How Many Chickens Are Too Many?

How Many Chickens Are Too Many?

How many chickens are too many? No really. This is a real question.

For some people, it is the question. But not for reasons one might think. Chickens play such an important role in the lives of people who love them. For some people, it makes sense to have many chickens, especially since hens are amazing at producing eggs. A single chicken is like a cute feathery gift that just keeps on giving. How could someone say “No” to them?

Well, it just so happens that there actually are a few good reasons why it sometimes is important to say “No.”

Reason #1: Space

Keeping chickens has become almost en vogue around the USA. As of a 2017 survey, about 1% of the entire USA keeps chickens. For an era where mass unsustainable farming methods of the past seem to be on the decline, this is quite a remarkable number.

If so many people are keeping chickens, and they’re not running large farms, then where are they keeping these hens? Not every home has space to keep a chicken coop. Well, our concept of chicken homes has to change a bit. Often, owners keep chickens in a small backyard or even inside their apartment.

The space question is perhaps the most important question to consider. Each chicken needs about 10 square feet of coop space to live comfortably. It’s also important to provide a run. Not all homes have the space for them to scratch, peck, and uncover bugs and other goodies. So what then?

When space is tight, the question about chicken numbers becomes essential. If your entire property is less than 1000 square feet, it would be almost impossible to house more than a few comfortably.

Reason #2: Money

Here’s the scenario: a friend has the option to add a new animal to their home. One option is a fluffy young chicken. The other is a 17-hand horse. Both need space and attention. Both will need food and water and shelter. Both will be amazing additions to the family, and the family would enjoy either one. So which one is the better choice?

Well, compare the cost to keep a chicken or a horse. In this case, chickens are a far more economical option. No two ways about it, a horse is far more expensive than a single chicken.

But chickens still cost money. Setting up a coop and providing bedding will cost money. Preparing for adequate waste disposal will cost money or time. Feed will cost money. Health checks, worming, and pest control will cost money. Buying incubators to hatch chicks will cost money. Each of these small costs will add up. Before long, you’ll realize that 50% of last month’s expenses went towards your chickens!

So, the question of what is “too many” chickens boils down to the responsible question for any pet owner. You’ll need to ask yourself, “Do I want to devote part of my income to a pet?” If the answer is yes, then that is some great news! It just might be time to increase the flock! “Too many” chickens would just be that point where the balance in the ledger crosses the line from black to red.

Reason #3: Death

Of course, this is the least enjoyable reason to add another chicken to your flock. But it’s worth considering anyway. Death is one of the hardest parts of life, but it’s unavoidable. When it happens, it can gouge away at one’s heart in ways that might not be readily apparent.

With the loss of a pet, it’s only natural to want to replace that void with a new life. This is normal, and acquiring a new pet can very often lead to a smooth recovery – or at least as smooth as one could find. A new life can add so much to a grieving heart; it is incredible.

The problem is that sometimes, we overcompensate. It’s like stress-eating. You’re overcome with stress, and cope by filling your body with food. You’re momentarily less stressed and have some much-needed energy. This can easily result in a little too much and instead of easing the stress, we gorge. The body doesn’t really need all the calories that we give it. Our coping mechanism ends up putting extra stress on the body.

It’s very easy to slip into, and it can happen after your pet dies. In such an event, there must be a limit. You don’t want to end up with too many birds to easily maintain. If you need to replace your lost friend, consider just getting one. At least for a while.

Reason #4: Family

Family is great. In part, adding a chicken to your home enlivens the family. With each chicken you add to your flock, your family becomes richer in experience. Each hen brings with it their own personality, and part of the excitement is getting to know what makes her tick (peck?).

The Flocking Family

If a chicken is added to a flock, it joins a complex organism that has a pre-established pecking order. It will be difficult for that bird at first, but before long, she will settle into the habit of the barnyard. She will make friends and find her own little spot on the roost.

What could possibly go wrong?

