Best holiday recipes for chicken treats.

Want to treat your chickens at Thanksgiving or Christmas?

We all like to make holidays special for our chickens as well as our family and friends. After all, they're part of the household.

Best holiday treats for chickens - pin for later.

But what, of all the food we eat ourselves, can be shared with our flock, and what should remain on our own plates?

These recipes take some of the ingredients of a typical Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and use them to create a special treat your chickens will love.

Be aware, though: giving chickens too many treats will damage their health. Poultry, just like people, need to eat their own healthy food first.

Treats should never make up more than 10% of their intake.

Feeding this recipe once or twice at Thanksgiving or Christmas is fine. The ingredients make plenty for a small flock of four or five.


The best Thanksgiving dinner treat for chickens.

To create a Thanksgiving dinner for chickens, we'll use some of the  goodies we'd use for ourselves, and make them chicken friendly.

Want to go straight to my dinner treat recipe? Click here.

The best main ingredients.

Turkey: Thanksgiving would not be the same without turkey. Does it  seem strange to feed meat to chickens, though?

Many people wrongly assume chickens to be vegetarian. If you've ever seen one of yours chase after a mouse, lizard or even just a worm, you'll know that's not the case.

Chickens adore meat. A relatively fat-free meat like turkey which is high in protein is particularly good at this time of year, when chickens need extra to cope with moulting and the colder weather.

Some people prefer to offer it in the form of turkey flavoured cat food, but actually fresh turkey is far preferable. It doesn't have any of the added ingredients found in processed foods.

I use inexpensive turkey bits - or use some of your leftovers.

Sweet potato: use this rather than the mashed white potato you'd normally see on your holiday table. Any signs of white potatoes turning green is not good news for chickens - they contain solanine, which is poisonous to poultry.

Sweet potato, on the other hand, contains large amounts of Vitamin A, which helps chickens deal with stressful conditions like cold weather and moulting - critical at this time of year.

Don't peel the sweet potatoes. It's perfectly safe and much of the goodness is just underneath the skin.

Baked sweet potato flesh.Baked sweet potato flesh is easily pushed into a mould.

Cranberries: high in Vitamins B and C plus potassium, cranberries contribute to healthy bone and feather growth. Either fresh or dried cranberries work.

Pumpkin: fresh pumpkin, not pumpkin pie! Its high Vitamin A content helps boost the immune system.

Garlic: this is entirely optional. I live in Italy, so garlic goes into almost everything! Proven to protect against bacteria, it's another healthy option to add.

And no, it doesn't make their eggs taste of garlic!

The best Thanksgiving vegetables and fruit to use.

Virtually any vegetable you'd have at Thanksgiving or Christmas will be good for this recipe. Add whatever you have of...

  • carrots - mine love cooked baby carrots, or try shredding or spiralising  them
  • peas - full of vitamin A
  • sweetcorn - high in vitamin C, useful when chickens are stressed by cold weather and moulting
  • celery tops - the leafy bit we often discard - are brimming with antioxidants, critical for healthy cell growth
  • cucumbers - high in vitamin K, which aids bone growth
  • salad leftovers - including tomatoes (it's the tomato plant which is poisonous to chickens, not the fruit itself)
  • apples - another source of vitamin C, I save some windfalls to use as winter treats. Grate or chop into small bits.

Which holiday foods should not be given to chickens?

This is mostly common sense. Don't feed your flock anything that's fatty or has sugar (no roast potatoes, marshmallows, chocolate or cookies please!); avoid anything with added salt, particularly gravy; no citrus or dairy based foods like milk, which they cannot digest; and no onions - they contain thiosulphate which, in quantity, causes blood disorders.

And of course, no alcohol or caffeine! Chickens should drink water only.

For five other common foods chickens should never eat, see this article.


My best Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday treat recipe.

This is a "mix and match" recipe. This is what I've found works, but if there's something you don't have, substitute something else. 

Ingredients.

This serves a small flock of four to five chickens. For larger flocks just increase the quantities.

  • 200 grammes (1 cup) turkey bits, cooked
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 100 grammes (0.5 cup) cranberries, fresh or dried
  • 400 grammes (2 cups) of any of the vegetables listed above
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons black treacle (molasses).

Method.

You could literally simply plate this up onto your chickens' favourite platter.

I like to make a little extra effort, so I put mine into some Thanksgiving and Christmas cookie cutters.

  • Pierce the sweet potato skin five or six times, then place in a roasting dish and bake for about 50 minutes at 180°C (350°F). You can also boil, but some of the nutrients will leech into the water. 
  • Don't overcook - the sugars will crystallize and burn. The inside should feel soft when pierced with a skewer or knife.
  • Scrape the flesh out of the skin and mash it. Push it into one of the cookie cutters and leave to one side.
Sweet potato flesh pushed into a cookie cutter tree mould.Baked sweet potato flesh makes a good Christmas tree!
  • Shred the turkey into small, thin strips. Add to a frying pan with half a tablespoon of coconut oil and warm through until the turkey is covered. 
  • Remove from the heat, add the cranberries (or other berries) and stir together until everything is covered.
  • Remove from the heat, press into some moulds and set to one side.
Turkey and berry mix in an angel cookie cutter.This angel contained chopped turkey and dried berries.
  • Cook the vegetables until just tender. In a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of treacle (molases) and all the veg. 
  • Mix until the veg are covered in the treacle, then push them into a mould (or two!) and set to one side. 
Mixed vegetables in a star mould.This veggie star contained sweetcorn, green beans and baby carrots.
  • Now put all your moulds together into one plate and place in the freezer for an hour or two. This chills the oil so it keeps its shape.
  • Leave it in the freezer if you've made it beforehand and want to keep it for the "special day". It will keep for several weeks.
  • When you're ready, simply turn out all the moulds onto one plate.

And then, let your chickens loose with it - and stand well back or get caught in the stampede!


Looking for Christmas recipes?

My Thanksgiving recipe is good for both holidays. I'll be adding some Christmas breakfast treat recipes here in the next few weeks.

Bookmark the page, or join my newsletter, so you're sure not to miss them!


Other articles you may find useful.

Treats for chickens: which are healthy? Link.
Two pumpkin recipes your chickens will love - link.
All about mealworms - link.
Garlic benefits for chickens - link.
Choosing weeds as chicken treats - link.
What treats can chicks eat? - link
Taking care of your flock in November - link.
Looking for Christmas gifts for special holidays? You'll find lots of ideas here for Christmas chicken gifts. Deck the halls!
Christmas tree ornaments for the chicken lover - link.

Sources.

A lot of "facts" you'll find on the internet are often people's individual views, based on inaccurate information repeated from poor quality sources.

The information I provide in this article and others is based not just on my own experience, but on evidenced facts from scientific, peer-reviewed research and books from highly respected and experienced poultry keepers such as Gail Damerow.

Some of the trusted sources I have used in this article are these.

Ayuk, E. A: Effects of sweet potato meal on the growth of broilers. Pub. Researchgate, 2004.

Vitamin A in Poultry. Pub. Journal of Animal Nutrition & Health, 2017.

Rinehart, K. E et al: Influence of dietary potassium on chick growth, food consumption and blood and tissue composition. Pub. Journal of Poultry Science, 1969.

Link to Raising Happy Chickens home page.