DIY Scratch Blocks for Backyard Chickens
Cold weather got you down? You’re not alone. Chickens tolerate cold weather pretty well, but like the rest of us, winter doldrums tend to set in. Most of the year, free-rangers enjoy scratching in the yard for bugs, grubs and seed, but when the ground freezes or snow blankets the yard, chickens lose their favorite pastime and their instinct to scratch and peck goes unsated. Idle beaks are the devil’s playground and a bored chicken is a force to be reckoned with. The tendency to peck often gets ugly as stir crazy chickens turn on each other, pulling out feathers as a normally peaceful flock cannibalizes itself to stave off boredom.
The good news is chickens are easily amused and introducing a tasty scratch block to the coop is a simple way to keep them entertained. Making a scratch block also has the added effect of providing a supplemental source of energy that will help them stay warm until spring finally rolls around.
Scratch blocks are a blend of scratch grains, seeds, dried fruit and grit bound together using molasses to help it hold its form. Irresistible to bored chickens, a scratch block (commercially available as Purina’s “Flock Block”) is an easy way to keep backyard chickens busy until sunny days return. Scratch blocks have become a popular supplement for gloomy chickens and can be found in many feed and supply stores. Around these parts, though, we prefer to make our own.
The basic ingredients for a scratch block are grains and a binding agent (like molasses or lard), but just about anything a chicken likes to eat can be added to the mix. Our blend includes scratch grains, wild bird seed, oatmeal, raisins and oyster shell, but other dried fruits, grains, grit or even feed can be added as desired. Baked for about 45 minutes, the block will hold its form and can be placed in any dry location to which chickens have access.
A delicious scratch block will keep chickens busy for hours. In some instances, though, chickens may enjoy the treat a little too much, forgoing their feed for this chicken equivalent of dessert. Scratch blocks are intended as a supplement to conventional feed. When a block is introduced to the flock, keep an eye on the feed hopper to be sure chickens are still getting a balanced meal and limit access to this new treat, if necessary.
Scratch Block for Chickens
- 4 cups scratch grains
- 2 cups wild birdseed
- 2 cups uncooked oatmeal
- 1 cup oyster shells
- 1 cup raisins
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 cup lard, melted
In a large bowl, mix together scratch grains, birdseed, oatmeal and raisins.
Add eggs, molasses and lard and stir until fully combined.
Line a bread pan or cake pan with aluminum foil.
Press seed mix into pan and level surface with a spatula.
Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before removing from pan.