Backyard Poultry

Chicken Treats: Are They Good for My Laying Hens?

Flock Management : Layer Nutrition

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

Chicken treats including scraps, scratch grains and mealworms are like candy and are not good for hens when fed in excess. Keep treats to 10% of the hen’s diet so treats don’t dilute the complete nutrition of their layer feed. Another alternative is to offer hens healthy, wholesome chicken treats, which don’t spoil diets like other treat options.
 
How many chicken treats are too many? How do treats impact my hen’s diet? What chicken treats are best for my birds?
 
These are common questions when it comes to chicken treats, and luckily, we’ve got answers!

A pie chart showing how laying hens should receive 90%25 of their diet as complete feed and no more than 10%25 as chicken treats.Our top advice is to follow a 90/10 rule for laying hens: 90% complete layer feed and 10% chicken treats to help provide a balanced diet to your birds. 

10% Chicken Treats

Chicken treats should be 10% or less of the hen’s diet. This ratio allows us to shift our focus to providing nutrients through a complete layer feed. Though treats are a fun addition to our flock, a complete layer feed provides the necessary nutrients hens need to stay healthy and produce high-quality eggs.
 
Think of kitchen scraps and scratch grains as M&M's for birds; fun to eat and a nice treat, but you don't want to make a meal of them. Like candy for humans, kitchen scraps and scratch grains are not fortified with vitamins and minerals – critical nutrients laying hens require.
 
Every time we provide unfortified feeds, we dilute the complete nutrition of the layer feed. Hens may receive less nutrition than they would if they just ate their complete feed. If we feed high levels of treats, the hens will likely eat more of them than their fortified feed, causing them to miss out on the nutrients they need.
 
Treat chicken treats as special goodies that hens receive in small amounts a few times a week – but be cautious not to overfeed.
 
Another way to spoil hens without spoiling their diet is to provide healthy, wholesome treats like Purina® Farm to Flock Treats. These natural, healthy chicken treats contain all 38 essential nutrients birds need and are a perfect complement to complete chicken feeds. The treats come in two options Wholesome Hen Treats (13% protein) and High Protein (20% protein) – so you can give hens a nutritional boost when they need it.
 

90% Complete Chicken Feed

To help hens receive the nutrients they need, provide at least 90% of their diet through a complete chicken feed formulated specifically for laying hens.
 
Hens require at least 38 different nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and energy. Complete chicken feeds are formulated to provide this balanced diet.
 
Calcium is an important nutrient to keep in mind when talking chicken treats. If the hen is eating high amounts of scratch grains or kitchen scraps, she won’t consume her daily allotment of complete feed. Without enough complete feed, she won’t have the calcium required to produce strong, high-quality eggshells. Instead, she will pull from her calcium reserves (her bones) to produce eggs, potentially resulting in a weak skeletal structure.
 
You can see similar trends when other essential nutrients are not provided at proper levels.
 
To meet the increased nutrient demands of egg production, choose a high-quality complete layer feed and ensure it is the primary part of the hen’s diet. A complete chicken feed is formulated to provide all the nutrients your bird requires for long-term health and nutritious eggs. 
 
For hens 18 weeks and older, look for a complete chicken feed that includes:
  • 16% (minimum) protein level
  • Lysine and methionine, essential amino acids
  • Calcium, manganese and trace minerals for strong shells
  • Fortified with vitamins, trace minerals and essential amino acids
  • Prebiotics and probiotics for hen health
 
A complete chicken feed, like Purina® Layena® pellets or crumbles, Purina® Layena®+ Omega-3, Purina® Layena®+ Free Range or Purina® Organic layer feed, can help hens receive the nutrients they require. Purina® Farm to FlockHigh Protein and Wholesome Hen Treats are the perfect complement for a balanced diet.
 
By choosing a complete layer feed, comprised of high-quality ingredients, and sticking to the 90/10 rule, we can help our hens stay happy, healthy and productive.
 
Sign up for the Feed Greatness® Challenge and get a $5 off coupon for Purina® complete layer feeds.1
 
The Feed Greatness® Challenge is a 90-day feeding trial where you will feed Purina® feed, monitor your flock's performance and health, take pictures and receive emails with helpful information.