Alternatives to Oatmeal for Chickens (2024)

What’s warm, cheap, easy to make, and something that chickens love on cold winter mornings? Oatmeal why of course! However, there are also many other treats that fall into those same categories and are even healthier for your flock than oatmeal! Oatmeal is not downright terrible for chickens, but there are so many healthier options that I love to give my flock during the winter! Having too much of a good thing is true for chickens too, that’s why these alternatives to oatmeal for chickens will help keep your flock healthy as well as warm and stress free this winter!

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Why Look for Alternatives?

So, if oatmeal isn’t necessarily bad for chickens, and they seem to love it, why look for alternatives? Well, oatmeal isn’t necessarily good for chickens either. Like most treats, oatmeal is great to offer on occasion, but certainly not on a regular basis. With winter weather setting in, it’s very tempting to start giving your flock more warm,tasty oatmeal than is healthy for them. By having alternatives, you can keep your flock both warm and healthy all winter long. In my article on Is Oatmeal Good for Chickens? I discuss the pros and cons of feeding oatmeal.

Here are just a few reasons why I recommend making oatmeal a limited treat option:

  • Oats contain beta-glucans, which are hard for chickens to digest and which can actually build up in a chicken’s intestines and cause a blockage.
  • They are a carbohydrate, meaning they provide quick energy, not long lasting energy that will help the chicken stay warm for an extended period of time.
  • The high fiber content of oats makes them difficult to digest and reduces the amount of nutrition that can be absorbed.
  • Making oats into oatmeal is actually diluting the nutritional value of the oats, thus making them a less nutritionally rich treat.

Oatmeal is fine for chickens when it is offered only occasionally. It can even provide some health benefits! I enjoy watching my flock dive into a bowl of oatmeal on a brisk winter day, but I enjoy making it through the winter with no casualties and a healthy flock even more! That’s why I use these healthy oatmeal alternatives for my chickens!

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Healthy Oatmeal Alternatives

Heated Mash Feed

The healthiest alternative to oatmeal is actually using your flock’s regular layer feed as a treat! Now, this works best if you already use a whole grain or mash layer feed since they will result in the most oatmeal-like consistency. Basically, you heat a 1:1 ratio of water and layer feed over medium heat, just like you would fix a pot of oatmeal. Once the water and feed mixture has thickened, you can remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly before giving it to your flock.

If you don’t use a whole grain or mash chicken feed (learn why those are the best feeds here!) then you can still make this healthy oatmeal alternative work. Just buy a small bag of whole grain poultry feed and use it for making the warm mash with.

This option is the healthiest for your flock since you are technically just giving them what they would normally eat on a daily basis. A complete feed should have all the essential nutrients and dietary elements in the right quantities. When you heat it up and use it as treat, you are just giving them a portion of their regular diet.

Personally, this is the healthy oatmeal alternative that uses the most with my flock during the winter!


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The second best alternative to oatmeal is quinoa. Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal that is very high in protein. In fact, it is even one of the few plant-based sources that could be considered a complete protein, meaning it has a complete amino-acid profile. It is also high in energy, calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins. The nutrients present in quinoa compliment your flock’s daily diet very nicely.

This is all great for your flock! You can prepare quinoa just like you would oatmeal and give them a super nutritious, protein-packed, warm treat. My flock loves quinoa, especially when it is topped with dried bugs like mealworms or black soldier fly larvae!


Buckwheat is another pseudo-cereal that is high in protein and has an excellent amino acid profile. Again, buckwheat can be prepared just like oatmeal and chickens love it just as much as oatmeal!

I don’t use buckwheat as often for an oatmeal alternative because it does contain more anti-nutritional factors than some of the other oatmeal alternatives that I have mentioned. The presence of anti-nutritional factors means your flock can’t digest the nutritional benefits of buckwheat quite as well as treats that are low in anti-nutritional factors.

Soaked Seeds & Whole Grains

Soaking seeds and whole grains in warm or hot water can create mixtures that are very similar to oatmeal! Soaking seeds and whole grains in water starts the germination process, which in turn enhances the nutrients in the seed or grain. Seeds and grains that have been soaked in water for at least 24 hours will have higher protein content and nutrition then compared to raw, un-soaked seeds and grains.

A great oatmeal alternative that still utilizes the cheapness of whole oats is soaking the whole oats overnight in water. Soaking the oats instead of cooking them like you would for oatmeal enhances their nutrition and makes them easier for your flock to digest.

Some seeds that you can soak to make an oatmeal alternative include flax seeds and chia seeds. Both of these seeds have a tendency to absorb moisture and will quickly make a thick, oatmeal-like consistency when allowed to set in warm or hot water.


Millet, or pearl millet, is an excellent healthy alternative for oatmeal! It is one of my top alternative choices and ranks right up there with quinoa and layer mash feed.

Millet is high in protein and is very low in anti-nutritional factors. This means the nutritional components in millet are easily digested by chickens and benefit them more! Another great thing about millet is that it doesn’t have to be heat treated to reduce digestion inhibitors.

