- Ensure your backyard chickens’ health and productivity by providing them with a diverse and balanced diet.
- Be cautious of feeding chickens harmful foods like moldy items, chocolate, and avocado skins, which can lead to illness or death.
- Optimize your chickens’ egg production by providing key nutrients such as protein, calcium, and phosphorus while considering their age and dietary needs.
Chicken keeping is on the rise as more people want to know where their food comes from. Providing your backyard chickens with proper nutrition is key to keeping them healthy and productive. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about chicken feeding and diet.
Free Range Chickens Enjoy a Diverse Diet
Free range chickens kept with access to pasture are able to supplement their diet with plants, seeds, insects and worms. This diversity provides balanced nutrition. Free range chickens should still have access to a quality feed to ensure they get adequate protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Providing oyster shell calcium supplements is also recommended.
Providing Proper Nutrition for Confined Chickens
If your chickens are confined and can’t free range, you’ll need to provide them with a high-quality complete feed to make sure they get all the nutrients they need. Chicken feed provides essential nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals that chickens need to stay healthy and productive.
A balanced commercial feed contains grains, seeds, and supplements formulated specifically for chickens. Feed should be available at all times, and most chickens eat about 1/4 pound of feed per day. Providing adequate, quality chicken feed is important for egg production, growth, and overall chicken health and wellbeing.
When possible, choose an organic chicken feed that is free of GMOs, antibiotics, and artificial ingredients. Organic feed sources include organic corn, wheat, soybean meal, and fish meal. While more expensive than conventional feed, organic options ensure chickens get nutrients from all-natural sources grown without pesticides or chemicals. Whether you go with a conventional or organic feed, be sure to provide layer feed formulated for hens to support egg production.
Chicken scratch is a mix of grains and seeds that provides chickens with important nutrients. It typically contains corn, oats, barley, millet, and sunflower seeds. Feeding chicken scratch allows hens to get a balanced diet and can encourage natural foraging behaviors. Chicken scratch should be fed free-choice, allowing chickens to eat as much as they want, usually around 1-2 ounces per hen per day. It’s an affordable way to provide backyard chickens with supplemental nutrition.
Treats for Chickens
Chicken treats should be given in moderation. A common chicken treat is chicken scratch. Chicken scratch is a mix of grains and seeds that provides chickens with important nutrients. It typically contains corn, oats, barley, millet, and sunflower seeds. Feeding chicken scratch allows hens to get a balanced diet and can encourage natural foraging behaviors. Chicken scratch should be fed free-choice, allowing chickens to eat as much as they want, usually around 1-2 ounces per hen per day. It’s an affordable way to provide backyard chickens with supplemental nutrition.
Some healthy treat options include mealworms, chopped fruits and vegetables like watermelon, apples, lettuce, spinach, and sweet potato. Cooked eggs scrambled or hard boiled are also enjoyed by chickens. Yogurt and cottage cheese offer probiotics.
Foods Chickens Should Avoid
There are some foods that can be harmful to chickens. Avoid feeding chickens moldy food, rotting food scraps, dried beans, chocolate, avocado skins and pits, coffee grounds, raw potato peels, citrus fruits, and anything salty or sugary. These items can cause illness or even death in chickens.
Where To Set Up Chicken Feeders for Easy Access
Chickens should have a feeding area and easy access to their feed so they can eat frequently throughout the day. Feeders should be set up both inside the coop and outside in the run area. Using an automatic chicken feeder ensures chickens have a constant supply of feed available without the need for frequent manual refilling.
Elevated feeders prevent waste. Allow minimum 3 inches per chicken of feeder space.
Chickens are Hungry All Day Long
Chickens are natural foragers and will graze throughout the day if allowed access to pasture. Their feed should be available at all times inside the coop and run area. This allows them to snack often. Remove any uneaten feed at night to prevent rodents.
Feed Consumption Depends on Age and Egg Production
The amount a chicken eats will depend on its age, size and whether it is laying eggs. Chicks require more frequent small meals. Adults will consume around 1/4 pound of feed per day. Laying hens have higher nutritional needs and can eat up to 1/2 pound of feed daily.
Chickens Are Omnivores
Chickens are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. Chickens do not have teeth. Instead, they rely on a specialized digestive system to break down their food. Their feed consists mainly of grains, seeds, vegetable proteins and supplements. They forage for plants, worms and insects. Offering table scraps can add variety if you know which foods are safe for chickens.
Alternatives to Store Bought Feed
While commercial feed is the easiest way to ensure complete nutrition, there are alternative chicken foods you can give to your chickens. Homemade mixes can consist of whole grains like corn, oats or barley mixed with vegetable scraps, seeds or nuts. Laying hens also need oyster shell calcium supplement.
Feed Requirements Change As Chickens Age
Chickens have different diet requirement depending on age. Baby chicks need a special high protein starter feed. At 6-8 weeks they can transition to grower feed. At 16-18 weeks pullets are mature enough for regular layer feed. This feed has added calcium and nutrients for egg production. Roosters and older hens can stay on layer feed.
Optimize Diet for Maximum Egg Production
The key nutrients needed for prime egg production are protein, calcium, and phosphorus. A commercial layer feed has these nutrients balanced optimally. Supplement with oyster shell calcium. Quantity of feed consumed can be increased for heavy egg-laying breeds.
Frequently Asked Questions
What food do chickens need daily?
Chickens need a balanced diet that includes grains, protein sources like worms or bugs, grit for digestion, and fresh water. Their main daily food should be a grain-based commercial feed or scratch grains like corn, wheat, oats. They also need calcium from sources like crushed eggshells.
What foods can chickens not eat?
Chickens should avoid spoiled or moldy food, excess greens, citrus, dry beans, avocados, chocolate, caffeine, salt. Don’t feed chickens onion, garlic or anything else in the allium family. Avoid feeding them these items to ensure their health and well-being.
Can you overfeed chickens?
Yes, it’s possible to overfeed chickens. This can lead to wasted food, obesity, and health issues. Follow package directions for feed amounts and watch your chickens’ weight. Obese chickens are prone to joint issues and egg laying problems.
How much food should a chicken eat per day?
On average, chickens eat about 1/4 pound of feed per day. This equates to about 1 cup of feed for standard-sized chickens. The exact amount depends on factors like breed, age, weather conditions, and whether they forage for additional food.
How many times a day should you feed chickens?
Chickens should be fed twice daily, once in the morning and again in the evening. It’s best to keep their feeder full between meals so they can snack as wanted. Always provide fresh, clean water at all times.