You'll probably notice your chickens have food preferences. Mine do. They prefer cucumbers over carrots, for example. They aren't that thrilled about bread. They love some weeds out in the yard more than others. Some of them LOVE worms, others stick their beaks up at the squirmy, dirty worms.
A friend of mine said her chickens love apples (my chickens aren't so convinced), but won't eat cucumbers. They're addicted to bread and gobble up rice. My hens walk away when either are presented to them, preferring a juicy berry or grape over a dry crusty piece of bread.
Over time, you'll come to see what your chickens go crazy for and what they don't really like much and you can adjust your treats and scrap feeding accordingly.
Keep the Commercial Food Flowing
No matter how much your chickens love extra treats, use common sense and don't over-do their consumption of a non-chicken-feed-diet. Chicken feed is an important part of a hen's diet, whether they free range or not. The feed prepared for chickens is full of nutrients and other things that your chicken needs and probably won't get in other ways. They need a significant part of their diet to be commercial food to keep a healthy balance.
When the treats verses feed diet gets out of balance there are a few things that might go wrong. First, it could affect their egg laying. Both the quantity as well as the quality of eggs laid (specifically the strength and quality of the shells). Additionally, it could help complicate issues for the hen, such as having them become egg bound or having an impacted crop.
Treats are fun and great to fed to your chickens, just remember moderation is the key. And, also, there are some things that are good to NEVER feed your chickens. Here's a list below:
Food to Keep Away From Your Chickens
1. Raw potatoes and potato sprouts. Raw potatoes are hard for chickens to digest while the green parts of potatoes and the sprouts are toxic.
2. Rotten food. If the food is moldy, stinky, and gross, don't feed it to your chickens!
3. Raw peanuts and dried beans. (Dried beans are safe if they're cooked first.)
4. Chocolate. Seems like MANY animals should stay away from chocolate ...which is okay with me. I don't want to share my chocolate with them anyway!
5. Junk food. Yes, your chickens can eat it but it's not the most healthy. Will it kill them? Probably not. They might love it, but is it good for them? No more than it is for us.
6. Some garden plant leaves such as eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes (usually chickens tend to stay away from these plants on their own).
7. Tobacco and Alcohol. No partying out on the town with your birds! They can't take it. And nicotine is poisonous.
8. Avocados. These can be fatal for your chickens.
9. Some types of flower seeds such as sweet peas, morning glories and angel's trumpet.
10. Raw meat. Chickens can eat meat (even chicken), but don't feed it to them raw because of risk of disease.
11. Cracked Corn. This isn't on the NEVER feed list, but I added it here at the bottom because it's a good thing to steer clear of during the hot summer days as it actually aids in raising the body temperature of the chickens that eat it. (Which also makes it a wonderful thing to feed them in the dead of winter when their body heat could use a bit of a boost.)
Your chicken's taste buds can be quite broad, but learning what's good and not good for your chicken to eat will help keep them safe and healthy. And easy way to keep track of many of the chicken feeding no-no's is to think: If it's not healthy for me, it's not healthy for my chickens...with a few exceptions, of course.
Chickens are essentially pretty easy to keep happy...but occasionally there are problems--knowing about potential dangers is a step in the right direction for keeping your flock healthy.