Millet also improves the fatty acid profile of eggs. When laying hens are fed millet, their eggs are higher in omega-3 fatty acids!

However, it should still be fed in moderation since millet does contain saponins which can eventually damage the digestive tract lining.


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Meat Scraps

Another healthy oatmeal alternative for your flock are leftover meat scraps. The meat scraps can be heated up and served warm to make a nice, warm treat for your flock on a cold day!

Meat scraps are high in protein and add great variety to your flock’s diet. Since their diet already consists of many different grains, adding some meat into their diet is especially beneficial during the winter when they can’t free-range.

If you don’t often have meat scraps leftover to give to your flock, you can add dried bugs to any of the other oatmeal alternatives to incorporate some great meat-based protein into their diet.

You do have to be careful with meat scrap treats though. Often times leftover meat scraps can contain quite a bit of fat and hard to digest materials such as skin and gristle. So be careful about what meat scraps you give your flock.

Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs are an egg-cellent oatmeal alternative! Eggs contain all the essential nutrients for survival and they are high in protein. When scrambled up and served warm, they make a great nutritious treat that chickens love!

No, feeding them scrambled eggs will not turn them into egg eaters. They do not associate the cooked, scrambled, yellow egg with the hard-shelled eggs that they lay. When I can afford to, I love scrambling up my flock some extra eggs for them to enjoy!

Cooked Squash

Lastly, another great healthy oatmeal alternative is cooked winter squash. Winter squash is high in vitamins and minerals that can supplement your flock’s daily feed ration. Compared to other treats, squash is a great nutrient-dense food that adds variety to your flock’s diet.

Winter squashes are also pretty cheap during the fall. Farmers markets and farm stands will be clearing out their fall squash stashes and you can probably get a whole bunch for pretty cheap change!

Anytime you can incorporate meat-based protein and vegetable-based nutrition into your flock’s diet, the better off they will be. These sources of dietary elements are not in their daily layer feed ration which is comprised of whole grains and seeds. Incorporating the meat and vegetable elements into your flock’s diet makes a great healthy treat for them that adds variety to their winter diet.

My flock loves cooked winter squash and will devour the skin, seeds, and flesh in a skinny minute!

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Why Are They Healthier?

You may be wondering, what exactly makes these oatmeal alternatives healthier? Aside from their own individual nutritional compositions, I chose these oatmeal alternatives for a couple of reasons.

Protein Profile

First off, a lot of these oatmeal alternatives have an amazing protein profile! Meaning their amino acid profile is superior to oatmeal. Having a great protein profile allows your flock to benefit even more from the protein contained in the treat. Protein helps chickens build antibodies to fight disease.

It is also a dietary element that gets used up on a constant basis and is especially utilized when a chicken is under any kind of stress (like cold stress). So high protein treats can help your flock physically deal with cold stress better and be less prone to disease and illness. The oatmeal alternatives that are especially noted for their protein composition are quinoa, buckwheat, millet, meat scraps, and scrambled eggs.

Superior Nutrition

Second, these oatmeal alternatives may also have a superior overall nutritional composition. Meaning their nutritional composition is better balanced and complete than oatmeal. When your flock consumes a nutritionally rich treat, they are getting a little bit of a whole bunch of nutritional elements like vitamins, minerals, fats, carbs, and proteins, rather than a whole lot of a single nutritional element, which can be detrimental.

That’s not to say that some treats aren’t valued for their excellent source of a single dietary element. It’s just that those treats should instead be used like a supplement if your flock is lacking in that dietary element. The oatmeal alternatives especially noted for their rich nutritional composition are whole grain feed, seeds, squash, and scrambled eggs.


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Beneficial to the Diet

Aside from being high in protein and providing excellent nutrition, these oatmeal alternatives add many other benefits to your flock’s diet. Here are a few more reasons why you want to consider adding oatmeal alternatives into your flock’s winter diet:

  • They are easier for your flock to digest which allows their nutritional value to be utilized more readily.
  • They create a more varied diet and some provide elements that are not already present in your flock’s daily feed.
  • The high protein content produces internal heat when it is digested which can help the bird stay warm internally.
  • Adding protein to the diet provides a source of long-lasting energy that will help your flock stay warm.
  • The added protein will also help your flock fight disease and deal with cold stress better.
  • Many of these oatmeal alternatives are also a more complete source of protein than oatmeal.

Warm Treat

Lastly, these oatmeal alternatives don’t lack in the quality that oatmeal is most valued for in the winter, they can be made up and served warm to your flock on a cold day!All the healthy oatmeal alternatives that I listed above can be heated up, soaked in warm water, or prepared in such a way so they can be served warm to your flock.

Giving your flock warm treats on cold winter days will give them a little boost of warmth so that their body can focus on other essential systems for a little bit without having to divert more energy into staying warm.