One potential problem is a particularly aggressive chicken. Chickens in general are docile creatures and interested in their bellies and the production of eggs. But there is the occasional rooster or hen that feels the need to pick on others. There might be some safety for the bullied chicken in the larger pack, but that is not always the case. If this happens, about the only possible escape is separating the birds. If warring hens gets too extreme, you might have to find a new home for either the bullied or the bully.

Reason #5: Reproducing

Probably the biggest reason for an increase in flock size is also the most obvious one: reproduction. It happens when there are both roosters and hens living together.

When springtime comes around, roosters might do a little dance that shows a lucky hen that he’s interested. This could result in a clutch of fertilized eggs.  If these fertilized eggs are incubated, they’ll result in a new batch of cute downy chicks. Once this happens, the owner then has to deal with the same question again: keep them or sell them?

There are many ways to keep chickens from reproducing. The simplest way is to have just hens. They’ll lay eggs regardless of the presence of a rooster. Alternatively, you could remove the eggs and not incubate them. This would result in no new generation of chickens.  

Reason #6: The Human Family

One spouse wants more, the other does not. Maybe the kids do, or they are even divided on whether to add another chicken or *gasp!* a dog. Or maybe the kids are begging the parents for more, but such conflict can put stress on the family. It’s important to think of others before adding more chickens to your flock.

Fights can happen. A strong-willed individual could get their way. But this sometimes can create resentment in the household. Resentment is a dangerous thing. If there is too much stress in the household, believe me, your chickens will pick up on it.

Like with the addition of any family member – 2-legged, 4-legged, 3-legged, 2-winged, etc. – the best approach is to discuss it. This gives everyone an equal chance to consider how the addition would change the family. It lets the unit consider both pros and cons. Sometimes an answer of “Not right now” is enough.

The best thing about “Not right now” is that it implies that “soon” another chicken might be added to the flock.

Is there a “right” answer to the idea of whether or not there are “too many” chickens? No. There are so many variables that this is an almost impossible issue. Perhaps most important to the prospective chicken owner is self-knowledge. They’ll need to ask themselves “How many is too many for me?” I’d recommend some serious consideration before the urge to add more chickens takes over.

I would recommend this, but then… I just might have given in to the urge to the flock once or twice. For me, personally, it’s a matter of space and time. Do we want to build another coop? Do we want to spend the extra time making sure extra chickens are all healthy? Or, do we just want to concentrate on the ones we have, and make sure their lives are as happy as possible? That’s how I decide “how many are too many”!

7 Natural Chicken Keeping Mistakes New Owners Make

7 Natural Chicken Keeping Mistakes New Owners Make

The second we got our farm, natural chicken keeping became a priority.

 

The egg itself is said to be the perfect source of protein, and chickens are so easy to keep that they make sense for any farm.

 

Natural chicken keeping also has the added benefit of saving you money, as long as you do it right (and there certainly are times when it’s best to not cut financial corners.)

We’ve saved by using fermented feed, herbs to keep our chickens healthy, and using food we could easily grow on our farm.

 

Buuuut….

 

We also made mistakes. 

 

At one point, we went 6 months with no eggs. That’s a huge bummer, believe me!

 

We’ve also had chickens stop laying in nesting boxes—and had to figure our way out of that one! (hint: placing eggs where you want them to lay helps!)

But we improved and got better.

 

Trust me, as a chicken owner, you will make mistakes (which you’ll learn from and get better from!)

 

As I’ve gained more experience in natural chicken keeping, and become a resource for new hen owners, there are certain mistakes I see time and again.

 

Here’s the top 7 natural chicken keeping mistakes that you can avoid—and the chickens you have hunting and pecking in your backyard will thank you!

 

1. Worrying too much about the GMO/Non-GMO debate

 

I frequently get emails from new owners who want to know whether they should provide non-GMO feed, or who don’t know what to do because they can’t afford organic non-GMO layer mash.

 

The bottom line is the quality of your hen’s diet is the most important thing. If you can’t afford organic, non-GMO feed, then just opt for what you can afford.

