Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Chicken scraps

Every winter we have a family tradition, involving roast chicken. It's our special meal of the week. We're not the only ones, who get to enjoy this family tradition however. Our chickens, get to help us clean up the dishes afterwards too.

By that I mean, they get to enjoy our scraps, the next day. Not only do we turn those sticky, fatty, leftovers, into another hearty meal for our chooks, but it's also, a more environmentally friendly way to clean up after ourselves.

Roasting pans from the night before

If you have stale bread, or crusts too thin to eat, put them aside and use them to wipe out the roasting pan. We generally use two roasting pans to feed our family of four. One used pan collects all the scraps, and the other is washed out with boiling water first. Then the water is tipped into the other pan, and wiped over with some bread to make it clean. No need for kitchen towels.

We like to dice our bread afterwards, using a large chef's knife, to make it easier for the chickens to eat. Though you don't have to, if only planning to feed the bread to the chickens.

All traces of fat are gone

You will find bread is a lot more absorbent, than paper towels. So it sucks up all that fat, leaving very little residue behind. We're fortunate to get our bread scraps from David's workplace. They do a lot of sandwich trade, and ditch all their crusts. We have six hens and one rooster, so we roughly portion them each a slice.

This substitution trick, using bread instead of kitchen towels, can also be used elsewhere.

Just add water

David always smears the skin of our roast chicken, in a blend of oil, flour and various spices. It's dried in the bowl by the next morning, so we pour in some boiling water and swish it around to clean. Once poured into the other roasting pan, you can clean out the bowl with more bread.

You can even use the bread to clean up the dinner plates, because a slice of bread can soak up a lot of residue

As we have a septic system to treat all our water, we need to avoid putting any fats or oil down the sink. That's if we want it to last. Feeding our chickens this way, however, helps us in that endeavour. If we weren't using bread, we'd be using kitchen towels.

Bacon rind

When making up our chicken scraps, we always find other things to put in their food as well. Like the bacon rind we cut off our bacon. The chickens always enjoy looking through their food for any bits of meat. It's the first thing they do.

We also like to use vegetable leftovers as well. Which is where David's workplace, comes in handy again.

Dicing tomato ends

With a lot of sandwich trade, you're going to use a lot of tomatoes. So when David is prepping the tomatoes at work, he puts aside the tops and bottom, in a bucket. Then when they arrive home, I chop them up and disperse among the chicken food. When there's an extra large surplus of tomato scraps, I'll put some in the fridge to keep from growing mould, and use it the next day, and so on.

Ready to grate 

Whenever there is reduced produce at the store, we grab it for us, or the chickens. In this case we had carrots which were marked down for quick sale. I gave the chickens the carrot tops the day before, and grated a few carrots to go in their daily mix of food. I did this when I realised we had better carrots in the fridge, and the chickens could have these.

When making up food, we like to use a lot of vegetable scraps. It gives them a more balanced diet.

Ready to chop

Which is why I'll always include some form of green vegetable as well. In this case, it's flat leaf parsley, which is growing wild in our yard at the moment. I might as well put it in the chicken food, if we cannot get around to eating it, before it goes to seed.

Other options for greens, are celery leaves if I have them, grated zucchini in the glut season, and the stiff outer leaves of lettuce, which I slice thinly. I've even been known to cook our frozen peas, if I don't have any other green vegetables to put in.

Cooked for 2 minutes in the microwave

Just as a winter treat, I feed the chickens, a cup of cooked traditional oats too, which I purchase from the supermarket. Oats are a warming food in winter, which is why I will only give this treat during the cooler months.

All these bits and pieces, are gradually added to the original scraps pan, before mixing it all together.

Adding ingredients

You may be wondering why we go to so much trouble to feed our chickens like this? There are several important reasons. Firstly, we invested in chickens to grow our own eggs, and during winter they have the extra chore of keeping warm. So by feeding them hearty meals, we continue good egg production throughout winter. In fact, its summer, where our chickens go off the lay. As it's too hot and stressful for them.

Another important reason to feed our chickens this way, is because they live in a permanent coop. They only get the nutrients we feed them. If we don't feed them a balanced meal, they cannot go anywhere else for it. A meal like this is also a lot more interesting to chickens, than a feeder with layer mash or grains - even though ours still have one in the coop.

The reason its more interesting to chickens, is because they get to hunt around for their favourite morsels, and compete with each other in the process. Which helps to keep them mentally stimulated. If your chickens can free range or are moved around in a chicken tractor, it's not so important. For those with chickens in permanent coops however, we have to bring the stimulating environment to them. Sharing interesting and varied meals, is how we do that.

