4 Ingredient Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola”

4 Ingredient Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola”

Who doesn’t love chamomile? I do, you do, and I guarantee your chickens do!

 

And chamomile is the star of Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola.”

 

And I tell you, hens LOVE this treat! My hens love digging in and testing each bit!

 

German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is wonderful for hens because, as you probably know, it has qualities that help hens relax.

 

And since relaxation and a sense of security is important to getting the best eggs possible out of your hens, you can imagine how important chamomile is to your herbal medicine chest!

Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola” backyard chicken treat

 

 

This treat is a great go-to recipe if your chickens are nervous (if a hawk was flying above or the neighbors dog came over for a “visit”), and you want them to come out of their hiding places, relax, and feel safe again.

 

You can find chamomile to buy in the shop right here, and it’s the exact same herbs that I used in this recipe.

 

Corn is also a big part of this treat, and my hens have a ball poking around and trying to find every last kernel!

 

You can use dried ground, chopped, or whole corn kernels. If you do use whole kernels (which chickens love, by the way), the recipe adjusts slightly.

 

 

 

Although I haven’t tried, if you add egg and water, you can probably make this into “cornmeal muffins” your hens will adore.

 

This recipe also features our old friend, dried black soldier fly larvae, which hens also love! (As if I had to remind you!)

 

If you don’t have black soldier fly larvae on hand, mealworms or any other dried insect are a great substitute. Mine go bonkers for both.

 

I’ve included kale in Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola” because kale has lots of great vitamins and minerals for chickens.

 

Plus, hens love greens! You can use either fresh or freeze dried kale. We usually go for freeze dried kale because the nutrient content is still high AND it’s shelf stable.

 

A treat like this is perfect before bedtime if it’s winter in your area or as a mid-day treat when the days aren’t too hot – so perfect for spring.

 

All you need to do is put out a bowl with the “granola” in it and let your chickens have at it.

 

I hope your hens enjoy this as much as mine do!

 

Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola” for chickens

How To Make Chamomile & Black Soldier Fly Larvae “Granola.”

 

Ingredients (per chicken):

¼ c dried, Non-GMO Corn (ground, chopped) — use ½ cup if whole corn kernels

Chamomile – 2 tbsp (Buy in my store here)

Black Soldier Fly Larvae – ¼ cup (Buy in my store here)

Kale – ¼  cup  — use freeze dried or fresh kale

 

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a chicken-safe dish. You can scatter the “granola” to make sure each hen gets a bite. Smaller flocks can eat out of the bowl together.

 

This isn’t a replacement for their regular feed, and should be part of a complete diet.

 

It’s a hit!

What Do Chickens Eat?

What Do Chickens Eat?

A frequent question I get is what do chickens eat, and the answer is pretty much anything (my Araucana chicken will eat me out of house and home if she could!)

 

But, there’s definitely things you should feed them and things you SHOULDN’T feed them. So today let’s talk all about what your chickens should and shouldn’t be eating.

 

We’ll also debunk some myths about what chickens eat. So let’s get started!

 

 

It’s incredibly important to give your hens a high-quality, varied diet.

And in order to be able to do that you need to know what chickens eat. Plus providing your chickens with a high-quality, nutritious diet means that you will have great tasting eggs!

 

So, what do chickens eat?

My chickens aren’t super picky. Honestly they’ll eat ANYTHING. But I like to ensure that my chickens are getting the nutrients that they need, so here are some of the things that I think are the best things to feed your chickens.

 

Layer feed

Layer feed is the cornerstone to any good diet plan for your hens. It contains all the nutrients they need to be healthy – laying eggs is taxing on a hen’s body, and the protein and nutrients it requires must be replenished.

 

Once they start laying eggs, you should feed them a high quality feed with at least 16% protein daily. You can make your own feed using my recipe here or opt for a commercial feed.

 

You might find that your hens will gobble a pelleted layer feed and refuse to eat a mash (or vice versa) – that’s okay. My Araucana chicken LOVES her mash – chickens are funny creatures and have their preferences just like we do.

 

Herbs

Herbs are really important for chickens because:

1. Chickens love them

2. They provide important nutrients

3. They can also provide some environmental activities for your chickens in their run.

 

I just made a DIY Herb Pot for my chickens and they absolutely love it!  

