It’s harvest season, so gardeners have more produce and garden waste than they know what to do with. A few neighbors see my flock of chickens as a handy way to ensure that nothing goes to waste, without having to actually eat over-ripe or oversized produce.
Feeding scraps to your chickens isn’t rocket science, and there are only a few rules:
- Don’t feed anything rotten to the chickens. Chickens will usually turn up their beaks at anything unwholesome, but let’s not take many chances. Mushy apples are okay, and a mold spot here and there will just be avoided by them. Don’t feed them anything that smells funny!
- Don’t take away their chicken feed. You get into trouble when feeding surplus and scraps and waste to chickens by trying to force them to eat it. Chickens like variety and like unprocessed food, and they have a pretty good “nutritional appetite,” so they’ll eat at least as much of anything new as they should. If you keep their chicken feed available, you won’t poison or malnourish them with ill-considered offerings.
- Remove anything that attracts flies and rats. When feeding things that will attract unwanted visitors, don’t offer the chickens more than they will eat in a short time. Since you often don’t know how much this will be, be prepared to take away the leftovers soon after feeding.
- Slice or break open things with thick skins, like squashes. Chickens can’t handle the rind but love what’s inside.
- Be aware that most waste and scraps have few calories. Vegetables and garbage, for example, usually have very few calories per pound. Vitamins, yes; calories, no. Calories are concentrated mostly in grains and fats, which usually aren’t what people are pressing on you.
- If you have a lot more scraps than your chickens can handle, consider pigs. Pigs are better than chickens at dealing with agricultural surplus, if only because they eat so much more!
Want to learn more about feeding your chickens?
And I have more blog and web site articles about chicken feed!
But what you really need, if you want to sink your teeth into the topic, is a copy of Heuser’s Feeding Poultry. I republished this book because there wasn’t anything good and accessible in print. In addition to discussing everything you can imagine, it covers topics like green feed and feeding scraps.