Having blown out five dozen Marans eggs yesterday to make Christmas ornaments, I had a lifetime supply of raw eggs that needed to be cooked. What better way to use them than to supplement the diet of my molting hens? Many of my chickens are molting. Losing old feathers and growing new ones taxes their energy and nutrient stores since feathers consist of 85% protein. This protein-packed Alfalfa Soufflé Garland is a delicious way to offer molting chickens several protein sources in one treat while keeping them entertained and active!
ALFALFA SOUFFLE™ INGREDIENTS
Serves approximately 25 chickens, one 2″ square piece each
1/2 cup of mealworms
3/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup calendula petals
1 tablespoon cinnamon
12-15 cubes of alfalfa, soaked in water (approximately 2 cups when re-hydrated)
Crushed eggshells from 3 or 4 eggs
9×12″ baking pan or cupcake pans
LET’S MAKE IT!
Place alfalfa cubes into a flat dish/container/pan in a single layer. Add water to the dish until it comes half way up the sides of the cubes. The alfalfa will begin to soften and may need to be turned over & more water added before it is soft enough to break apart. When completely softened, break apart FULLY by hand, removing any especially long, tough pieces. They should be moist when added to the egg mixture, not soaking wet.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cupcake pans or baking pan with cooking spray and set aside
- In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, wheat germ, calendula and cinnamon, whisking to combine
- Pour in prepared pans. Sprinkle crushed eggshells on top
- Bake cupcake sized pans 15-20 minutes or until puffed up and eggs, cooked through
- Bake 9×13″ pan 40 minutes or until puffed up and eggs are set.
- Remove from oven and cool.
STRINGING THE GARLAND
Using a length of 24 gauge floral wire, push wire through 3-5 grapes, press wire through the side/center of one of the Alfalfa Soufflé pieces, add more grapes and repeat. Attach garland to a stable structure as indicated below.
An abundance of caution should used when hanging treats for chickens. I recommend 24 gauge floral wire securely attached to a solid structure (such as wood fencing) so that it cannot be dislodged and ingested. If a chicken ingests string, it can wreak havoc in their digestive tract, cause crop impaction, an emergency requiring professional veterinary intervention or death. Always closely monitor the chickens while enjoying the hanging treat and remove string from the chicken yard as soon as they’re done with the treat.
TIPS FOR HELPING CHICKENS THROUGH A MOLT
1. Reduce their stress level as much as possible. Try not to move them to a new living quarters or introduce any new flock members during a molt.
2. Limit handling to avoid inflicting pain and to keep stress to a minimum.
3. Supplement their diet with extra protein by switching their layer feed to a starter ration, a starter/grower or a Flock Raiser feed.
Offer treats only occasionally and in moderation, meaning: no more than 2 tablespoons per bird per day on special occasions, not every day.*
Much more about the process of molting and feather growth, HERE.
RANDOM, INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT ALFALFA
*Dehydrated, chopped alfalfa is an excellent source of supplemental protein for poultry. While it contains 17-20% protein, it should only be fed in small amounts occasionally.
*Alfalfa should not exceed 5% of a laying hen’s daily diet for reasons beyond the scope of this article.
*Alfalfa is a good source of carotenoids, which makes egg yolks deeper, darker orange.
*Alfalfa is a plant in the legume family. (who knew?)
*Since it is high in dietary fiber, it moves through the digestive tract slower than other feed ingredients.
USE CAUTION WHEN INCREASING PROTEIN LEVELS IN HENS’ DIET
Only supply extra protein to backyard chickens when appropriate, such as during a molt. “The consumption of high protein diets, especially meats and eggs, can significantly increase the rates of types of aggression between hens.” 1“Incorrect diets that contain excessive levels of protein causes wetter droppings since the extra protein is converted into urates. This causes your chicken to drink more therefore you will see an increase in urates leading to wet, damp bedding.”2
TREATS IN MODERATION
All treats should be offered to chickens sparingly and infrequently. When chickens eat treats, they’re not eating feed, which is their primary source of nutrition. Commercially prepared feed is very carefully formulated by poultry nutritionists who closely monitor the composition of ingredients to ensure that a chicken’s daily vitamin, mineral and protein requirements are met. Supplemental foods (treats/snacks) replace a portion of those essential dietary elements, diluting the complete nutrition in the feed. Excessive treats, even healthy ones, can cause any of the following: obesity, reduced egg production, malformed eggs, habitual laying of multiple-yolked eggs, vent prolapse, a protein deficiency, feather-picking, fatty liver syndrome, increased risk of heat stroke and heart problems. Treats should be limited to no more than 5% of a chicken’s diet, which amounts to approximately 2 tablespoons of treats in any given day. Treats/scraps/snacks should not be fed to chickens daily due to the obesity-related health concerns which have reached epidemic proportions in backyard chickens.
Sources & further reading:
1 The Chicken: A Natural History. Barber, Daly, Rutland, Cawthray, Hauber . Race Point Publishing, 2012 p. 109
2 The Chicken Vet, Diarrhoea
Poultry Diseases, Pattison, McMullin, Bradbury & Alexander. 2008
Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, Damerow. 1995
The Chicken Health Handbook, Damerow. 1994
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