 

what do chickens eat araucana chicken

 

Some of my favorite herbs that I use for my chickens are peppermint, oregano, and sage. Oregano has antibacterial properties, so it promotes cleanliness in your coop. Studies have also shown that oregano helped chickens to be healthier and lay more!

 

Garlic is great to add to feed – in studies, it’s been shown to boost immune systems in humans and animals alike.

 

I also love using peppermint because it smells SO GOOD! And it also can help keep insects away from your chickens, and possibly help maintain a healthy respiratory system.

 

Sage is one of my go to herbs for healthy digestive systems. It smells great like peppermint and my chickens love to peck at it. In studies, it also reduced internal parasites (wormwood and chili are also great options.)

 

Fruit

Fruit can be great for your chickens because there’s lots of vitamins and minerals. Grapes, apple flesh (see below for more about apples), pears, raspberries, strawberries, etc are all great for chickens.

 

Just keep in mind that some chickens won’t want fruit – mine don’t seem to be too partial to fruit (Hawk, my Araucana hen, really loves her black soldier fly larvae).

 

Like anything else, fruit should be fed in moderation since too much of anything can be harmful for your chickens. I normally make sure that when I’m feeding my chickens “table scraps” (i.e. leftover fruits and veggies) it doesn’t exceed more than 10% of their diet.

 

Leafy greens & vegetables

Chicken do like leafy greens – some go-to leafy greens are lettuce, kale, spinach, arugula, etc. Every year we grow our hens their own special greens garden by broadcasting seeds into a raised bed and then harvesting as needed.

 

I don’t suggest letting the hens have access to the garden 24 hours a day – they’ll shred it to bits in no time flat.

 

You can also grow greens and herbs in their coop, but give them limited access with a DIY grazing box, which is VERY easy to put together and durable – ours has lasted us several seasons.

 

There are some leafy greens you should avoid feeding backyard cchickens, but we’ll talk about those later!

 

By and large, your chickens can eat any vegetables you do – keep in mind that cooked, soft vegetables might go over better than raw. However, cooked veggies typically don’t have the same amount of nutrients as raw, so one option is to ferment your vegetables for 3-7 days so they get soft without losing nutrients.

 

Fermented vegetables are also super healthy for hens because they have beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus which can help balance their digestive system and possibly lower their pathogen load. In studies, hens fed fermented foods had lower incidences of salmonella in their systems.

 

Sprouts & Fodder

My chickens LOVE to eat sprouts. And sprouts are so easy! Sunflower sprouts are simple, although you can sprout wheat, oats, beans, etc.

 

Chickens love them because they’re fresh greens plus seeds, and they love picking at both. They’re also extremely nutritious for chickens since a seed is full of all the vitamins and minerals required for the seed to generate new life.

 

To learn how to sprout seeds, here’s a tutorial for sunflower seeds.

 

Fodder is also something chickens eat – it’s basically sprouting seeds, but allowing them to grow into a grass or actual plant. Learn about growing fodder for chickens here.

 

Eggs

There are many myths about feeding your chickens egg shells, but egg shells are a great source of calcium and protein for your chickens and they are totally fine to eat them.

 

Cooked eggs are best – as you know, raw eggs carry a chance of pathogens, and you don’t want your hens transmitting bacteria to each other accidentally or reinfecting themselves.

 

You can scramble the eggs – just make sure they’re cool before giving them to your chickens.

 

Eggshells are also great for chickens & an easy source of calcium. Again, dried, toasted eggshells are better than raw.

 

Insects (live & dried)

One incredibly important aspect of your chickens diet is ensuring that they get enough protein. Chickens require a lot of protein to lay eggs and have healthy feathers, among other things.

 

And one thing chickens LOVE to eat are dried insects such as Black Soldier Fly Larvae and mealworms.

 

You can either mix in mealworms and black soldier fly larvae into your chickens feed to help them get the protein that they need or feed them separately – just be prepared to be jumped on when your hens see the bags!

 

I have an entire article here about how you can raise your own Black Soldier Fly Larvae or Mealworms for your chickens. I mix in mealworms and black soldier fly larvae into my chickens feed to help them get the protein that they need.

