this is untrue. Corn, even when the temperature is 100 degrees outside, will not increase their body temper, it will increase the amount of energy they generate.
Earlier I mentioned that my flock has to work for their share of scratch with corn, so let me explain.
For permaculture purposes the waste under the rabbit cages requires being moved regularly in order for it to break down quickly. Every other day or so, scratch with corn is tossed near and under the cages, motivating the chickens to scratch and work the area. Because of their labor the rabbit poop is able to break down more efficiently, making everyone happy. Work smarter, not harder, right?
Feeding Chickens Scratch with Corn in the Winter
Throwing a small handful of scratch with corn in the coop before the flock roosts at night will assist in keeping them warm. The corn boosts a chicken’s metabolism. That is what helps them to stay warmer throughout the night.
Also, scratch is a great boredom buster. Poultry tend to be inside their coop or under cover during the winter months. That leaves room for squabbling and pecking issues. Offering a very small amount of scratch in the early morning will keep them entertained for hours at a time. Because of this, their focus is redirected, minimizing the amount of bullying which can occur.
Here’s one last tip, providing scratch grains during the winter months gets the birds up and scratching around. Hence the name ‘scratch’ grains. Movement generates warmth, and warmth (especially in extreme climates) is very much needed.
Selecting a Good Scratch Grain Option to Feed Chickens
Grains and corn are at the top level of being a genetically modified organism (GMO). With this in mind, and because you’re going to consume the eggs they lay or the meat they provide, select organic scratch grains.
By choice, we use both, Organic Scratch n’ Corn and Organic 3-Grain Scratch by Scratch and Peck, throughout the year. I know exactly what my birds are consuming, and that makes both me and my egg customers extremely happy.
The Organic 3-Grain Scratch contains barley, wheat, oats, and flaxseed oil. Whereas their Organic Scratch n’ Corn contains barley, cracked corn, wheat, and flaxseed oil. That’s it, that’s all that in them. Just remember, even though these are basic ingredients they should not replace a balanced feed option. Only offer scratch grains as a supplement to a balanced diet.
Other Treats to Offer
Aside from offering scratch grains the following items can be offered throughout the year:
- Sprouted Barley Grains
- Garden Scraps
- Table Scraps
- Many Fruits and Vegetables
All snack items need to be offered in moderation. This will keep your birds happy and healthy for years to come.
Interesting. I’ve never paid much attention to exactly how much scratch grain we give the chickens, but obesity has never been an issue. The broilers park wolf down the regular feed – and pretty much anything else. Ours enjoy a wide range of greenery, sprouted grains, veggies, fruit, meat – you name it.
The hens have not gone crazy over scratch grains. Our current small flock of hens will peck at them, but they like the oats better than the corn.
The ducks have free access to their layer feed and a scratch grain mix. They only hit the scratch grains hard when they need to pack on the fat – like this fall, when the temps dropped like a rock. Otherwise, they self moderate.