What to Feed Chickens?

If you’re just getting started keeping laying hens or meat poultry on your small farm, you may be wondering what chickens eat to maintain their health. It helps to know the best diet you can provide for your chickens and poultry when they’re roaming and foraging outside in a pasture or a run.

Birds raised for meat and poultry kept for eggs require different diets. Meat birds raised indoors or on a pasture are small, but voracious eaters, and require mostly high-protein feed to reach top weight efficiently.

The feed needs to be monitored to help the birds avoid overeating, which could lead to fatalities. Meat birds raised outdoors in a pasture eat a more rounded and healthier diet by foraging on plants, insects, and small animals in addition to feed. Unfortunately, all chickens think non-food items, such as Styrofoam, are edible, and some munch on the pine shavings of their litter, so you’ll also need to make sure they don’t eat what they’re not supposed to.

Besides the main feed, there are quite a few kitchen scraps that pastured chickens (not raised for meat) can gobble up. Beef and pork scraps (including gristle, tendons, and fat) Cooked rice and pasta Cooked vegetables Dairy such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese Eggshells and oyster shells (for calcium) Fats and oils (congealed to pudding texture) Fish and fish skin (but avoid bones) Fresh fruits (apples, grapes, and bananas to name a few) Stale bread and crackers (avoid moldy items) Wilted salad greens Avocados Chicken scraps (can spread disease through cannibalism) Chocolate Coffee or coffee grinds Peels from potatoes or citrus fruits Processed foods Salt (pure) Soft drinks

Hens that are raised primarily on pasture with a healthy diet produce eggs that boast bouncy, deep orange yolks and thick, viscous whites. If you are raising meat birds primarily on pasture, you should be aware that they will not grow as quickly as those confined and fed broiler rations. The meat is dense from the exercise they get (yet still tender) and their omega-3 content is higher than their grain-fed, sedentary counterparts.

Pasturing requires more elements to keep the chickens protected from predators , including a livestock guardian dog and/or fencing. Remember, they can also go a day or two without feed, and longer without experiencing any real issue as long as they are eating general kitchen scraps.

What do you feed chickens daily?

In addition to a good quality poultry feed, a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables can also be given daily. Examples of raw fruits and vegetables that can be fed include: vegetable peels, bananas, apple, berries, carrot, bok choy, silver beet, spinach, cabbage or broccoli.

What should you not feed chickens?

Avocadoes (mainly the pit and peel) As with most of the things on this list, I was able to find several people who report feeding avocado to their flock without problem. ….Chocolate or Candy. ….Citrus. ….Green Potato Skins. ….Dry Beans. ….Junk Food. ….Moldy or Rotten Food.

What household foods can you feed chickens?

Lettuce, kale, turnip greens and chard are great greens options. Watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries make healthy snacks for chickens when fed in moderation. A few flock favorites include: Vegetables: Lettuce, beets, broccoli, carrots, kale, swiss chard, squash, pumpkins and cucumbers.

What do you feed chickens to lay eggs?

You don’t have to go crazy with some cutting-edge feed that’s guaranteed to make your chickens produce eggs the size of a garden gnome. It’s recommended that you use a diet of premium laying mash or pellet, along with occasional fresh fruit. vegetables, meal worms and other healthy treats.

Feeding your chickens is one of, if not the most important, tasks when it comes to raising backyard chickens. Get it right, and you will have a healthy flock who merrily cluck every time you bring them one of their favorite snacks or kitchen scraps!

We think what makes it tricky are some of the false myths posted online about what you can and cant feed your chickens (such as feeding your chickens potato skin is bad for them- this is false! The basis of any good chicken diet is a high-quality poultry pellet ( source ).

We feed our girls layers pellets which provide them with the right amount of protein and minerals to lay eggs! Pellets normally contain wheat, salt, maize, sunflower seed, and oats. Feeding your chickens pellets ensures that they get vital vitamins, nutrients, and minerals from their food source to keep them healthy.

This is even more important if your girls dont have much outdoor space- because they wont get minerals and salt from the ground. In addition to their core diet of pellets, you can feed them grains such as corn or wheat to give them some variety. Chickens love fruit and vegetables, and you can give them this daily.

Our girls love vegetable peels, bananas, apple cores, carrots, and broccoli. You are safe to feed chickens pretty much any vegetable or fruit except any raw green peels (such as green potato peel) and any citric fruits such as oranges and lemons. A good quality feed will ensure your hens are healthy and laying eggs.

