If you're concerned about how your flock is coping with their feather loss, or you think that winters in your area are taking their toll on your girls - or even if you just need to give your broody hens a boost - this recipe is for you.
It's one of the best, easy to make, inexpensive high protein treats for those difficult times in your flock's life!
There's nothing magical about this. You'll find dozens of similar treat recipes on the internet and in books.
Aim to mix together a variety of high protein foods to give your chickens an occasional tasty boost when they most need it.
I use ingredients which I source locally and inexpensively, and those I have in my kitchen cupboards. My 'recipe' will vary each time I make it, depending on what I have available.
You don't have to stick to my recipe - be creative!
I use ingredients which I know to be well documented sources of protein.
Cayenne pepper: I know, this sounds weird for something called a 'treat'. I add it because it's said to speed up chickens' metabolism.
Does it really? Who knows - but it can't hurt. It doesn't (despite what you might read online) make their eggs taste any different, and as chickens have very few taste buds it won't cause them problems in terms of making the end result too spicy for them.
Eggshells: To be on the safe side, I bake their own egg shells for ten minutes before grinding them into a fine
powder. I use them to add a little calcium. And no, the chickens don't recognise
it as their own shells, so it will not encourage egg-eating.
Oats: I don't use the 'quick' type personally since I try to keep everything I feed my chickens as un-processed as possible. Plain old oats are best.
Sunflower seeds: I use the whole black seeds from the plants which I grow myself. Double benefit - cheerful plants in the summer, nutritious seeds in the autumn (fall) and winter.
Peas: If it's autumn and I don't have my own fresh peas I use frozen. A can of sweetcorn works well too.
Cooked eggs: I hard boiled eggs and chop them into bits. Scrambled eggs are also good and act as a binder to tie all the ingredients together.
Make the scrambled variety without milk since chickens cannot process dairy products properly. Don't use them raw - it can lead to egg-eating.
Fish: this is probably the treat my flock loves best. If they're available I use fresh sardines, mashed up (and including the bones as they're very soft). If I don't have those I use the canned variety - in oil, not brine. Brine is too salty.
Garlic: well, I do live in Italy - food is not food without garlic!
Contrary to popular belief it will not make the eggs taste, and garlic is an exceptionally good source of Vitamin B6. It's well known for its antibacterial properties and protection of the immune system.
It's also great if you have mosquitoes - for some reason they don't like it, so hanging some bulbs in your chicken coop can help with the pesky things in the summer. It's very easy to grow and doesn't take up much room, so even balcony pots can be used.
Olive oil: I add some organic extra-virgin oil since that's what we make on our Italian farm so mine is 'free'. If it's too expensive, try using sunflower oil. Make sure whichever oil you use it's non-GMO.
Yoghurt: most people use a natural, sugar-free and unflavoured yoghurt as a binding agent in high protein recipes. It's not so much the yoghurt itself which is the important thing here - it's the probiotics a natural yoghurt contains.
However, chickens do not easily digest dairy-based products, so a better solution is to add some probiotic powder mixed with water.
I don't use medicated feed for my chickens - they don't need it - but I like to provide some natural ingredients to help keep a healthy balance in the digestive system.
To put it simply, probiotics supply some of the "good bacteria" that help poultry digest food and keeps their digestive tract healthy.
So I like to keep in stock a simple probiotic supplement specially formulated for chickens (affiliate link) - the one I recommend is non-GMO. In this recipe I just bind it with water and add to the mix.
If I don't have any probiotics in stock I will use an organic, plain yoghurt - not the flavoured kind, which has far too much sugar and too many additives.
But remember: chickens don't have the natural enzymes to process dairy, so use yoghurt sparingly.
I generally make two or three times the amount I need and either keep it in the refrigerator or freeze it, depending on how quickly I intend to use it.
Because this is so concentrated, you don't need to give lots of it. These amounts will feed 15 chickens on two occasions. In between feeds I keep the mix in an airtight container in the fridge.
I have all these books and have learned a huge amount from them. If you're looking for detailed, accurate and easy to read sources, start with any one of these!
(These are affiliate links, which means if you click and buy, I receive a small commission at no cost to you).