We feed our free-range birds a standard scratch mix and lay mash, supplemented with plenty of fresh water, free choice oyster shell/grit, grass and other fresh green matter, dirt to scratch in and table scraps. As far as table scraps go, anything that is good for you, is good for them--and vice versa.  My chickens love cooked chicken and eggs, but some people shudder at this.  Some people give their birds as a treat warmed food in wintertime or cold food in summer, which chickens seem to love.  Mine love frozen grapes or ice cubes to play with on summer days, even better on hot days is to take a large plastic food container (such as the Rubbermaid type for storing leftovers in the frig) and pack it with an assortment of cut-up raw fruits & vegetables, then top it off with water and freeze overnight.  The next day, run a bit of water over the bottom of the container, pop the veggie & fruitsicle out and give it to your chickens to peck at.  As it thaws they will be able to get bites of cold goodies and have a great time pecking away at it.

Whole fruits & vegetables make for another great funtime treat for your flock.  

Chicken Health

Certain plants are toxic to birds, you can do a search for 'plants toxic to birds' on the Internet to find lists of both safe and unsafe choices. Chickens will eat most any plant they can reach and their scratching for food can be destructive to just about any plant, so plan and protect your garden accordingly!  I had a female turkey once who killed a 4 ft. x 4 ft. mature artichoke plant merely by sitting on it. All of the time. Every day.  For days.  And days.  VERY determinedly!

Certain household solutions, such as bleach and antifreeze, are also toxic to birds. Chocolate is toxic, and raw meat can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella and parasites.

Great page here on what is toxic and what is safe:

URL: http://www.plannedparrothood.com/plants.html

Toxic Plants And Household Substances


Because To A Chicken, EVERYTHING Is Food Until Proven Otherwise

Velvet Sparrow

Click on the ‘Health’ button on the navigation bar for more health-related articles

Basic Chicken Maintenance

In addition to you regularly visually and physically checking out your birds, once in a while you may need to trim wings and toes. There is a link to a terrific wing clipping page in the ‘Links’ section.  To trim nails, you can use a human nail clipper (the large kind for toenails) or buy a special nail clipper for dogs that looks much like a pair of pruning shears. When you clip nails, be sure to have a good grip on the bird and a steady hand. Enlist someone else's help if need be to hold the bird while you trim the toes. Only clip off the very end of the nail, avoid the darker area because that's where the blood supply is and trimming off too much can cause bleeding. Have your bottle of Kwik-Stop ready just in case.

If you do cause bleeding, make SURE you get it stopped before releasing the bird. Clipping too close hurts, just as it would hurt you to cut your finger. You shouldn't ever have to trim beaks, but if you do, follow the same procedure as for toes, and be VERY careful NOT to clip the pointed end of the tongue!

 Chickens are tough, but after all are still birds, and birds are delicate and easily injured.  Chickens can get too overheated and die, so in hot areas a mister system, water bottles that have been frozen and then placed in the run as a cool spot or just plain old YOU with a garden hose all work great to cool them off.  If you hang old burlap sacks at chicken level on the wire sides of the coop or run and hose them down, the birds are cooled by evaporative cooling. In hot southern California summers, I would go out every two hours at MOST (more often if it is really hot) and hose off the plants, ground--wherever the chickens like to hang out in the shade--and the chickens themselves. Doing this won't make you popular but it keeps them alive. On a hot day, if a chicken is standing with it's feathers slicked down, wings held open and panting, its overheated and needs to be cooled off NOW. I just put a pressure nozzle adjusted to a nice spray on my hose and mist everyone off really well.  In cold weather areas some chicken owners install a light bulb that they leave on to help ward off too-cold temps. Chickens with large combs and wattles, such as Leghorns, can sometimes suffer frostbite in freezing temperatures. You can either plan ahead and only have birds with pea or rose combs, or apply a thin layer of Vaseline (petroleum jelly) daily to the birds' comb and wattles to help insulate them from the cold.

Bathing Chickens

Why would you want to bathe a chicken?!  Well, heck…why not?  Your chicken may have gotten into something messy, it may be injured and need cleaning, or you may be taking it to a chicken show or have a chicken as a service animal and be taking it around to hospitals, senior centers or schools.  While chickens do not require baths like dogs sometimes do, when you need to bathe one, it helps to have pointers from someone who’s done it before.  Although contrary to folk wisdom, wet hens don’t get all that mad.

Mostly it takes baby shampoo, lots of towels and patience. That and not minding getting a chicken-flavored bath yourself.  Our friends at Brown Egg Blue Egg.com have great articles on both washing chickens and wing, beak and nail trimming:  

URL: http://www.browneggblueegg.com/Article.html

The Chicken Mantra–learn it, love, it, live it:  

‘If it is possible for a chicken to hurt themselves on something, somehow they will find a way.’

A whole watermelon in summer, with some large holes cut into it, is a nice cool-down treat for your flock.  But remember the Chicken Mantra–you don’t want anyone getting their head stuck in a watermelon, think of the explaining you’d have to do at the vets!

In the fall, whole pumpkins are terrific treats, although I always remove the seeds and the stringy bits to avoid crop impactions in my birds.  If you have Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns that you just carved the day before and have not burned candles in, watching your chickens peck away at them is hilarious.  Make sure the pumpkins have not molded and are fresh, though.

A varied diet also stimulates your birds, they do like to have fun–and for a chicken, food = fun.  

Chocolate is toxic to birds, and you should never feed raw meat because of the parasites it can carry.  Chickens usually don’t care for sweets, and processed snack foods aren’t healthy.  Skip the Twinkies, ice cream & Slim Jims as chicken treats.  Some chicken keepers say that onions and garlic fed in quantity, may flavor the eggs hens lay.

Egg shells are a wonderful source of calcium, and chickens need a calcium source such as oyster shell, or a calcium supplement in their feed. I've never had my chickens turn into egg-eaters because of giving them eggs, by the way. Just be SURE the eggs are cooked, and crush up the shells so the chickens won’t connect that intact eggshells are food and start eating fresh-laid eggs. Chickens usually turn to eating their own eggs because of a deficiency in their diet , boredom, stress and overcrowding. When a hen lays eggs she is using calcium, and if she can't get it any other way she will eat her own eggs. It's either that or her body will rob it from her bones, which will leave her weak and can be deadly.

Chickens also need a source of grit in order to break down their food--they don't have teeth! You can buy bird grit at most pet stores, but mostly chickens ingest dirt and small stones in their normal foraging for grit.

The advantage of food with eyeholes is that you can watch your flockmates eat.

…and wonder if they are ever coming up for air.

Eventually though, everyone else wanders off and you are free to wear your food as a hat.  Or is it that your food wears YOU?


Jack’s Henhouse


Jack’s Henhouse


Jack’s Henhouse


Jack’s Henhouse

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