What chickens can eat in the winter is very country-dependent!
Can chickens eat kitchen scraps?
In the past, there were outbreaks of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease.
Feeding hens with meat and bone meal or other animal byproducts caused these outbreaks. As a result, DEFRA has banned giving kitchen scraps to hens in the UK.
Actually, livestock feed considers ANY food stored in your kitchen as illegal food stuff. If you are a vegan household you used to be exempt from the ruling, but not any longer.
Some European countries and the US support feeding kitchen scraps, with minimal rules or restrictions.
What do chickens eat in winter?
Unfortunately, the short days and long cold winter nights mean they actually need more calories.
If you are in the UK, the following are fine to feed your chickens in winter:
- Layers pellets dry or mixed with warm water. But, layer pellets may not be the right choice for roosters because they usually contain high levels of calcium.
- Mixed corn in moderation and preferably during the afternoon which provides internal heat to the birds overnight.
- Bird seed but not fat balls which contain animal fats.
- Dried fruits or nuts that have not been stored in the kitchen.
- Fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that have come straight from the garden/allotment/supermarket without entering the kitchen.
- Live insects
Remember, if you need to 'prepare' food items, you should do it outside of the kitchen.
If you live in Europe or the US, in theory, you can feed anything but a word of caution. Chickens are omnivorous but all food, especially meat contain pathogens. A good rule is to only feed your birds things you could safely eat yourself.
If you regularly have food that is unsafe for consumption but you wish to utilise it, consider larvae farming! Larvae eat waste food and make tasty protein, good for backyard chickens.