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Healthier Feathers – This product is better than bulk dried mealworms and helps keep your girls’ feathers healthy and grow back quicker during molting season. We feed our chickens pellets once in the morning and once in the evening- remember they like to eat small portions but often. We put our pellets into a chicken trough to keep them clean and dry.

Be careful not to leave any pellets or feed them out overnight because this will attract pests such as mice. If you are constantly finding feed in the trough, then reduce the amount you give them slightly. We have 12 hybrids and find that 4 large handfuls each morning and evening keep them happy.

Interesting side-note: a hen needs roughly 4 pounds of chicken feed to produce 12 eggs ( source ). One thing to keep an eye on whilst you are feeding them is to make sure the most dominant (remember our discussion on the pecking order? ) You can place the water in any plastic container, but the easiest way is to buy a drinker.

If you live in a colder climate during the winter, the water will probably freeze over during the evenings, so make sure to break the ice up and clean out the bowl in the mornings. One of the many benefits of keeping chickens is that the vast majority of your kitchen waste can be fed to them. Make sure to feed your chickens wholesome foods, such as rice, pasta, oats, fruits, vegetables, and wholemeal bread.

When we feed our girls scraps, we tend to just cut it up into small (thumbnail-sized) pieces and throw this straight onto the floor into their pen. Youd be amazed at some of the scraps your chickens eat- pizza, spaghetti, and porridge, to name a few! Before you feed your chickens kitchen scraps, make sure to check your local regulations, as in certain places ( such as the UK ), this can surprisingly be illegal.

Weve covered lots of food throughout the article that you shouldnt feed chickens so that we wont repeat them. That may sound like the complete opposite of every old movie showcasing chickens. You probably picture a farmer with an apron nonchalantly tossing corn to her chickens.

Throwing feed on the ground in a coop is not the same as tossing a few snacks to chickens who have the run of the yard. A great email we received from a reader last week was how do I tell if my chickens diet isnt right? The first thing to say is, if you noticed a significant change in their eating habits, be sure to get a vet to look at them as soon as possible.

If you are looking for a handy cheat sheet, be sure to check out this , which the Australian Governments Agricultural department produced. Yes, in many places, including the United States, you cannot legally feed a chicken. This law helps reduce the risk of diseases that only affect certain species.

It would be best if you never fed your chickens avocado (specifically the peel and pit), candy, chocolate, citrus, dry beans, rotten or moldy food, green potato skins, or junk food. It simply is not suitable for your chickens to feed them insect protein. They will simply peck off and eat the soft tissues, fat, skin, and meat if you do this.

Happy Coop Door – Weatherproof Automatic Chicken Coop Door Open/Close with Timer/Light Sensor, Predator Resistant Self-Locking Gears, Protection Sensor Plug and Play Design – Takes 10 minutes to install the door Up to 6 Months of Power with AA batteries – You don’t need an outlet for the door to work, it functions on 4 AA batteries or a 6V battery (adapter included) Protection Sensor – Built-in sensor when closing to detect when there is an obstruction under the door to prevent injury to chickens Protects Chickens From Predators – Due to it’s design, the notches the gear uses to open and close the door act as a self locking mechanism that prevents predators from breaking into the chicken coop. With this your chickens are protected and you can enjoy fresh eggs in the morning Door Will Open if Hell Freezes Over, Rain or Shine – Our weatherproof design has been tested to work during rainy weather as well as extreme cold temperatures as cold as 5F HAPPY GRUBS – ULTIMATE MIXTURE OF WHOLE, HALF, AND POWDER OF BSFL FEED – CHICKEN FEED MIXTURE – 50X-80X More Calcium Than Meal Worms – NON-GMO, Molting Treatment, Great For Wild Birds, Reptiles, Ducks Egg Armor For Your Girls Eggs – Mixture of whole, half, bits AND POWDER of black soldier fly larvae that you can mix in your chicken’s feed.

Healthier Feathers – This product is better than bulk dried mealworms and helps keep your girls’ feathers healthy and grow back quicker during molting season. Disclosure: We may earn affiliate commissions at no cost to you from the links on this page.

Healthy chicken treats can be fed in moderation along with a complete chicken feed. Be sure to follow the 90/10 rule offer 90% complete feed to a maximum of 10% treats each day.

