OK, so we haven''t been able to find a source of organic chicken scratch in Southwest Michigan, which is disappointing, but we're still working on it. In order to keep our chickens as healthy and organic as possible, we supplement with a number of things, in addition to the standard layer mash they receive daily. I've learned what some of their favorites are, in order of preference:
Bugs and worms! Whenever I am in the garden, I take a cup with me, throw in any bugs that I need to hand-pick off the plants, and then when I'm done, give 'em to the chickens. They love it! They actually fight over the bugs, and it's quite entertaining to watch the chickens steal a worm back and forth from each other 5 or 6 times until one of them actually gobbles it down. NOTE: Although the chickens will eat horn worms, I've found that I have to cut the worm into small pieces (too big and scary, perhaps?). Also, if I give them too many in one day, they will stop eating them. Those fluorescent green guts must not be too appetizing. (NOTE: If they can catch one, the chickens will eat small frogs and toads as well.)
Bread: We don't like to eat the end pieces in my house, so I save those for the chickens, break them up into tiny pieces, and let them feast! Also, any bread, pita, or crackers that have gotten a little stale but not yet moldy will be gobbled up eagerly, too.
Broccoli and cauliflower leaves: I have no idea why, but they go crazy for these. If I pick a head of broccoli or cauliflower, and there are any small leaves attached, I strip them off and give them to the chickens. Or else I'll just selectively take a big leaf here or there from the plants. I imagine the leaves are quite healthy, too, just by the nutrient level of the vegetable.
Carrot greens: Another favorite, they just go crazy for!
Wild bird seed: Though more expensive than your typical chicken scratch, they really seem to enjoy a cupful of wild bird seed every now and then (the kind I fill my bird feeders with).
Corn on the cob: We had a ton of corn, and when the corn started to get a bit starchy but was still edible, we threw the cobs into the coop. The chickens love to pick all the kernels out, and their beaks do so very efficiently. Also, after we've eaten corn, I take our cobs out there- apparently a lot of corn is still left on the cob that the chickens can get at with their pointy beaks.
Oatmeal: Every morning I make our (very spoiled) chickens some warm oatmeal, mixed with kelp flakes (which are an incredibly wonderful source of many minerals and vitamins), milk (for the calcium, which makes strong eggs), and either quinoa or barley. They absolutely love it. In fact, that is an understatement. When they see me coming with the oatmeal, they start running and clucking like crazy!
Weeds: The chickens love fresh greens, pretty much of any kind. I pick weeds daily and throw them in the coop. They will pick off the leaves. They like some weeds more than others, so you just have to experiment. They like small flowers, too. I've found it works best to gather a bunch, fasten them to the inside of the coop fence with a twist tie, so that the greens are hanging down at chicken-level, and they can easily peck at and pick off the leaves without any trouble.
Leftover rice and pasta (without sauce): Whenever we have plain leftover rice or pasta that goes uneaten or is about to go bad, I add it to the chickens' oatmeal. They love it, and it keeps me from having to throw out and waste our leftovers.
Melon and apples: Any rinds, seeds, or fruit that is starting to go bad gets set aside for the chickens. They just love fruit!
One thing we have learned is that we definitely will not be able to let our chickens roam our garden, as some organic gardening enthusiasts suggest. They love plants too much! It is obvious that they would decimate our plant population very quickly. Maybe if I didn't feed them greens.... but we do, and so we can't, and so it is.....