How to Properly Feed Chickens

Updated on May 23, 2020
Ava Crawford profile image

Ava is a mom of one goofy, special needs chicken that lives with a rabbit as an indoor-outdoor pet. She is also a vet assistant.

Source

Feeding your chickens can be overwhelming to those new to the practice, or even experienced poultry keepers. The first step when choosing a formula for your chickens is to determine their age, your budget, and any extra specifications you want your chickens to have.

How Age Impacts Chicken Feed Choices

  • Newly hatched chicks, ages 0-10 weeks should be fed a starter feed. The high protein on these feeds, 10-20% allows for birds to grow and develop.
  • Chicks ages 10-18 weeks should be fed a grower feed. The medium-high protein content, around 15-16% allows for birds to gain weight and grow to full size.
  • When your pullet reaches laying age or 18 weeks, she should be switched to layer feed. This has a protein content of 15-18% and added calcium, vitamins, and minerals designed to sustain the process of daily laying.

Good nutrition is crucial to maintaining a healthy flock. All chickens should be fed a crumble or pelleted diet formulated to meet their nutritional needs. They should get plenty of fresh feed daily and should be allowed to eat as much as they want.

— For the Birds, DVM

Important Terms to Be Aware of

  • Organic: Chicken feed must be grown without using pesticides, antibiotics, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers and without using genetically modified cereals or plants.
  • Vegetarian: Feed that is free of animal by-products.
  • Whole Grain: The grains contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions.
  • Corn-Free: Contains no corn or corn byproducts.
  • Medicated Feed: Feed which includes amprolium, a coccidiosis preventer.

Determining Your Budget

A good place to start is the budget. On average, a hen eats 1/4 a pound of feed daily. Multiply this by the number of hens you have, and then by the number of days you expect to keep your hens.

A hen at its peak laying age (1 year), will lay 250 eggs a year. By year two, this decreases to 80% of their peak, year three 70%, year four 60%, year five 50%, year six 45%, and year 7 35%.

You can use this information to calculate how much your chickens will be making you per year compared to their feed cost. Keep in mind organic eggs sell for more, and quality feed can increase the number of eggs laid, as well as practices such as lighting the coop during winter.

An Example Of Feed Options

Layer Feed
Price Range for 50 LB
Organic
Protein Content
Scratch and Peck
$34
Yes
16%
Kalmbach
$24
No
17%
DuMor
$15
No
16%
Nutreana
$18
No
16%
Purina
$17
No
16%

Scratch, Grit, and Shells

There are 3 essentials that are not considered main feed for your chickens but are needed for laying hens. These are scratch, grit, and shells.

  • Scratch is a cheaper filler food to add in small amounts to your feed. It is not nutritionally necessary and can cause harm if fed too much, but it stretches your feed and helps motivate finicky eaters.
  • Grit is little ground-up rocks or pebbles that are needed for birds to consume. The grit stays in the crop and acts as a grinder for the large pieces of food consumed. This can prevent things like sour crop and choking.
  • Oyster Shells/Poultry Shells are a necessary additive to layer hens feed. They can be mixed in the feed or served separately. They replace the calcium the hens lose while laying eggs and are important to egg development and hen health.

Source

Types of Chicken Treats

Many people want to spoil their birds! There are many options for chicken treats, here are some.

  • Dried insects
  • Dried River Shrimp
  • Roses, dandelions, and other flowers
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Fruit scraps
  • Herbs
  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Fresh grass

These are treats, and should not be fed in excess.

Chicken Supplements and Additives

There are many supplements and additives to use in your poultry feed or water. Here are a few to be aware of.

  • