Wheat Berry & Lemon Balm Happy Tummy Treats

Wheat Berry & Lemon Balm Happy Tummy Treats

Taking time with your hens is the highlight of anyone’s day, and treats make it all the more special.

 

My hens come running when they see I have goodies (and sometimes jump ON me), and it’s definitely adorable watching how excited they get.

 

Suet cakes (treats made with a fat to bind the ingredients together) are definitely a favorite around here, and they’re a great treat to make sure your hens are getting enough fat in their diet as well as make sure they gobble down their herbs.

 

This week’s treat for hens is a brand new recipe that includes our old favorites, sunflower seeds and oregano, with an extra twist: lemon balm and wheat berries.

 

Wheat Berry & Lemon Balm backyard chicken Treats

 

Why these ingredients?

I made these suet cakes using coconut oil because of its health benefits for you AND your chickens.

 

If you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute tallow (rendered beef fat) or lard (rendered pork fat). You can also use leftover bacon grease (which chickens LOVE).

 

Coconut oil itself is great to help your chickens maintain their weight (has lots of healthy fats) AND it’s known for its antibacterial properties. So if you’re worried about your chickens as they free range and wander around in the dirt, the coconut oil is a great basis for any treats.

 

Oregano is also known for its antibacterial properties (it’s become the darling of the chicken industry because of it), and contributes to overall health for your flock.

 

Lemon balm (aka Melissa) is well known as a natural antibacterial and has anti-inflammatory properties – great for helping your chickens’ tummies.

 

It also has a bright, citrus scent, which will leave you feeling happy as you shred it for your chickens (if you have any left over, make it into a tea for yourself, which you can drink while spending time with your fluffy butts.)

 

So why wheat berries? Well, they’re pretty inexpensive, and chicken love them. Non-GMO and organic wheat berries are a favorite of my chickens, and I know it’ll be for yours as well.

 

Also, the great thing about wheat is you can either use it straight out of the bag in these treats OR you can sprout them for 2 or 3 days into fodder.

 

The act of sprouting makes the wheat berries more nutritious and hens LOVE them, and the sprouts are a great boredom buster.

 

If you’re not sure how to sprout wheat into fodder for chickens, it’s easy.

 

Sunflower seeds, if shelled, aren’t worth trying to sprout, but chickens love them, and they’re full of healthy fats that are great for your hens. I’ve yet to meet a chicken who DOESN’T go crazy for sunflower seeds!

 

In this recipe, I used shelled sunflower seeds, but if you prefer to leave the shells on, that’s fine as well. Be sure to use black oil sunflower seeds.

 

I like to use a mini-cupcake pan for suet cakes because it makes great single-sized servings and they’re not so huge your chickens take a few bites then ignore the rest.

 

The pans are also a great way to make sure each hen gets a treat. If you have a large flock or a bossy alpha hen, some of those down further on the totem pole might not get a chance at the larger treats.

 

Ready to make your hens some healthy treats?

 

Wheat Berry & Lemon Balm Happy Tummy Treats

Ingredients per chicken

¼ cup melted coconut oil

¼ tsp dried lemon balm

⅛ tsp dried oregano

2 tablespoons wheat berries

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

Mini-cupcake pan

 

(If using a regular-sized cupcake pan, double or triple ingredients, and know that each treat is enough for 2 or 3 chickens. You can always cut them down to individual portions.)

 

Directions

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Melt the coconut oil so it’s completely liquid.

 

As the coconut oil is melting, fill each cup in the cupcake tin with the dry ingredients. You want each tin to be nearly full.

 

When the coconut oil is completely melted, pour over the dry ingredients until the coconut oil reaches the top. Refrigerate until solid.

 

To remove, turn the pan upside down and knock on the bottom a few times until the treats are loosened. Serve to your chickens immediately.

 

Make yourself a cup of tea with any remaining lemon balm and drink while you enjoy watching your chickens gobble up their goodies!

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!

These 10 Frugal Feeds & Chicken Water Feeder Hacks Are So Easy!

These 10 Frugal Feeds & Chicken Water Feeder Hacks Are So Easy!

Raising chickens can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want to make it. These 10 frugal feeds and chicken water feeder hacks are easy – and we’ve used them on our farm to help our flock (and our wallets) be healthier!

 

When it comes to raising chickens, I definitely think cutting corners is a bad idea – it puts your flock’s health at risk and might harm them in the end.

 

But that DOESN’T mean you have to spend a million bucks on your hens. So, in this article, I’m going to show you 10 inexpensive hacks that will help your chickens be healthier AND that chickens love!

 

(Need a chicken feeder? Here’s the brands we recommend)

 

Raise your own mealworms and black soldier fly larvae as frugal feeds

Raising mealworms is easy. Mealworms are the larvae of the darkling beetle – and raising them doesn’t take much space or investment.

 

In this article about raising mealworms for chickens, I show you step-by-step how to raise them in a dark, quiet corner of your farm. And chickens (especially my silkies and brahmas) love them!