 

While people will tell you that natural chicken keeping begins with feeding non-GMO, organic feed, it’s also about using naturally-found herbs, fermented grain and vegetables, or even crafting your own feed to raise healthy hens.

 

It’s more important that you enjoy your “pets with benefits” and feel good about them—and if you’re stressing about not being able to afford organic feed, or if you’re putting yourself in financial distress over it, then keeping a backyard chicken flock won’t be any fun. 

 

Do your best, and enjoy the parts of natural chicken keeping that are within your budget and time constraints.

 

2. Getting a rooster so your hens lay eggs

 

Every so often I encounter new owners who believe they need a rooster to get eggs from their hens, and that roosters are a part of natural chicken keeping.

 

One of the nice things about owning hens is they’ll lay eggs whether a rooster is present or not—you only need a rooster if you want eggs to hatch. 

 

(If you’re wondering how chickens mate, it’s pretty wild.)

 

Getting a rooster isn’t a bad idea, and it helps your hens feel safer and completes their social hierarchy, but you definitely don’t need a rooster to start all natural chicken keeping.

 

Which is good news if your town doesn’t allow them!

 

3. Underestimating chicken predators

 

Every time I hear about a new owner who loses their flock to a formidable predator, I feel terrible for them. 

 

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than working hard to raise a natural, healthy chicken flock only to have it ripped apart in one night by a raccoon. 

 

I’ve found that a lot of new chicken owners don’t realize just how crafty predators can be, and how much energy they’ll exert to get a free dinner.

 

Part of natural chicken keeping is making sure your flock stays safe. 
Sometimes new owners think chickens will be fine left to their own devices, but hens are pretty much defenseless against chicken predators

 

Usually, they either run away or fly up away from predators. Other than that, they don’t have many natural defenses.

 

You might not realize that predators aren’t just wild animals—domestic cats and dogs can cast an eye at your flock.

 

We made the same mistake, until we started losing them to our dog! I’ll never forget the day we learned that our dog, who was so great with people, was a chicken killer.

 

So, even if you don’t have wild predators, remember that a secure coop and run will help prevent your flock from becoming a chicken chew toy.

 

4. Assuming chickens will fend for themselves and stay healthy

 

Probably one of the biggest mistakes I see is when new owners assume that natural chicken keeping means letting the hens forage for their own sustenance.  

 

Natural chicken keeping doesn’t mean allowing your hens to fend for themselves, and if you go this route, you run the risk of unhealthy hens, no eggs.

 

You won’t believe how many emails I get from owners who aren’t getting eggs and have no idea that diet is the issue.

 

You might also lose chickens to predators as they stray further and further from their home.

 

Sometimes I read advice that it’s natural to allow a chicken flock to feed itself because our ancestors did it, but it’s simply not true.

 

For example, what happened in the winter with snow on the ground and nothing growing? Were the hens foraging then?

 

Natural chicken keeping doesn’t necessarily mean throwing chickens in your backyard and forgetting about them until you want eggs, but it’s a common mistake I see new owners making.

5. Thinking oyster shells and grit are the same thing

 

When I read Facebook posts from people trying to explain natural chicken keeping, they frequently say something like “give your hens oyster shells or grit to help them digest.”

 

While you should offer both to your chicken flock, oyster shells and grit serve two different purposes.

 

Oyster shells are used as a calcium supplement so your hens can form healthy, hard egg shells. 

 

Without some sort of calcium supplement, your hen might become deficient in the mineral.

 

She then might start to lay soft shell or other abnormal eggs, or she might start drawing calcium from her own bones to lay natural normal-looking eggs.

 

Grit, on the other hand, helps your hen digest food, and without it, she might develop an impacted crop or even sour crop.

 

Your hen will swallow the grit, and it will make it’s way into her gizzard, where the stones will sit and help “chew” whatever food she’s eaten.

 

So, each serves a very different purpose, and shouldn’t be confused (but both are equally important for your chicken.)

