Your chickens deserve a treat from time to time!
There are a lot of fun treats you can give to your chickens. Hanging a watermelon in your chicken run is popular. Actually, hanging anything from corn to cantaloupe to cabbage makes for a delicious, healthy chicken treat, and fun entertainment for you. Watching your flock chase each one another around, fighting for the best piece of melon or the juiciest berry is one of the oldest form of entertainment. It is colloquially and lovingly called "chicken football" by backyard chicken keepers.
Another great chicken treat are bird suet cakes, which are kinda like seed cakes or bird seed bread you can buy or make for wild birds or pet birds. Seeds, fruit, and grains help make up a balanced diet for chickens, just like any bird. Plus, if you hang these cakes in your chicken run and make them work for some nibbles, they will also act as a form of exciting enrichment to keep your chickens stimulated.
This suet cake recipe comes from The Prairie Homestead, run by Jill, a homesteader mother-of-three who lives on the Wyoming plains, 45 miles away from the nearest grocery store she likes to point out! Jill's version includes tallow, which gives chickens some extra fat that helps keep them warm in cold weather. A good substitution if you don't want to add animal fat is coconut oil or even peanut butter. Extra points if you add mealworms!
This recipe is, of course, just framework and you can add any other seeds or fruits you can think of. Cracked corn or unsalted nuts are great ideas! Just avoid avocado. For a list of safe foods for chickens, go here. Never forget that chickens are a natural composter and will eat your kitchen scraps and in turn, help create a beautiful garden! Plus, they're just really fun pets to have.
Here is how to make tasty suet cake treats for backyard chickens.
HOMEMADE SUET CAKES FOR CHICKENS
- 1 ½ cups melted tallow, lard, or meat drippings
- 1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds (in the shell)
- 1 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, chopped apples, etc)
- 1 cup whole grains (scratch mix, whole wheat, or millet are ideal)
- Line a nine-by-five inch loaf pan (or any similar sized pan) with parchment paper or foil. Mix the seeds, fruit, and grains together, and place in the pan.
- Cover the dry ingredients completely with the liquid fat. You may need to mash everything around with a fork to make sure there are no air bubbles.
- Allow the cake to harden completely. You can speed up this process by sticking it in the refrigerator for a while.
- Remove it from the pan by lifting up on the liner to pop it out. You can cut it into several pieces, or feed the whole thing at once by either tossing it in a feed pan, or pinning it to the wall like I did with a scrap of chicken wire.
Adding a suet feeder to the wall of your chicken coop is a great idea and will serve as a boredom buster for your chickens!
You can also simply put the suet block in a bowl for your girls, like Jill did here, and watch them peck away.
Your chickens will love this winter treat!
Have you ever made suet cakes for your chickens? What other treats do your chickens love? Tell us in the comments below.
Photos via The Prairie Homestead
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