If you have ever fed your chickens scratch then you know that it's like crack for them. They scramble around pecking it up as fast as they can, fighting and scratching for each last piece. I toss a scoopful into the run each afternoon in the winter a few hours before dark.
As soon as I go into the tack room where I store the scratch, my girls know they are going to get some and they all gather excitedly at the gate.
Scratch should only be fed during the colder months, and is not a substitute for layer feed, but should be considered a treat. While grains are nutritious, they only contain about half the protein that chickens need in their regular diet, so should be only given after your chickens have had a chance to fill up on their regular feed.
More importantly, the body heat generated digesting the corn and grains in the scratch helps keep chickens warm during cold nights. It also gives them something to do when there aren't any bugs or grass in the run to keep them occupied.
Berry Box Scratch Treat Toy - You can also fill empty plastic berry boxes with the scratch and put them in your run. Your chickens will love kicking them around to get the treats out. This is a great way to keep them occupied and busy doing something other than pecking at each other if they are confined indoors due to bad weather.
Easter Egg Scratch Treat Ball - Make these fun treat balls from re-purposed plastic Easter eggs [Read how here...] if you don't have any berry boxes.
All of the major chicken feed distributors sell pre-bagged scratch grains which contain a variety of grains and cracked corn.
Homemade Scratch -As an alternative to commerical scratch, you can easily mix up your own using bulk grains purchased from your feed store or local grocery store. I use a blend of cracked corn, oats, barley, wheat, flax seed, sunflower seed and raisins... and the girls love it.
Garlic-Infused Olive Oil Scratch Treat - Another variation is to add some garlic-infused olive oil to a mix of scratch and layer crumble. The olive oil and garlic adds more great antioxidants and nutrition for your girls.
~recipe courtesy Hobby Farms Magazine~
Mince three garlic cloves and put them in a glass with 1/4 Cup olive oil. Set the glass on a sunny windowsill or warm spot for 3-4 hours. When ready to use, stir the oil mixture into 2 Cups of layer crumble and 1 Cup scratch and feed immediately. Feeds 10 chickens. Discard any leftovers. If our flock is any indication though, there will never be anything left! My girls love this recipe, I urge you to try it.