 

Raising black soldier fly larvae is another option. Black soldier fly larvae are extremely healthy for chickens – with lots of protein and calcium, they’ll help your flock lay better eggs, grow beautiful feathers, and more!

 

Here’s my best article about black soldier fly larvae for chickens if you want more information.

 

Raise Mealworms for Your Chickens is easy with this guide!

 

Grow a garden with herbs and greens in spring

We all know fresh is better – and nothing is better than fresh food for your hens! One way we save some money on chicken feed and provide the flock with some healthy snacks is by devoting a corner of our garden to growing herbs and greens such as lettuce, kale, spinach and more for our flock.

 

Herbs are wonderful – they have way too many uses in the coop for me to list here. Everything from helping your hens lay better to being healthier!

 

Here’s some ideas about how to grow your own frugal feeds with herbs and greens:

How to get started with herbs for hens

10 herbs for backyard chickens

How to grow greens for your chickens

 

frugal feeds chicken water feeder hacks

Build your own automatic chicken feeder in 15 minutes and under $12

This is truly one of those genius ideas that takes just minutes but can be a lifesaver for your flock, especially on those super hot days!

 

Water is critical for your flock to stay healthy – chickens have a higher body temperature than humans, and feel the heat more than we do. Every day, you should double check (and during the summer, check several times a day) that your flock has free access to water.

 

This water is also easy to clean – just be sure to use a food-safe plastic bucket. If you have extra buckets hanging around, then you can easily use this hack!

 

My full plans to build an automatic waterer for under $12 are right here.

 

If you don’t want to make one, you can check out our review of the 7 best feeders on Amazon here.

 

Stop waste by building a frugal PVC feeder

PVC feeders are pretty popular – you can just drill some chicken-sized holes in a PVC pipe to stop your flock from throwing their feed everywhere.

 

This also will help keep mice and other critters out of the coop, since they won’t be attracted by the grain everywhere.

 

You can use these plans – and it should only cost you a few bucks.

Grow frugal feeds by sprouting fodder for chickens

Sprouting fodder is really easy – and I suggest only using seeds such as wheat and barley. If you don’t know what it is, fodder is simply seeds that have been sprouted into grass.

 

Seeds such as sunflower seeds, etc are great for sprouting – but fodder takes it to the next level by producing an actual grass.

 

Chickens LOVE it – they get the benefit of the nutrients from both the seeds and the grass. Your wallet will love it too, because while you’ll have to pay for the seeds, you’ll be maximizing your investment by quadrupling the nutritional benefit of the seeds!

 

You can read my growing fodder for chickens tutorial here.

 

Keep your chicken water feeder clean with apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is wonderful for your chickens! If you’ve never made it, you can download my “How to make apple cider vinegar” video here.

 

It can help keep your waterer clean because it introduces beneficial bacteria – and it’s great for your flock’s digestive system!

 

In the winter, you can add it to their water daily (and if you have chicks, you can add it to their water too!). In the summer, if you’re concerned about the vinegar dehydrating your chickens, you can limit it to once or twice a week.

 

frugal feeds chicken water feeder hacks

Buy grain in bulk

One of my favorite frugal feeds hacks is to buy grain for your chickens in bulk – we’ve been able to save SO MUCh doing this, and we can get all non-GMO feeds this way.

 

The best way to do this is to contact grain manufacturers in your area.

 

Scramble eggs with fresh herbs as healthy & frugal feeds

If money is REALLY short one week, you can always scramble your flock’s eggs for them to eat. It’s not weird and it’s not cannibalism – eggs are full of protein, and chickens love them!

 

The shells also contain calcium, which will help your flock lay great eggs with strong eggshells.

 

Mix them with herbs from your garden to make them even healthier (try oregano), and (I promise) your flock will go BANANAS for them!!

 

Just be sure to add the fresh herbs AFTER the eggs have been cooked to preserve the essential oils in them!

 

Make your own frugal feeds with this recipe

Yes, you CAN make your own chicken feed! And in this organic chicken feed recipe, I show you just how to do it!

 

You will have to buy all the individual ingredients, so it’s a bit of a process, but especially if you can find a bulk supplier, you can save quite a bit!

 

If you don’t have time to make your own feed, then you can always try to buy non-GMO feed in bulk from a grain manufacturer (see above).

 

Add garlic to your chicken’s water feeder to boost their immune systems

If one of your goals is to save money when raising chickens, then making sure they stay healthy is important. Everytime you bring them to the vet, your care bill increases!

 

One thing you can do yourself is try to boost your flock’s immune system, and garlic is a great way to do it!

 

You can use garlic granules (which we sell in the store here) or simply chop fresh garlic and add it to their water. The essential oils – allicin – in garlic has been shown in studies to improve immune systems.

 

Plus, chickens love them!

 

You can start by adding garlic to your chicken’s water feeder once a week and make sure they’re drinking it. Go with 1 clove per gallon of water.

 

Build A Grazing Box For Healthier Backyard Chickens (Detailed Instructions!)

