While not common, providing hay for chickens can be a good thing. It’s an inexpensive way to provide food and a little entertainment to these animals.
A hay bale in a chicken run gives birds the opportunity to search for a variety of tasty treats. Insects, seeds, and small pieces of dry green leaves keep them pecking away at the bale. Of course, you don’t want them to overeat so keeping strings on the bale is recommended.
There are other benefits to these bales, as well. In the spring, many chicken runs become muddy and wet. Fresh straw insulates the soil and allows it to remain frozen. This means less mud, and chickens are able to walk on a straw covered surface instead of sinking into mud.
While it is difficult to say for sure that chickens get bored, watching them tear apart a bale proves that they definitely enjoy it. And let’s face it, winter provides animals with little opportunity to scratch greenery or chase bugs.
Many chickens don’t enjoy eating straw or hay, however. In such cases, alfalfa hay is a good alternative. Alfalfa is full of dried green leaves and many chickens love to eat it right off the bale. Even chickens that enjoy hay and straw tend to lose interest in those periodically. However, chickens never seem to lose interest in Alfalfa. Even the chickens that aren’t eating alfalfa like to walk around the bale and eat the flakes that have been scratched off and littered on the ground.
It is recommended that you keep alfalfa off the ground when it is wet out. This can be done by hanging it above the ground.
Keep in mind that no matter what you feed your chickens, the one thing you always need to do is to make sure that they have plenty of fresh water. One day without water can kill chickens. In the winter, this means you will need an electric heating stand or to bring out fresh water several times a day.
Finally, one of the best things about feeding your chickens hay, straw, or alfalfa is that you don’t need to depend solely on commercial chicken feed. While chicken feed can be an important part of the chicken diet, it never hurts to mix things up.