As backyard chicken raisers, we love to treat our girls especially as temperatures warm up and the flock spends more time outside. To prevent nutrient dilution, provide complete feed for at least 90 percent of the birds diet.

The remaining 10 percent can be filled with chicken treats, table scraps or scratch grains. Laying hens eat approximately 0.25 pounds of complete feed each day, which is about the same as one-half cup. Wait until the first egg to introduce treats as growing birds require all 38 nutrients in their starter-grower feed to support strong growth.

Treats like scraps, scratch grains and mealworms are like candy for birds, which can quickly spoil their diet. Hens receive a mix of grains with vitamins, minerals and amino acids in every bite. The high protein treat option provides an extra nutritional boost to keep birds strong during times like molt.

Watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries make healthy snacks for chickens when fed in moderation. A few flock favorites include: Vegetables: Lettuce, beets, broccoli, carrots, kale, swiss chard, squash, pumpkins and cucumbers Herbs: Lavender, mint, oregano, parsley, cilantro, thyme and basil Perennials: Daylilies, hostas, daisies, roses, coneflowers and ferns Undercooked or dried beans can be harmful because they contain a compound known as hemagglutinin, which can inhibit digestion of everything the bird eats .

Rhubarb damaged by the severe cold can also contain a high concentration of oxalic acid, which can be fatal to chickens.

Tip

Chickens rummage for earthworms, insects, and slugs of all kinds to eat. You may even see a rooster catch a mouse to feed his hens. However, most poultry also like to eat the following tips and seeds of the following growing grasses and weeds:

What to Feed Chickens on the Farm

Birds raised for meat and poultry kept for eggs require different diets. Typically, backyard and small farm chickens raised for eggs can eat appropriate food scraps from the farm household in addition to feed. Meat birds raised indoors or on a pasture are small, but voracious eaters, and require mostly high-protein feed to reach top weight efficiently. The feed needs to be monitored to help the birds avoid overeating, which could lead to fatalities. You’ll also need to determine whether to vaccinate your meat birds to be able to give them non-medicated feed. Meat birds raised outdoors in a pasture eat a more rounded and healthier diet by foraging on plants, insects, and small animals in addition to feed.

Warning

Unfortunately, all chickens think non-food items, such as Styrofoam, are edible, and some munch on the pine shavings of their litter, so you’ll also need to make sure they don’t eat what they’re not supposed to.

Tip

Besides the main feed, there are quite a few kitchen scraps that pastured chickens (not raised for meat) can gobble up. There are also certain foods from the kitchen which are dangerous for poultry to eat. Here’s what chickens and hens love to eat from the kitchen:

Warning

Raw potatoes can be poisonous to chickens due to glycoalkaloids.

Pasturing Chickens

Should you pasture your chickens or provide a chicken run? Any outdoor time for chickens will create healthier, more relaxed poultry. Whether you pasture or provide a run depends on the space you have for your chickens.

Benefits of Pasturing

Hens that are raised primarily on pasture with a healthy diet produce eggs that boast bouncy, deep orange yolks and thick, viscous whites. If you are raising meat birds primarily on pasture, you should be aware that they will not grow as quickly as those confined and fed broiler rations. The meat is dense from the exercise they get (yet still tender) and their omega-3 content is higher than their grain-fed, sedentary counterparts.

Tip

Pasturing requires more elements to keep the chickens protected from predators, including a livestock guardian dog and/or fencing.

Benefits of a Run

If you can’t pasture your chickens but can let them have access to a run (a fenced-in area outside the coop, which will also need to be protected from predators), they will be happier will be able to get some supplemental insects, even if the floor of the run gets pecked down to bare dirt. They will also be able to sun bathe and dust bathe which are natural and relaxing behaviors.

Emergency Feed

You can hard boil and chop eggs (or scramble them) and feed them to the chickens if you run out of feed. Remember, they can also go a day or two without feed, and longer without experiencing any real issue as long as they are eating general kitchen scraps. Of course, always make sure they have water to digest food and feed.

Tip

Wash, dry, then grind calcium-rich eggshells before feeding to your chickens and hens.

Make or Buy Your Feed

You may wish to design, buy, and mix your own feed, or even grow all the grains, seeds, and other components of a comprehensive chicken feed. There are several different commercial feed choices with different purposes for each one. Some of the specifics differ. For example, one manufacturer may have you switch to grower/finisher at a different number of weeks, a suggestion that may differ from another supplier. Always follow the directions of your specific feed and check with your feed supplier or store when in doubt.

