Advice on Feeding Your Chickens

"Just like the rest of us, chickens need a good balanced diet in order for them to stay healthy and productive. There are many views on what is best for feeding chickens and many accounts of grandmothers feeding their chickens nothing but kitchen scraps. However a lot of these birds were allowed to roam freely and therefore would have had access to extra protein in the form of juicy bugs, grubs and minerals from foraging widely. In addition chickens fed on kitchen scraps may have survived, but may not have been totally healthy or have reached anywhere near their egg laying potential.


Pellets or Mash

If you want to be sure of having healthy birds and abundant eggs, it is advisable to feed your chickens one of the all in one feeds that are now available, these contain the correct balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, for their age and their purpose, be it eggs, meat or both. These are available as pellets (layers pellets or growers pellets) or as a powdered mash. Layers pellets have about 16% protein content, which should be sufficient to keep your hens healthy and productive. The mash is slightly cheaper although the chickens will often just pick out bits from it and leave the rest; for this reason a lot of chicken keepers prefer the pellets. The food should be freely available and kept in a waterproof feeder, for the birds to help themselves to as they wish. Chicks or young growers will require chick crumbs and growers pellets.

Corn

Mixed corn is great as a treat and for getting chickens actively scratching around. It is usually made up of 80 to 90% wheat and 10 to 20% maize, but contains only 2.5% Protein. A handful for each hen late afternoon helps them to have a full crop overnight. Be careful not to give them too much, as the maize especially is very fattening, which is probably okay in moderation in cold weather. However if hens get too overweight their egg production will drop dramatically.

Scraps

I would never advise household scraps to make up any more than 25% of the chickens diet as it is too hard to monitor if the birds are getting a balanced enough diet. A good way of dealing with the scraps is to mix it into a mash with commercial mash feed. Adding water the mixture should be a damp crumbly texture. Be careful that there is nothing in the scraps which could get stuck in the chickens crop and cause problems.

Greens

If your birds are able to forage freely then they should have access to enough greenery. If not try to make sure they have access to cut grass and discarded parts of your cabbages and other greens will be appreciated.

Grit

Flint grit and oyster shell grit must also be available. Flint grit helps them grind down the food and the second is full of calcium to help them produce strong egg shells. Crumbled egg shells can also be provided."

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