During the cold winter months, many of us like to offer a warm bowl of oatmeal for our chickens. While there really is little benefit to providing a warm meal, it certainly makes us feel better to do so for our feathered babies on especially cold mornings.
What's wrong with oatmeal for chickens?
Oatmeal for chickens is controversial, and for a good reason. Oats contain beta glucan, which chickens digest poorly. Studies have shown that beta glucan can cause a thick gel to form in birds' intestines, preventing vital nutrient absorption.
While an "occasional" oatmeal breakfast isn't very harmful, research suggests that doing so on a regular basis is. So if oatmeal isn't the best choice, should you just let your chickens down on cold mornings? Of course not! There are two alternatives—and one of them your vet is sure to love.
Option #1: Source hull-less oats
Studies have shown that hull-less oats, a.k.a. hulless oats, are just fine for chickens, and even show promise as a replacement for wheat and corn in layer feed.
However, there's an option your veterinarian will like even more, because it contains exactly the nutrition your layer flock needs.
Option 2: Replace the oats with layer feed
You guessed it! Layer feed contains all the nutrients your flock needs, so to give your flock a wonderfully warm and healthy treat, simply replace oatmeal with their everyday LAYER FEED. Yes! It really is that easy. Just add hot water to pellets or crumbles, and serve it up to your hens in their designated feed tray.
Incidentally, this is also a great way to use up the powder at the bottom of the feed bag that often goes to waste. Just store in a sealed container until you have an adequate amount (up to 3 months for maximum freshness), add water and serve!
Alternately, you could make a "gourmet" version by adding seeds, fruits, veggies, mealworms, or other leftovers from the fridge. It's an especially great way to get use up produce that may be a little soft, or just about to go bad. Just be careful not to add too much of that stuff, as always with treats.
The gourmet alternative to oatmeal for chickens
Here was this morning's warm treat: diced wrinkled apples found in the back of the fridge; a handful of low-sugar dried cranberries; flax seeds and a scrambled egg that had frozen and cracked from the previous day.
These goodies were mixed with about 4 cups of layer pellets in a large mixing bowl.
I portioned out the mixture into my feed pans...
...and added hot water.
I like to sprinkle a handful of dried insect larvae over the top for presentation and "textural crunch".
As you can see, this "mock oatmeal" is thoroughly enjoyed by the flock...and best of all, they are getting all the nutrients they need!