How many of you love treats? 🙋 We know everyone’s raising their paws. Animals are very similar to hoomans, especially when it comes to treats. Not everyone wants to eat healthy and balanced meals all of the time. Just ask our Spokesrabbit, Belinda. While her roommate ensures she has all the Small Pet Select hay and fresh greens she needs to keep her healthy, she’s also our snack expert. A true connoisseur. Oops! This blog is supposed to be about the importance of scratch grains, not Belinda or her treats. We promise to stick to the topic from now on, but you can’t blame us for adoring our Spokesrabbit. We're focused now. So what's the importance of scratch grains?
What are Scratch Grains?
Chickens are expert foragers, and they spend a lot of time choosing the perfect morsel to eat. When chickens forage, we say they “scratch.” When hoomans started raising poultry, chicken feed and other ready-made food items were not available. Therefore, the chickens' parents had to find food their chickens would eat. Poultry are omnivores and they were fed everything from table scraps to old seeds.
Today, scratch grains or organic scratch grains consist of a variety of seeds and other ingredients chickens enjoy. As an example, our Sustainable chicken scratch contains a bunch of yummy things: wheat, oats, barley, flax seed, triticale, pumpkin seeds, green yellow and maple peas. Scratch may also contain cracked corn, milo, sorghum, and rice.
What’s the difference between chicken feed and scratch grains?
In a nutshell, the difference between chicken feed and scratch grains is:
Chicken feed = dinner. Scratch grains = dessert.
Chicken feed provides complete and holistic nutrition for your flock. To ensure the correct food at each life stage, it is also age-based. We carry three varieties:
🐤 Starter Feed
Hatch to 6-8 (ish) weeks
Contains high protein content (22%) needed for rapid growth.
🐤 Grower Feed
6-18 (ish) weeks
Slightly less protein (18%) to prevent kidney problems.
🐤 Layer Feed
(18ish weeks +)
Nutritionally balanced for adults, with 16% protein.
Scratch grains should only make up 5-10% of a chicken's overall diet. Variety is the spice of life for all pets, including your flock. Having scratch readily available keeps them healthy and promotes overall well-being.
When can I give my chickens scratch grains?
Scratch grains are meant to be treats for chickens. Since all of us should eat dessert last (not first!), put scratch out in the evening when they've had the opportunity to munch on their healthy feed, grit, and oyster shell all day.
Scratch has other benefits!
- Training: If you want your chickens to learn to eat out of your hand, offer scratch. If you want them to come to the coop at night, offer scratch. If you shake the bag, they'll come for chicken treats. Promise!
- Boredom Relief: Chickens naturally like to hunt and peck. Sending your flock on a scavenger hunt has bonuses. 1) It makes them work for their treats and get exercise. 2) It gives them something to do and alleviates boredom. Boredom leads to bullying, unfortunately. 3) Chickens love their crowd and companionship. Going on a group scavenger hunt breeds friendship. (Just hide the scratch in their bedding. They'll find it.)
- Reward: Like a lollipop at the doctor's office, you can offer scratch grains after a health check, a trip to the vet, etc.
- Warmth: In the winter, offering scratch before bed helps keep them warm. Digesting grains generates body warmth in your flock.
We hope you feel we’ve more than 'scratch'ed the surface providing information on the importance of scratch grains. Scratch delivers so many benefits for your flock, so try it on for size! Your flock will thank you. 😁
Interested in learning more about chicken nutrition? Check out these articles:
What is “Grit,” and Why Do My Chickens Need It?
Chicken Feed: All You Need to Know