Meat

Yep, when asking yourself “what do chickens eat?” you might not think of meat. Remember, chicken are omnivores, so they will eat other animals given the need and opportunity.

 

In fact, my Araucana hen will attack baby mice or frogs as sport. You might find that if your hens are protein deprived, they’ll start going after other animals to rebalance their nutrient deficiency.

 

You can also feed meat as a treat. Our hens go bonkers over local crawfish:

 

What do chickens eat araucana chicken crawfish

What to avoid feeding chickens:

Feeding chickens isn’t too complicated, but there are some things that you should avoid feed them. I have a full article about what not to feed chickens right here, but here’s a brief list (not comprehensive):

 

  • Dried or undercooked beans
  • Moldy food
  • Apple seeds
  • Pits from stone fruit such as peaches, avocado, nectarines, cherries
  • Dry rice
  • Undercooked/raw potatoes
  • Potato skins (cooked and raw)
  • Rhubarb
  • Excessive amounts of beet leaves, swiss chard, spinach (contain oxalic acid which can be poisonous in large amounts).

 

So now let’s talk about some of the feeding myths that I hear ALL the time.

 

Feeding myth #1: It’s okay to let chickens forage 100% of the time.

Sure, if you want scrawny birds that don’t enjoy human interaction. Chickens can survive foraging on their own, but letting them forage can be detrimental to their egg production and temperament.

 

I’ve let my chickens forage for 100% of their food in the past, but I noticed that my hens weren’t as healthy and they didn’t lay nearly as many eggs. You can let your chickens forage, but I recommend that you still supplement their diet with layer feed, so that your chickens stay healthy.

You also run the risk of losing birds to predators when you let them forage 100% of the time, so I just don’t risk it anymore.

 

Feeding myth #2: Citrus is poisonous to chickens

It’s not, it’s actually healthy for them. See this article here to learn more about why citrus is actually good for your chickens.

 

My chickens won’t even touch it when I give it to them, but it’s not poisonous and it has health benefits for your chickens. If you want your chickens to have the health benefits of citrus, you can always add a little to their water.

 

Feeding myth #3: Letting chickens eat eggs is cannibalism or will turn them into cannibals.

This one is just not true. I don’t know who started this vicious rumor but it’s BS. Allowing your chickens to eat eggs is actually good for them and I do it all of the time.

 

Just be sure to cook the eggs since pathogens such as campylobacter and salmonella have a chance of passing into the egg and you don’t want your chickens to reinfect themselves.

 

Still wondering “What do chickens eat?” What are your chickens’ favorite things to eat? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Black Soldier Fly Larvae: Superfood For Backyard Chickens!

Black Soldier Fly Larvae: Superfood For Backyard Chickens!

Black soldier fly larvae are like candy for your backyard chickens are concerned. In other words, hens LOOOOOVVEEEE them.

Many times, we’ve gone out to our coop to give the flock a surprise, and within mere moments, they’ve snatched all the black soldier fly larvae out of our hands!

The nutritional content of these insects means you can make them an essential part of your chicken’s diet – and they might even help your flock grow better and lay better eggs!

Black soldier fly larvae are full of protein, fat, and essential vitamins and minerals. As you know, protein is essential to raising healthy hens, and for feather growth – especially since feathers are mostly protein.

(So if your chickens are losing their feathers, one thing to look at is the diet).

black soldier fly larvae backyard chicken treat

A diet high in protein is also essential for excellent egg laying – so if your flock’s diet is low in protein, then they might lay abnormal eggs or possibly something else (like a lash egg). It helps that hens really, really love these insects – mine go nuts for them, and I’m sure yours will also!

In this article, I’m going to show you why black soldier fly larvae are a great snack for your chickens and how you can get started raising them yourself!

What are Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL)?

The black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) is a member of the Stratiomyidae family, and just about anyone in the United States can raise them for their flock. 

For most people insects are considered pests, but the black soldier fly larvae shouldn’t be! In nature, they play an active role in the ecosystem by converting wastes (such as discarded food) into valuable resources.