Build A Grazing Box For Healthier Backyard Chickens (Detailed Instructions!)

If you’re looking for a surefire way to keep your flock from getting the stuck-in-the-coop blues, build a grazing box for your chickens.

 

And the best part? Building a grazing box for your chickens (using chicken wire or hardware cloth) won’t cost you a ton of money!

 

You might already know your chickens need boredom busters so they don’t start fighting and picking at each other’s feathers.

 

Building your chickens a grazing box for herbs and healthy greens will help reduce unnecessary stress in your flock, and give them a healthy, constructive hobby – and you’ll get healthier eggs too!

 

The main benefit of a grazing box is that as the herbs and greens grow through the hardware cloth, your chickens can eat them, but can’t devastate them or scratch them up by the roots.

 

For just a few minutes of work on your part, your chickens will be rewarded with a healthy, fresh treat again and again.

 

Here’s how to build a grazing box for your flock for under $15!

 

Build a grazing box for your chickens

 

What you’ll need:

  • One 2x6x10 heat-treated board, cut into four 2’6” pieces
  • ½-inch or 1-inch hardware cloth (at least 2’6” by 2’6”)
  • Staples or finishing nails
  • Eight 4” wood screws
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Stapler (if using staples)
  • Wire cutters
  • Seeds for herbs and greens, or starts if you have them
  • Good soil or composted manure


Our Costs (yours might vary):

  • Wood: $4.89
  • Hardware cloth: $5.97 for 36”x10’
  • Screws: Leftover from a previous project
  • Finishing nails: $0.99 from a dollar store

 

How To Build A Grazing Box For Your Chickens

 

This project easily scales, so if you have a lot of chickens and you want a larger box, you can easily make your design larger or smaller as needed.

 

For a flock of 5-10 chickens, the size of the box in this article works very well.

 

Cut the wood into four pieces, each 2’6” long and screw them together.

 

It’s important to use heat treated wood that hasn’t been exposed to chemicals so your chickens stay safe while snacking on their treats.

 

We purchased new wood for this project from a trusted source, costing us less than $5 at a local lumber yard.

 

Using a circular saw or a handsaw, cut the wood into four separate pieces, each 2’6” long.

 

Screw the pieces together to form the box. We used 4-inch wood screws for this project to make sure the pieces were secured together, and we could move it around without danger of it falling apart.

 

While it might be tempting to use a thinner piece of wood, the box won’t be as sturdy, so I recommend sticking with the 2x6s.

 

Add the hardware cloth

 

build a grazing box for your chickens

 

Decide whether you’ll use staples or nails to attach the hardware cloth to the box.

 

We used finishing nails because we already had them on the farm and they’re easy to bend, but staples work just as well. Just make sure the hardware cloth is secure to protect the growing herbs and greens.

 

Both finishing nails and staples withstand chickens well.

 

Cut the hardware cloth so there’s only a slight overhang. Be sure to tamp down the edges of the hardware cloth with the hammer so there’s no chance one of your chickens won’t get cut on a sharp edge.

 

Identify where you’ll place it in the coop

 

Ideally, you will choose where you’ll keep the grazing box in your coop before building, which will give you a good idea of how big to make it.

 

But if you’re like me, and tend to just make stuff before figuring out where to put it, then now is the time to measure out a 2’6” by 2’6” square in your coop so your chickens can easily access it.

 

Make sure you choose an area that drains well and doesn’t flood. It should also be near a water source, or otherwise be an easy place to water.

 

Before putting the grazing box in the coop, first amend the area where you plan to keep it to make sure you can actually grow greens or herbs there.

 

Add a good quality topsoil or composted manure to the area, then plant your seeds or starts. Top with the grazing box, making sure the hardware cloth is facing up.

 

It will take a few weeks before the greens are large enough to eat, but when they are, your hens will get a treat!

 

I recommend finding something to cover the grazing box with as the seeds sprout and grow.

 

As we all know, chickens like to poop…and they’ll poop all over your grazing box as the grass is growing. So, it’s necessary to protect it with a clear cover; a large piece of plastic is a good option.

 

I recommend keeping it away from your chicken feeder so poop doesn’t get over the feeder as well.

 

What to grow in your grazing box

 

Now that we’ve built the grazing box for your chickens, you might wonder what’s best to grow in it.

 

Here’s some options your chickens will love:

 

Alfalfa grass – high in protein

Oregano – supports a healthy environment

Sage – natural dewormer

Calendula – Flowers have lots of beta carotine, supports healthy yolks

Parsley – source of many essential vitamins

Garlic (for leaves/scapes) – supports a healthy immune system

Wheat grass – great source of protein, vitamins

Barley grass – great source of protein, vitamins

Kale/Mustard/Other greens – great source of protein, essential vitamins

 

Grab my free cheat sheet about 7 herbs you can start feeding your chickens today and in just 10 minutes, you’ll have healthier hens at TheFrugalChicken.com/ChickenHerbs

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you think you’ll build a grazing box for your chickens? Leave a comment below!