Chicken Scratch is meant as a treat, and is great to warm your birds during the winter months.
Learn to treat your flock to a diet rich in a variety of herbs, greens, and flowers with Fresh Eggs Daily (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013). Lisa Steele offers dozens of simple and intelligent tips for “going natural” that help you avoid common ailments that plague many backyard flocks. This excerpt from “In the Winter” features instructions for a DIY chicken scratch wreath, great as both a treat and a method for keeping chickens warm in winter.
You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Fresh Eggs Daily.
More Fresh Eggs Daily:
Properly Caring for Chickens in Winter
What to Feed Chickens in Winter
Homemade Suet Block Recipe
Things to Know Before Building a Backyard Chicken Coop
Green Choices for Chicken Coop Bedding
Easy Green Tips for Refreshing and Cleaning a Chicken Coop
Even if the chickens are taking a break from laying, they should still be fed their layer feed and also provided free-choice oyster or eggshell. Winter is also the time when scratch makes a great treat, especially just before bedtime. Chicken scratch is considered a “treat,” not a substitute for layer feed. It contains only about half the protein of feed, but the body heat generated digesting the corn and grains in the scratch helps keep chickens warm during cold nights. It also gives them something to do when there aren’t any bugs or grass in the run to keep them occupied.
As an alternative to commercial scratch, you can easily mix up your own using bulk grains purchased from your feed store or local grocery store. I use a blend of cracked corn, oats, barley, wheat, flax seed, sunflower seed and raisins. The girls love it.
I make scratch wreaths for the chickens during the winter as well as summer. They are easy to make and will keep your chickens from getting cabin fever during long winter days when there isn’t much to do outside.
1/2 cup cool water
3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup bacon, suet or hamburger grease, heated to liquefy
8 cups of a mixture of scratch, sunflower seeds, cracked corn, raisins, nuts or seeds
20 fresh or frozen cranberries
Spray Bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a measuring cup, dissolve the gelatin in the cool water and let sit for a minute. Pour the boiling water into a medium bowl and whisk in the gelatin to combine.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the seeds and nuts. Stir in the grease and then pour in the liquid gelatin. Mix well with a wooden spoon to be sure all the nuts and seeds are well coated and all the liquid is absorbed. Place the cranberries in rows in the indentations in the pan (I used three in half the indentations and two in every other indentation). Then carefully spoon the seed mixture into the pan. Press down with the spoon to pack it well.
Put the Bundt pan in the refrigerator overnight to set. The next day, take the wreath out of the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Invert and tap gently on the countertop to unmold. Tie to your run fencing and let the chickens snack to their hearts’ content.
Reprinted with permission from Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chicks…Naturally by Lisa Steele and published by St. Lynn’s Press, 2013. Buy this book from our store: Fresh Eggs Daily.
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