Whether you’re new to raising chickens or have a dedicated flock, you’re likely aware of all the food options you could buy for your birds. When choosing feeds and treats to give your chickens, you want to ensure you’re picking products that are good for them. A popular, yet debatable, feed is scratch grains. These can benefit your flock, though large servings can cause health issues. Understanding what you’re feeding your chickens is essential to raising healthy birds.
Learn when and how to introduce chicken scratch to properly support your flock’s diet.
Chicken scratch, also called scratch grains, is a type of chicken feed closely resembling bird seed. Scratch grains’ ingredients can vary widely, though they often include various whole grains and seeds like wheat, barley, corn, oats, sunflower seeds, legume, millet, and other natural ingredients. While the scratch mixture is available in premixed bags for convenience, some chicken owners prefer to mix their own. The ingredients are typically whole, though sometimes you can find scratch blend crushed into smaller pieces.
Only feed scratch grains to fully grown, adult chickens. If you feed scratch to your chicks, they likely won’t be able to digest it properly. Chicks should eat starter feed for the first couple of months of their lives to ensure they’re getting proper nutrients to help them grow. A good rule of thumb is if you’re still feeding your chicks starter feed, they likely aren’t ready for scratch yet.
While scratch grains are a category of chicken food, it differs from standard feed. Instead of putting scratch grains into a feeder, you’ll typically toss them in the bedding or on the ground so chickens have to use their feet to forage for bits of the mixture. Additionally, regular feed, like layer pellets, provides the necessary nutrients to keep chickens healthy, whether you’re raising them for meat or egg laying. While scratch grains contain some nutritional value, they are more of a treat than a balanced diet.
Layer pellets are a common type of feed fed to grown chickens to help encourage healthy egg laying. Here are a few other scientifically formulated chicken feeds you may give your flock daily for balanced nutrition.
When fed in moderation, scratch grains can benefit chickens in several ways. Consider the following advantages of feeding your chickens scratch.
While scratch grains offer several benefits, chickens don’t necessarily need to eat them to be healthy. Scratch grains are more of a luxury you can give your chickens if you wish. Since they’re not an essential part of a chicken’s diet, scratch grains are only an occasional treat, and should make up a small percentage of what you feed your chicken. While it contains some nutrients, scratch is not a meal replacement, and you should only use it in a healthy balance with your flock’s primary feed source.
Scratch grains are typically high in carbohydrates, which chickens quickly convert to fat. While this may be desirable in some circumstances, best practices advise against giving chickens large quantities of scratch. Using scratch grains as a treat to supplement your primary feed is vital to a chicken’s health.
Chickens who solely eat scratch will experience several nutritional imbalances and health issues, including selective eating, protein deficits, decreased/low-quality egg production, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Scratch mixes lack the necessary protein, calcium, and vitamins that standard feeds contain to ensure chickens get well-rounded meals, which is why it’s best as a treat.
As part of your family, your flock needs high-quality feeds and grains to thrive. Nature’s Best Organic Feeds offers premium organic poultry products, including organic scratch grains. As a non-GMO project-verified company, we strive to provide nutritious poultry products with full transparency. With 75 years in business, we provide the quality feeds your chickens need to thrive.