 

6. Using vinegar to clean wounds

 

While vinegar works well in natural cleaning solutions, it’s not a good idea to use it in wounds. 

 

I do see this advice from time to time, and it’s a common issue in my area.

 

Even my vet asked me whether I use vinegar to clean wounds when I brought a rabbit to see her, and was relieved to hear that I don’t use it.

 

Vinegar doesn’t have the same bacteria-killing qualities as alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, for example, and it simply won’t be as effective in preventing an infection.

 

You’ll be doing your chicken a disservice by using it.

Failing to learn about common illnesses and how to treat them

 

Although many of my readers DO try to learn about common chicken illnesses before getting a flock (and a hearty high-five to them!), many owners out there DON’T—and then use Facebook groups as a way to diagnose their chickens.

 

Similarly, about once a week I get a message over Facebook from an owner who asks me to diagnose their sick chicken—something that’s virtually impossible to do over social media.

 

While I feel for every flock owner out there with a sick hen, and it’s natural to want answers, don’t wait until you’re in trouble to learn about chicken illnesses.

 

There’s many natural remedies out there for common illnesses, but the time to learn about them is not when you have a sick chicken.

 

Learn about common ailments and how to treat them (natural remedies or conventional) before or as soon as you get your flock—life will get a lot simpler, and you’ll be better prepared to help your hen when she’s in trouble.

 

While as a new flock owner, you will likely make mistakes, natural chicken keeping is full of rewards—just give it your best shot!

I’d like to hear from you!

Is there anything on this list of natural chicken keeping mistakes you would add? Leave a comment below!

How To Stop A Rooster Attack

How To Stop A Rooster Attack

A common question I get from chicken owners is how to stop or retrain a rooster from attacking them or a family member.

 

Now, I’m not going to lie. This isn’t the easiest thing to do in the world.

 

When a rooster attacks, it’s called “flogging” (how’s that for a wonderfully descriptive, not-very-much-fun term).

 

Roosters CAN be retrained (we’ve had to do it a few times) but it takes some time and, dare I say it, gumption on your part. You need to be vigilant and consistent (while also being compassionate – he IS doing his job after all).

 

Here’s a video where I explain why roosters attack their people and the best way I’ve found to retrain them:

 

Why is my rooster being such a f@%!er and other nursery rhymes from the farm.

Posted by I Love Backyard Chickens on Monday, January 15, 2018

 

So, why do roosters attack anyway?

In a nutshell, it boils down to “they’re programmed to do it.”

 

What does this mean? Well, once upon a time, roosters didn’t have people and coops to protect them. They had their wiles and their limited ability to fly. Meaning, they didn’t have many defenses against hungry carnivores.

 

So to avoid being dinner for some predator, roosters learned they protected their ladies by attacking whatever invades their territory.

 

Similarly, they learned that if they wanted to be top dog (and reproduce the most), they needed to ward off potential rivals.

 

In other words, flogging amounts to a rooster’s version of a bar fight.

 

Wondering can chickens lay eggs without a rooster? If you keep a rooster and chickens, you'll need to know this backyard chicken for beginners idea!

 

Your floggin’ rooster is programmed to think of himself as “cock of the walk,” if you will, and you’re competition for top of the flock.

 

He might get worse if he’s been he only rooster and suddenly there are other, new, faces added to his flock. You might also notice he turns into a jerk when it’s spring and the hens start laying again. In these cases, it might just be a temporary behavior.

 

And there’s also the possibility that he’s a young rooster just feeling his oats, and when he gets knocked down a peg (figuratively speaking), he’ll realize he’s not at the top of the flock.

 

Ok, so how to I stop this negative behavior?

I explain it best in the video, but you need to convince Mr. Rooster that you’re the head of the flock. This isn’t a bad thing – animals like to be lead, and by leading them, you’re giving them a sense of security.

 

With a long stick or broom (one reader says she uses a broom), gently sweep the rooster away as you enter the coop area. You’re entering his domain, but he needs to understand there should be space between you and he, and that you control that space.

