"Time Oat!" The Problem with Oatmeal for Chickens + 2 Healthy Alternatives

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"Time Oat!" The Problem with Oatmeal for Chickens + 2 Healthy Alternatives

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.

Oatmeal for chickens on a cold morning.
A warm treat in the cold months will be welcome, but oatmeal for chickens isn't the best choice!

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.

Article: Beta glucan from barley adversely affect poultry gut health

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.

Oatmeal alternatives

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.

Gourmet alternative to oatmeal for chickens

These goodies were mixed with about 4 cups of layer pellets in a large mixing bowl.

(What treats taste good to chickens?)

Oatmeal mix for chickens

I portioned out the mixture into my feed pans...

Oatmeal mix for chickens

...and added hot water.

Chicken feed snack
Chicken snacks
I add just enough to see it pooling around the edges of the pan. The feed easily absorbs the water, making a nice porridge consistency.

I like to sprinkle a handful of dried insect larvae over the top for presentation and "textural crunch".

Dried mealworms are added to a snack for pet chickens
Ready to serve! YUMMY!!
Pet chickens love a homemade snack
The anticipation!
A chicken flock eats a warm snack on a cold day

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!

An empty pan sits after a chicken flock has eaten all of their snacks.

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