As they say, winter is coming. And you know what that means… it’s time to start preparing your flock for the cold blustery weather. We get asked frequently how to care for chickens in the winter, and while our most recent post on the matter covers quite a bit about preparing your flock for winter, we wanted to dive a little deeper into the topic of feeding. Specifically, we wanted to cover some hearty winter foods for chickens, to help your flock get through the biting cold.
While feeding these foods is entirely optional, we’ve found them to help the flock to put on a little insulating fat (not too much, you don’t want obese chickens!) and give the birds something to do while they’re cooped up all winter. Boredom in the chicken coop leads to stress, which leads to bad flock dynamics and illness. Best to keep those beaks busy during the winter season!
Hearty winter foods for chickens
Cracked Corn is a chicken favorite, toss it out for your flock and they’ll go absolutely nuts for it! This treat is a great way to add a little fat to your chickens before winter hits, and tossing on the ground in the coop or the run is a fun treasure hunt for your birds on dreary days. Be sure to feed corn sparingly, as it’s high in calories and too much can easily lead to big fat fatty birds, which no one wants.
The Flock Block is one of my all-time favorite chicken treats/toys. This baby is 25 pounds of pure hearty goodness for your flock. We go through about three per winter, and they’re worth every dime. The flock block is full of seeds, grains, and fat, and the chickens pick at it daily until every bit is gone. One flock block tends to last our chickens 1-2 months, depending on how many other treats they’re getting at the time. The flock block is a great way to keep the chickens occupied all day long when they’re stuck in the coop during inclement weather.
Cooking up a batch of oatmeal for your chickens on a bitter cold day is a great way to show them just how much you care. Toss in some fruit or yams, and they’ll thank you for days! Well, not really, but they certainly will be happy. You can buy big ten pound tubs of Rolled Oats for about twenty dollars, and it will greatly warm your birds on cold days. Just be sure not to add sugar to the oatmeal! While humans love a little sweetness in a pot of oatmeal, sugar is bad for birds, and your chickens just plain don’t need it.
Chili or Soup
Soup is extremely cost efficient to make and your chickens will love it! You can literally make a hearty soup from basic kitchen scraps, like vegetables bits and bobs and chicken or turkey carcass after the meat’s been cut off. Toss in some cheap potatoes or squash and your flock will think they’ve died and gone to heaven!
We frequently make big batches of soup for dinner in the winter, but we never eat it all. We’ll generally give half of the leftovers to the chickens and freeze half for later. This is a great, economical way to give your chickens hearty foods in the winter.
While some folks feed Chicken Scratch all year long, we reserve it as a hearty winter treat for our flock. This food is high in fat and carbohydrates, so it should be fed sparingly. Scratch is a great way to add a little insulting fat to your birds, as well as give them something to do on cold or snowy days. When our flock is cooped up inside, we toss scratch on the floor, and the chickens spend hours digging around to find it. It’s a great way to occupy their time when they’d otherwise be bored and picking on each other.
Fall is the best time to stock up on winter squash while it’s cheap and abundant. This time of year literal tons of squash gets thrown out or left to rot in fields. If you ask around at local farms and markets, you might be able to get squash for free or at least big discounts.
When we feed squash and pumpkins to the flock we break it up into hand sized pieces and toss it into the chicken run. The chickens eat everything but the rind, even the seeds! Pumpkins and squash can store for months in a cool dry place, so stock up now and you can treat your flock all winter long.
Caring for chickens in winter is certainly a challenge, but we hope these hearty winter foods for chickens will make it a little easier on you and your flock. Treat your flock this winter, and don’t forget to treat your self too! Winter is the perfect time to get cozy, eat well, and take good care of yourself.