What Should You Feed Chickens?

Once you know what you’re doing, feeding your chickens is quite straightforward.We think what makes it tricky are some of the false myths posted online about what you can and can’t feed your chickens (such as feeding your chickens potato skin is bad for them- this is false! Chickens love potato skin).The basis of any good chicken diet is a high-quality poultry pellet (source).We feed our girl’s layers pellets which provide them with the right amount of protein and minerals to lay eggs!Pellets normally contain wheat, salt, maize, sunflower seed, and oats.Feeding your chickens pellets ensures that they get vital vitamins, nutrients, and minerals from their food source to keep them healthy.This is even more important if your girls don’t have much outdoor space- because they won’t get minerals and salt from the ground.In addition to their core diet of pellets, you can feed them grains such as corn or wheat to give them some variety.Chickens love fruit and vegetables, and you can give them this daily. Our girls love vegetable peels, bananas, apple cores, carrots, and broccoli.You are safe to feed chickens pretty much any vegetable or fruit except any raw green peels (such as green potato peel) and any citric fruits such as oranges and lemons.Just remember they need whole grain, low salt, and low sugar foods.Does this mean you can’t feed them scraps from your dinner? Absolutely not; we discuss which kitchen scraps we give our girls later on in the article.Before we move on to discuss how to feed your chickens, let’s finish this section by discussing how you can ensure you are feeding your hens a high-quality feed.Your feed should be high in protein, organic, and ideally milled in the US. A good quality feed will ensure your hens are healthy and laying eggs.We have shared some of our favorite feeds in the table below.

Our Pick of

So now you knowWe feed our chickens pellets once in the morning and once in the evening- remember they like to eat small portions but often.Some people prefer to throw chicken pellet straight onto the floor and let their chickens peck at it there. We put our pellets into a chicken trough to keep them clean and dry.

How Often Should You Feed Them?

This will depend more on your circumstances than on the chickens.If you are retired or spend most of your time at home, you can feed them pellets several times throughout the day.However, if you work or are away from your home throughout the day, then you are best feeding them once in the morning and then again during the evening when you’re back home.One thing to keep an eye on whilst you are feeding them is to make sure the most dominant (remember our discussion on the pecking order?) hens don’t eat all the food.If this is becoming an issue, consider feeding the weaker birds on their own to ensure they get some food.

Water for Your Hens

Providing your hens with water is very straightforward.You need to make sure they have access to clean, fresh water at all times.You can place the water in any plastic container, but the easiest way is to buy a drinker.If you live in a colder climate during the winter, the water will probably freeze over during the evenings, so make sure to break the ice up and clean out the bowl in the mornings.

Feeding Chickens Table Scraps

Of course, no chicken feeding discussion is ever complete without discussing table/kitchen scraps.Make sure to feed your chickens wholesome foods, such as rice, pasta, oats, fruits, vegetables, and wholemeal bread. As a general rule, if you can eat it, so can they.However, this excludes any fatty foods or foods with lots of salt.When we feed our girls scraps, we tend to just cut it up into small (thumbnail-sized) pieces and throw this straight onto the floor into their pen. We only place pellets in their trough.You’d be amazed at some of the scraps your chickens eat- pizza, spaghetti, and porridge, to name a few!Before you feed your chickens kitchen scraps, make sure to check your local regulations, as in certain places (such as the UK), this can surprisingly be illegal.

What you Shouldn’t Feed Them

Wow, these chickens sure are spoilt! On top of their pellets and kitchen scraps, we’re surprised they still want to eat… but they do.Here are our girls top 5 healthy treats which we occasionally spoil them with:

Feed Method

It would be best if you fed chickens off the ground. That may sound like the complete opposite of every old movie showcasing chickens.You probably picture a farmer with an apron nonchalantly tossing corn to her chickens.While the image is picturesque, the circumstances might be a tad different for us.For example, your chickens may not be free-range, meaning they are in a small space of confinement.This means they are living amongst their droppings.Throwing feed on the ground in a coop is not the same as tossing a few snacks to chickens who have the run of the yard.Mixing feed with droppings can lead to parasitic infections, the spread of disease, or coccidiosis.It’s best to use a tray, feeder, or your dish of choice to feed your chickens and keep their feed out of their own feces.