This winter has been a tough one for many chicken owners and here in SE Pennsylvania, we received a somewhat unwelcome Valentine’s Day gift from Mother Nature…24 more inches of snow! Whether our birds are pets or livestock, we all want to make sure they are as safe and warm as possible in bad weather. With snow measured in feet and temperatures that have scarcely gone above freezing in weeks, many owners have kept their chickens inside for their safety. I have heard similar concerns from various chicken networks: the natives are getting restless.
Chickens are naturally curious, busy animals. If left to look at the same for walls for any period of time, they start to get a little stir crazy. Come to think of it, the reason I schedule photo shoots off site is so I can get a change of scenery. So what if a field trip is not an option? It’s not like you can take the flock to your local department store and turn them loose in the toy department for entertainment. FYI, even if you try to sneak in through the garden department, they WILL stop you at the door. But I digress…
So I came up with a more localized solution. I think we can all remember at least one time when even the unruliest child was quiet and occupied after having received a new toy that they simply couldn’t be torn away from. Okay, I realize I’m probably starting to lose some of you, you have conjured images of lego sets and hotwheels tracks in the chicken coop. No, what I’m actually getting at is that chickens are most well behaved when they have entertainment. And what is more entertaining to a chicken than food that moves. Anyone that has ever watched a chicken chase a mouse around or try to catch a moth out of the air can attest to that.
An unfortunate side effect of chicken boredom is that eggs kind of look like toys. And since egg eating is a behavior that I want to avoid at all costs, I came up with a solution. In the summer, we suspend ears of sweet corn from large free swinging screw hooks. They chase the swinging treat for hours trying to catch every last kernel of corn. So, I adapted my flock block recipe for an indoor application. We have 7 separate cages of birds, so I needed at least seven separate treats. I looked through my (mildly obsessive) collection of cookware and settled on a heart shaped donut pan. What better way to send my flock a Valentine’s Day gift that they will actually like!
So I thought I would share my recipe and the directions:
2 cups of scratch grains
1 cup of old fashioned oats
1 cup Omega3 Feed supplement
½ cup cornmeal
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup crushed egg shell (oyster shell will also work)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup Molasses
½ cup coconut oil, slightly warmed so it’s liquid
¼ cup of wheat germ oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix all the dry ingredients together. Make a shallow well in the dry ingredients and add in the wet ingredients. In a circular motion, stir from the center until all of the dry ingredients are mixed well. It should have a thick sticky texture. Press the mixture into your pan (any pan will work really). Use a spoon handle and make a hole in the batter large enough to put a hanger through if you aren’t using a donut pan. Bake for 30 minutes. The time is based on small biscuits, you will need to adapt the time if you are using a larger pan. If you want to see a quick video of me making them, Check out my little How-To Video. Once they were cool, I tied a hanging ribbon through the hole and suspended from the roof of their indoor cage. Voila! Edible chicken toys!