If you’re just starting out with backyard chickens, you might need some ideas for chicken treats. Some of their favorite foods include fruits like cantaloupe, watermelon and pomegranate, worms, green leafy vegetables, and various types of grains.
Cantaloupe is safe for your flock and has essential nutrients. As a versatile food, both the skin, seeds, and flesh are edible. As with any other food, chicken keepers should offer enough melon to supplement the feed.
What makes melon a good fit for your chicken diet? Let’s take a closer look.
Cantaloupe Nutrition Data
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), cantaloupe is nutrient-dense and contains important vitamins and minerals. Compared to other high-sugar fruits, they are low in carbohydrates, fat and calories. Based on USDA analysis, melons have the following nutrients.
Foods rich in vitamin A are good for vision, growth, and cell division. The nutritional composition of melons helps the digestive tract, breathing, skin and eyesight of your chickens. Once your flock is deficient in vitamin A, they become susceptible to diseases such as conjunctivitis.
Vitamin C is essential for your bird, especially for collagen synthesis. These nutrients contribute to the development of healthy bones and tissues in chickens and the maintenance and repair of your cells.
Under normal circumstances, chickens make their vitamin C. However, this may not be sufficient during stressful conditions. Cantaloupe provides an external source of vitamin C to boost immunity and fight infection.
Chickens need beta carotene in determining the color of the skin, comb, eggs, feathers, skin and beak. These nutrients are also antioxidants that improve the health of your chickens.
In 100g of raw melon, the calcium content is 9g. Calcium is one of the important nutrients for chickens. It helps the development of strong bones in your flock. This is important for chickens of all ages. For the young, they use calcium to grow.
Egg-laying breeds need calcium for the formation of a dense eggshell. If you notice, your chicken eggs have a weak shell; they lack calcium.
Potassium levels in melons are relatively high. The benefit of this nutrient lies in maintaining the electrolyte balance in your flock. This balance helps in temperature regulation for your chickens.
As an important part of body metabolism and cell function, potassium contributes to the effective use of water in the body of chickens.
Folate deficiency is common in chickens. These nutrients are difficult to find in food, but are essential for blood formation. The absence of folate makes your bird anemic and may experience stunted growth.
Folate also helps body growth and healthy coat formation. Therefore, supplementing the diet with melon provides a boost.
Besides beta carotene, melon also has antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenols. They are anti-inflammatory, which helps the body fight infection and repair any damage. These nutrients build body tissue for your chickens, which means increased body and feather development.
Cantaloupe is a source of fiber needed for digestion. As an essential nutrient, it promotes the development of a healthy digestive tract and relieves constipation. This element makes melon the most suitable for chickens in areas with hot climates and temperatures.
As a melon, melon has a high water content. The meat portion consists mainly of water which is essential for the hydration of the chicken.
How to Feed Cantaloupe to Chickens
As a snack, melons should not be the main meal of your chicken. Chicken keepers should include this melon on top of the main diet to increase nutrition.
Since chickens are not fussy eaters, they will tend to eat all parts of the melon. Each section has different benefits for your flock. Let’s check this out.
As a fruit, melon flesh is the most juicy part. It’s also the tastiest and contains the most water; then the chicken will like it. This section is the easiest for your bird. Due to its high water content, the meat is perfect for hot weather conditions.
The skin of the fruit is the outside (skin) of the fruit. It may not be very juicy and tasty, but it is still very nutritious for your bird. The outer skin is fibrous. The chicken may not eat most of this part because it’s tougher, but it’s very filling.
Melon seeds are safe for consumption by chickens. Due to the presence of gizzard in their body, they can easily digest grains.
How to Prepare Cantaloupe
Just like any other vegetable, you have to prepare it in advance. Doing this ensures that the melons are free of chemicals, pesticides or herbicides that would harm your flock. You can also opt for pure organic vegetables, especially if you’re going to include the skin.
There are several ways you can prepare melons for consumption.
1. Wash Cantaloupe
Washing your melons significantly reduces your exposure to harmful chemicals. Rub the melon thoroughly with clean waterer before feeding your chickens.
2. Cut Cantaloupe into Slices
Whether you have several chickens or a flock, you can make eating easier by cutting the melon into halves or quarters. Place these pieces in your coop so the chickens can peck them.
Next, you can choose to chop the melons and feed them piece by piece. This method effectively regulates portion sizes. Apart from that, you can also refrigerate the cuts and feed your chickens later either alone or with other feeds.
3. Prepare the seeds and skin
If your flock prefers melon seeds, you can dry them beforehand to make them easier to eat. You can go further to grind it so you can mix it with other treats. When they are crushed, they can be combined with pellet feed to provide a nutritional boost.
As the least consumed part, the skin can also be dried and ground to be mixed with other foods. A little taste in their regular feed will keep them looking forward to mealtime.
What Are the Risks of Feeding Cantaloupe to Your Chickens?
Cantaloupes are generally safe but can be risky in some circumstances. Let’s discuss some of them.
1. Stale cantaloupe
Chickens peck at their food periodically. For parts like the peel, it might take a long time to finish. If you don’t remove leftover food from the coop, it will likely rot.
Feeding your chicken stale food can lead to problems like bacterial infections. It is always best to throw away anything that is moldy. Feeders should not keep pieces refrigerated for more than two days to avoid bacterial infection.
2. Unwanted rodent
If you don’t get rid of the leftovers right away, it can easily attract unwanted rodents into your chicken coop. Having these presents more health risks and requires proper strategies to eliminate them.
3. Overfeeding chickens
Cantaloupes are a meal and not a main meal. Chickens need a feed that provides most of the nutrients, with snacks serving only as a supplement. Therefore, you must be careful not to overfeed your livestock with melon.
Too much consumption can cause problems. Treats should ideally make up 5% of the entire diet. If you need to get the right amount, talk to your vet. Therefore, when you are planning your chicken meal, balance all the meals efficiently.
4. Cantaloupe with Chemicals
To avoid feeding chickens, food or snacks that contain harmful chemicals, it is recommended that you clean them properly. You can ensure the quality of your treats by cleaning them according to human consumption standards. Contaminated cantaloupe can easily infect your breed and even kill them.
Cantaloupes are a great addition to your chicken diet. Its high nutritional composition is beneficial for growth, bone formation, hydration, skin and coat development.
Despite these benefits, melons should not be relied on as a main food. They should be offered in moderation as a supplement. As much as the chicken eats all of the melon, you have to keep it fresh. Feeding them stale fruit can lead to a bacterial infection.
Cantaloupes are safe for your birds as long as they are fresh. Therefore, when you prepare food for your chickens, put the melons in the coop.
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