Keep in mind that when you give your flock a warm treat first thing in the morning, it will compromise some of their daily diet that should be mostly of a complete chicken feed. The heated up mash feed is a great solution to this problem! Other oatmeal alternatives that wouldn’t be too detrimental is fed in the morning on occasion are quinoa, winter squash, and scrambled eggs.


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These alternatives to oatmeal for chickens will hopefully give you lots of options for spoiling your flock in a healthy way this winter! My flock’s top favorites are quinoa, scrambled eggs, meat scraps, and winter squash. They enjoy these treats just as much as a bowl of oatmeal! I love that I can still give my flock a warm treat on a cold, winter day while knowing that the nutrition in the treat is complimenting and adding variety to their diet.

Need more homestead poultry advice for taking of your flock through the winter? Make sure you are a part of our modern pioneer newsletter! Also, check out our ebook that is dedicated to winter chicken keeping!

Keep your flock warm and healthy with winter!

by Alexa


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Alternatives to Oatmeal for Chickens (2024)


Alternatives to Oatmeal for Chickens? ›

The gourmet alternative to oatmeal for chickens

Which is better for chickens, wheat or oats? ›

Finely ground wheat becomes sticky when wet, sticks to the beaks of chickens and can cause beak impaction, (mouth ulcers) which may reduce feed consumption. Oats are a good grain for growing chickens where rapid growth is not critical, such as egg-type pullets.

Can chickens eat oatmeal every day? ›

They certainly can! Oatmeal for chickens is one of my favorite treats to serve my flock in the winter. Warm oatmeal for chickens is a nutritious, energizing snack for them. Chickens love oats, which are an excellent source of vitamins, protein, and antioxidants.

Can you feed cinnamon to chickens? ›

Cinnamon contains very active compounds, including essential oils (EOs) and phenolics, which possess potent anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities that act as defensive agents against oxidative damage in the chicken intestinal tract.

What are the healthiest grains for chickens? ›

Of the small grains that are available, wheat can slow digestion but is a good substitute for and is higher in protein than corn; barley is less palatable; oats have less energy and are fibrous; rye inhibits growth; millet is a good energy substitute but is low is protein.

What grain is best for chickens? ›

Wheat is a major energy source for chickens. If you can find both varieties, buy hard red wheat and soft white wheat for the best nutritional balance. Otherwise, feed only hard red wheat, as it contains more protein (around 15 percent).

What type of oats are best for chickens? ›

Some research reports indicate that up to 66% of naked oats can be included in layer diets with no adverse effects on egg yolk, feed intake, egg weight, or egg production.

How long do you soak oats for chickens? ›

  1. Cover grains with water.
  2. 3 days will sprout.
  3. 5-7 days will be growing.
  4. JFA~~Speckled Sussex Chickens enjoying the soaked grains.

Can chickens eat black oil sunflower seeds in the shell? ›

Commonly used in wild-bird feeders, black oil sunflower seeds contain approximately 50 percent fat and 20 percent protein, making them a great source of energy. These seeds also feature thin shells, making them easy for chickens (and other birds) to eat.

What is the best food for chickens everyday? ›

The 10 Best Chicken Feeds
  • Healthy Harvest Whole & Hearty 17% Protein Layer Chicken Feed, 30-lb bag. ...
  • Dr. ...
  • Kalmbach Feeds All Natural 16% Protein Layer Crumbles Chicken Feed, 50-lb bag. ...
  • Nutrena NatureWise All Flock 20% Protein Pellet Chicken Feed, 40-lb bag.

Can chickens eat cooked oatmeal in the winter? ›

Let the oats cool a little, add your toppings and serve to your flock. It's that simple! *Never serve cooked oats to chickens (or other birds) as they are sticky and may 'glue' a birds beak closed as they dry.

What is a natural anti inflammatory for chickens? ›

In addition, turmeric has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties, which can help boost the immune system of poultry and reduce the need for antibiotics. Studies have shown that turmeric can improve growth performance, and gut health, and reduce the incidence of disease in poultry.

What spices help chickens lay eggs? ›

Fennel, Marjoram, Nasturtium, and Parsley are egg-laying stimulants. (Check out this post on why chickens stop laying eggs.) Cilantro, Sage, Spearmint, and Tarragon are great for general health. Alfalfa, Basil and Dandelion greens create orange egg yolks.

Should I soak wheat before feeding chickens? ›

Most grains can be soaked, though rolled or flaked oats or wheat will get soggy, chickens love it. Other grains will soften, but not become soggy in the soaking process.

Is wheat enough for chickens? ›

Whole grain wheat is deficient for poultry in protein, calcium, and vitamins, especially vitamin A, and the phosphorus content can vary widely. Therefore, the basis of a poultry diet should be a good quality commercial feed.

What are the benefits of wheat for chickens? ›

The beneficial effects of the coarse grinding of the ingredients (and therefore of the whole wheat) are related to the improvements in the functioning of the GIT and, in particular of the gizzard, where it improves the functioning with an increase in size and a reduction in pH which benefits the activity of pepsin and ...

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