 

Never hit or hurt the rooster – he’s just doing his job. YOUR job is to just make sure he understands he has his space and you have yours.

 

 

Don’t be afraid (you are MANY times his size after all), don’t show fear, and definitely never turn your back (he’ll think you’re running away or take a prime opportunity to peck you while you’re not paying attention), which could undo any work you’ve done with him previously).

 

It’s important to remember that while it’s unnerving having a rooster come at you, he’s not likely to do very much damage (compared to a dog, for example), so even if he makes contact, you won’t be harmed very much.

 

Understanding this gives you the confidence to help him realize his place.

 

If your rooster has just started attacking, or he’s young and testing out his place in the flock on you, you can try separating him from the flock for a few hours to see if that helps settle him. He might just need to be put in “the naughty chair” for a time out.

 

If he’s been attacking for a while or definitely is old enough to know better, then separating him might not be the best solution or work long term.

 

 

Can you ALWAYS retrain a rooster?

Honestly, in some cases, it won’t work out. I’m not going to sugar coat it or try to convince you that you should try again and again and again.

 

I do believe these cases are rare, however, and given enough time, most roosters will come around.

 

If you don’t have the time, or the rooster is really attacking your family and you feel it’s not a good situation for you or the rooster, you can always rehome the bird. There’s no shame in making that decision, and you have to do what’s best for your unique situation.

 

We had one rooster on our farm that was just a real pain. He constantly fought with the other roosters, picked fights, and distracted the roosters from eating their food. He was just plain miserable to be around. If this is your situation, then you need to make the best decision for yourself and your flock.

 

By and large, however, we’ve had roosters who were the attacking kind but with the right training, stopped being such pains in the butt.




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Is Layer Feed Really Necessary?

Is Layer Feed Really Necessary?

Heard about this thing called “layer feed,” but not sure how it’ll help your chickens? Unsure if your chickens’ diet is the best? In this article, you’ll learn all about layer feed, and why it’s critical to raising a healthy flock!

Living things need to eat. In fact, that might be one of the biggest motivators for gathering a group of chickens in our barns and sheds. We look after them, and they provide us with collections of eggs and meat. If you read our article about what chickens can eat, you know that to produce an adequate supply of eggs for us, our hens need the right nutrients for the job.

To aid in this, industry experts created specially-created feeds called layer feed. These feeds help hens with egg production. They also some smaller bonuses to our chickens.

What Is Layer Feed?

Layer feed is a mixture that helps chickens grow strong and healthy. It offers them a balanced mix of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It’s feed specifically for laying hens, and has healthy amounts of protein and calcium. Your hens need a lot of both to lay healthy eggs!

Example of layer feed ingredients

How Much Protein Should A Layer Feed Be?

A feed with 16-18% protein is best, with the right nutrients for your chickens to remain healthy. A layer feed isn’t the same as a chick starter, which is formulated for baby chickens.

A common question we get is about how to switch to a layer feed from chick starter. For the first part of your chickens’ lives, they should be on starter and grower feeds. Then once they begin laying, you should switch them to a layer feed. It’s easiest to switch gradually over the course of a week. A sudden switch could lead to diarrhea and other gastric problems.

Laying hens will eat about a quarter pound of feed each day. Free-ranging hens need less than this, as they will be foraging for much of their own feed. Despite their foraging, they will still need a significant amount of layer feed to help maintain a proper nutritional balance.

You might wonder can roosters eat layer feed, since they don’t lay eggs. In short, yes they can. They’ll be perfectly healthy. It’s unrealistic to house roosters and hens together and feed different meals.

Can Chicks Eat Layer Feed?

Your chicks have different dietary requirements than your fully-grown chickens. They will need different nutrients. Layer feed has extra calcium, which can cause your chicks to not grow correctly. It’s always best to feed your baby chickens an 18% starter ration.

Does Layer Feed Have Grit?