By Didier Descouens – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29228852

Other advantages of Black Soldier Fly Larvae are:

  •         They’re dry to touch (not slimy) and they don’t smell
  •         They don’t have any body parts that can sting humans
  •         They are safe and are not carriers of diseases

Black Soldier Fly Larvae & Adult Life Cycle

This insect has a 45-day life cycle that is divided into 4 stages:

Adult Stage – An adult Black Soldier Fly has a lifespan of about 5 to 9 days where they lay between 600-800 eggs. The adults deposit their eggs near the decaying matter.

Egg Stage – The eggs can be found around compost. They hatch out into larvae within about 4 days.

Larvae Stage – The BSF Larvae grows in the compost for 14 days where they eat, excrete, and convert waste.

Pupa Stage – From larvae, the BSF enters the pre-pupal stage for a week where they finally enter into the pupa stage where their nutritional content is at its peak.

Why are black soldier fly larvae a great snack for chickens?

Several studies have shown that black soldier fly larvae are packed with protein and essential minerals like calcium – making them the perfect way to ensure your flock is getting a high quality snack AND some extra calcium for strong egg shells.

In one study, black soldier fly larvae were fed to 200 laying hens. Researchers found that the hens that ate the insects were healthier and laid better.

And according to The University of Massachusetts, black soldier fly larvae contain:

  • 42.1% crude protein
  • 34.8% fat
  • 7.0% crude fiber
  • 5.0% calcium

All of which are perfect for raising healthy hens!

black soldier fly larvae in a backyard chicken treat

Raising Black Soldier Fly Larvae

Raising these insects yourself is fairly easy (no harm no foul if it’s not for you though! We carry them in the store for just that reason!)

Temperature and Humidity

Here’s some background information about how to raise healthy BSFL to help you decide where on your farm you can keep a black soldier fly larvae farm:

  • BSFL survive at a minimum temperature of 35 F. However, they are productive between temperatures of 50 F – 113 F.
  • The ideal temperature for these flies is around 95 F.
  • During mating, humidity must be maintained at around 30% to 90%. The temperature needs to be at 82 F.
  • BSFL develop the fastest at 70% humidity. The optimal temperature for larvae to pupate is around 77 to 86 F.
  • Keep the feed fairly moist –  if it’s too dry, the flies won’t be able to dig into it and if it is too wet, they could suffocate

What Do Black Soldier Fly Larvae Eat?

The black soldier fly consumes any kind of organic waste such as compost, food scraps, coffee grounds, and animal manure. Animal products such as fat and meat aren’t the best, so avoid putting them into their feeding container. Since your hens will be eating the larvae, sticking to fruits, vegetables, etc is probably the best idea.

Where to Buy live Black Soldier Fly Larvae for Your Farm

It’s best to go to a reputable dealer for your live black soldier fly larvae, and you can have them shipped to your house. Make sure you have their “home” set up for them before the insects arrive so you’re not scrambling at last minute.

For dried larvae, we carry them in the store right here.

black soldier fly larvae for chickens in a bowl

Setting Up DIY Black Soldier Fly Larvae Farming

If you’re inclined, starting a small-scale operation to feed your poultry with black soldier flies is fairly easy – at least as far as the set up itself is concerned. (Maintaining it….you’ll have to put out effort on a consistent basis. And vacations might be a bit more difficult. Just be forewarned.)

Structure and Design

You need to create a bin or a tub for your black soldier flies to eat from and lay eggs in. Your “home” for your new friends should include:

  • A main body where the insects will live
  • A lid
  • A way to give the insects food
  • A way for fluids from organic matter to drain
  • A way to harvest the larvae
  • No deeper than 3 inches of substrate to ensure the insects have ready access to oxygen

The structure must be weather and mold-resistant. You can see a step-by-step black soldier fly larvae set up from The University Of Massachusetts right here.

Be sure to keep the following in mind:

  • Do not place your BSFL in direct sunlight.
  • Avoid too dry or too wet conditions.

Harvesting Black Soldier Fly Larvae

Harvesting BSFL is probably the easiest part of raising them – simply place a bucket with holes on the side and towards the bottom, and place food scraps in it.

Leave the bucket for a while to allow the grubs to migrate into the bucket for their snack.

You can then feed the harvested black soldier fly larvae to your backyard chickens. Happy eating for your chickens!