What To Feed Chickens

Filed in The Basics by on 29th May 2017 0 Comments

You will be please to know that chickens will peck, scratch and eat at literally anything you throw at them, though there are some things you must avoid feeding them at all costs, I have created another post on 5 things chickens cannot eat.

Generally, the chicken will eat almost anything, or at least try to! They will gulp down meal worms, garden worms and any other bugs they find within the run or the garden. They also eat a lot of boring foods such as vegetables, fruits, flowers, grass and weeds. They also eat grains and seeds. So I guess your question here is not what to feed chickens, more like what is the best diet to give them?

A Little History

During the 19th century when our own food was basic and scarce, chickens were pure scavengers. They were generally kept in barns and left to their own devices, when they were hatched they was instantly taught to look for grains, bugs and all manner of edible things. Kitchen scraps were tossed into the mix such as old fruit and vegetables along with bits of bread for them to peck at, hens in the 19th century were not prolific layers by all accounts, instead they only laid around 90 eggs per year! Many of them were destined for the dinner table instead.

There was an increase in the need for eggs so more chickens were bred for the purpose of egg collection, instead of the 90 eggs per year, chickens were able to lay an incredible 300+ per year.

what do chickens eat

Chicken Layers Pellets

Layers pellets form a complete balanced diet for the laying hen. Creating an egg everyday is very tiring for the chicken and it uses up so much nutrition and energy that they needed a health balanced diet to replace what is lost. The pellets have the correct proportion of all proteins, minerals and energy that they require to lay all those eggs.

  • Contain essential nutrients to promote good health and well-being as well as supporting egg production.
  • Good quality proteins and acids for feather and tissue production and all important egg development.
  • Wheat which is micronised for the all important carbohydrates and fiber.
  • Contains important omega 6 acids along with plant extracts such as paprika for a nice golden yolk.
  • With Sel-Plex┬« organic selenium which supports the body’s antioxidant defense system and immunity as well as egg shell integrity.
  • Small pellets make it easier to digest.

chicken feed

Your chickens need access to layers pellets all day long, trust me, I know this because I ran out of pellets and fed them on corn. This fattened them up and stopped production of the eggs, so it is really important they get the pellets to continue productions all year round. It takes around 24 hours to create just one egg, hens store the food they eat in the crop. The crop is the pouch in their throat where they store the food which is digested when they are sleeping, yes, they are still building the egg when asleep!

Note: If their digestive tract is empty, she wont be able to produce and eggs, so let her eat what she wants.

Shell And Grit

Although the layer pellets do contain lots of calcium, it is really good to add other sources. You can use oyster shell which you can break up, it does not need to be too fine. Many people only have one feeder for their flock but I tend to have 2-3 per 5 chickens, simply because I like to split up the layers pellets from oyster shell and also grit.

chicken grit food

Chickens will also need grit, tiny rocks kind of like sand on a beach. They need this because it helps with digestion, without it, the hens are less efficient at making the most out of the nutrients within the food.

Tip: If you run out of grit, don’t worry you can use their own eggs shells! No, really… once you have use the egg white and yolk, keep the shell and put that sucker in the oven until it is bone dry. Take it out and let it cool, once cool you can crush it into a grit like substance and give it to your flock, it works just the same as grit does!

Vegetables and Kitchen Scraps

The layers pellets grit and oyster shell should not be the only thing in the hens diet, let’s face it… would you like to eat the same thing day-in day-out? No, I didn’t think so! Chickens love to scratch around in the dirt looking for bugs and greens, this is essential for keeping a health flock.

If you plan on keeping your chickens “cooped up” (sorry, couldn’t help it!) then you will need to supply your chickens with in other ways.

feed chicken kitchen scraps

Your hens will appreciate any scrap food that you have left-over from your family dinners, they will eat just about anything from old soggy green beans to stale bread. As with every living bird, there are some things they will not eat and that comes with their own personal preference, for example, I know people with hens who absolutely love cooked potato skins but my flock will turn their beaks up at it. One thing they will appreciate though is freshly cut grass in the summer, I will empty the lawnmower into their run and put the rest onto the compost pile.

Try not to offer too many things that have a lot of carbs in such as bread and cereal as your birds will get fat and wont get the protein they need to produce eggs. You may also hang cabbages inside of the coop for them to peck away at, you can use string or a rope system for this, they will appreciate it as they will have something to do and it will keep them occupied.

Meal Worms And Other Treats

There is nothing more satisfying than to sit there and watch your flock peck away at treats they love so much, but beware! I have seen quite a lot of people over-indulge with the treats and end up with sick hens. You can make any one of your chickens sick and even kill her/them. A food they love (this is where I went wrong) is cracked corn, it is like going to a candy shop for them but on the other side of it, they provide no nutritional value to egg production, just pure calories! Mine put on so much weight when I fed it to them for a couple of weeks.

Another treat which is largely over-fed is the meal-worm. Chickens do absolutely love this treat and many hen owners do buy them for this purpose, but many also over feed them far too many. It makes a great addition to the diet though as they are packed with 50% proteins, even still, one spoon full per day is all that is needed. Too many meal-worms can result in kidney failure, it could also mean a lighter wallet since meal-worms are a little on the expensive side.

what do feed chickens

Over-feeding your chickens on meal-worms is taking the whole active life aspect away from your hens too, since poking, prodding and scratching around the run all day is what they need to do, they should find their own food through the course of the day to fill their crops. If you want to keep them active, put your compost heap into the run itself, there is nothing more they like than to peck and scratch away at that – not only this but chickens actually actively speed up the composting process quite a lot and you will have amazing soil in no time at all, oh and might I mention it will also contain manure – all free!

I have seen shops selling blocks of chicken treats that go into the coop or the run, don’t even bother with these since they attract more vermin than anything, the flock won’t even be interested in such things. I myself wasted money on items such as these and they never even got touched, in fact, they just knocked them over and ignored them completely.

When look at what to feed chickens, you can give them treat, just in moderation it does not mean you cannot spoil your hens.


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