No, it does not. Grit is a coarse and abrasive material that chickens can safely ingest. It helps them grind up and properly digest food. It has no nutritional value, so you should offer it separately. You can read more about grit here.

Can Broiler Chickens Get Layer Feed?

Broiler chickens need a higher protein percentage than egg layers. The best feed for them are these heavier protein content feeds. In a pinch, your broilers would not suffer from layer feed. But the lower protein content might mean your chickens are smaller than expected.

How Much Does Layer Feed Cost?

Layer feed can range in price. A budget feed at your local farm store might cost about $.50-.60 / lb. If you are looking for non-GMO or organic homemade mixes, they will be a little more expensive. But your chickens will have a better diet. This is the Non-GMO layer feed we use.

Should I Make Homemade Layer Feed?

Whether to make homemade layer feed vs. store-bought layer feed is up to you. It depends on your lifestyle, free time, and the particulars of your farms. There are many recipes available online (like this one here). The following is a list of ingredients that are most often included in homemade layer feeds.

  • Oat groats
  • Regular naked oats
  • Black sunflower seeds, 
  • Hard red wheat
  • Soft white wheat
  • Kamut flour
  • Millet
  • Whole corn
  • Crack corn
  • Popcorn
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Sesame seeds
  • Brewers’ yeasts
  • Sea kelp
  • Alfalfa
  • Barley
  • Fish meal
  • Flax seed
  • Food-grade lime or aragonite

Each ingredient brings its own value into the mix: oils, protein content, nutrients, vitamins, amino acids, calcium, and energy. The ratio of ingredients can vary, and the higher protein ingredients will probably be more expensive than the grains. As a result, the grains will usually compose the bulk of the homemade layer feeds. Seeds and supplements like peas will certainly be more expensive, but they add tons of nutrients and variety to the layer feed.

You can extra supplements depending on the season. If it’s time for a worming or mite-prevention cleansing, food grade diatomaceous earth, garlic, or cider vinegar can all be added to help with keeping your birds’ bodies healthy – both inside and outside. You can give these supplements temporarily or long-term. You can mix the ingredients into garbage pails or metal pails by hand.

One of the biggest advantages of using store-bought layer feeds is the scientific measurements of protein. Excess protein can create problems in many barnyard animals. Renal dysfunction is one problem that does occur with too extreme a protein quantity. But a low protein content can result in smaller or abnormal eggs. It can also cause your chickens to stop laying and/or to become flighty.

You also might wonder whether you should ferment chicken feed. There are many resources online that show you how to ferment chicken (here’s ours). It’s certainly not necessary, but it’s very easy. The main idea is to submerge your flock’s feed under water, and allow beneficial bacteria to grow. If you’re worried about gut health, and want to do everything possible for your flock, then fermenting feed might be for you! You can also ferment chick starter.

Do Pullets Prefer Store-Bought Layer Feeds To Homemade Layer Feeds?

This is a very specific question that requires significantly more research for a definitive answer. Current observations show that there is no preference. Picky eaters are everywhere, so there just might be one in your flock. Chickens are live creatures, and some can certainly be more picky than others. If this is a research question that you decide to pursue, please let us know! We would love to hear your results!

Is Layer Feed Really Necessary?

There will always be people who think layer feeds are unnecessary. And in some situations, they’re possibly right. But industry studies show that a 16% layer feed is the basis of a good diet. Personally, I would stick to “tried-and-true” facts.

Where To Buy Layer Feed

Layer feeds are available everywhere, and we even sell our own – and very popular – blend right here. Petco, Tractor Supply, and even Wal*Mart all stock layer feeds. Chances are good that a simple Google search of “layer feed” and “nearby” will net you a source for the feeds.

Photo of our layer feed

Layer feeds have become a single stop for your egg-laying hens. They are easy to mix, contain a good balance of ingredients for your little ladies, and help your flock produce the “butt nuggets” we all know and love. By looking after the eating habits of our girls, we are improving the quality of our own food: our eggs.

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!