Ready to serve

Besides all those reasons, it's more environmentally friendly to feed our chickens, by getting an extra meal out of the food miles, we purchase for ourselves. The rubbish collectors, don't even get to cart our food scraps away, because we're turning them into eggs at home.

Our chicken scrap meals, vary with the seasons too. In winter, its a lot of roasting fats and vegetables. In summer it's more fruit, veg and seeds from the excess produce we consume and grow. Between winter and spring, it's the season for prime weeds here. That's when they are at their nutrient best anyway. We get weeds year round (therefore, so do the chickens) but between winter and spring, is when they are at their prime.

I'm always looking for new ways to feed our chickens, so I'll probably always have something to share on this subject. Do you feed your food scraps to the chickens?


  1. Hope your arm is feeling better Chris! Ah chicken and bacon go so well together! It's hilarious to watch ours if we put out some scrappy bits of bacon, as if it's a race to see who can stuff the most in the shortest time, there's definitely no 'savouring' going on! Then they have to have a lie down afterwards, just like us after we've gorged ourselves on something tasty!

    1. My arm is heaps better, thanks Caroline. I just have to make sure I don't repeat the injury. ;)

      Chickens are fun to watch eating, aren't they? I have to dump the food in lots of different locations, to keep them from getting possessive. Because if someone finds a stash of protein, they all want the same spot! By feeding in several different locations, the bossy ones race to the new area, which leaves the less bossy ones to have a go at the old locations.

      But they certainly go nuts over bacon.

  2. Great post! I think your chickens are better off than mine....I must do something to remedy that.
    In short, I don't give my chickens food scraps....in the main the worm farm gets those. I've seen foods like bread and (especially) white rice described as 'empty calories' for chooks, so they don't get those and to tell truth, I don't eat a lot of those myself so don't often have an excess. They get a purchased mix of grains and layer pellets....the pellets they don't like so much and toss a fair bit out. I've recently changed to a different brand of pellets and will mix that with straight poultry grain myself. They get greens of some sort every day and grated carrot with a dash of youhurt mixed in....they love that.
    I don't eat a lot of bacon, but will give them the rind in future. They won't eat the dry wheat in their grain mix (I was wondering what all the little seedlings coming up were till I realised), but love it if I sprout it first. I'd forgotten that I always used to make rolled oat porridge for them in winter, so I'll get back to that right away. I do toss in a handful of dry oats if I'm feeding the native pigeons, but they're not mad on them dry. When I call them in to lock them up at night they get a small handful of sesame seed which keeps them busy fossicking in the littler for the tiny seeds. I used to give them linseed as well, but when that started germinating everywhere too, I realised they weren't seeing it on the dark ground. I toss them ripe cherry tomatoes and alpine strawberries in summer and occasionally toss in a halved apple, but then I'm not a big apple eater. They love rock melon and watermelon and get those in summer. I've tried bananas and pumpkin without much success. Chickens can be as finicky as humans sometimes.

    1. Definitely, cherry tomatoes are a favourite treat for our chickens, when they're in season too. And during summer we eat a lot of fruit salad, so they get the scraps of melon seeds and the skins, which they really enjoy.

      Regarding the layer pellets, I found ours wouldn't touch them, so converted to layer mash (which is a mixture of cracked grains). But I found the chickens wouldn't touch the orange sorghum seeds in it. Even when I fermented the grains. I was actually wasting money buying sorghum as part of the mix.

      Then our produce guy, put us onto "Jenco, sorghum free". They replace the sorghum with pellets, which are smaller than regular pellets, so more appealing to our chickens. While its a few dollars extra, I don't have wasted seed the chickens won't eat. So ask at your produce store, if they have a sorghum free layer mash.

      I agree with you, too much bread and rice can become empty calories, beyond a certain point. During winter though, when they have to use energy which could go towards making eggs, to keeping warm - fat laden bread, helps keep egg production up without sacrificing condition.

      I can't feed them much bread during summer, I have found. They seem to know what's in their best interests, health wise. When I see the ants temporarily move into the coop, because the chickens won't eat the bread - then I know its time to cut back to half rations in that department.

      I haven't been able to get ours to eat banana or pumpkin either. But they do love the pumpkin seeds. I was actually eating a fresh mandarin from the tree recently, and spitting out the pips. Our lone, free range chicken went about cleaning them up for me, lol. While they won't touch citrus fruit, unless they are maggot ridden, they don't seem to mind the seeds.

      The fascinating world of chicken food, never ceases to amaze me. :)


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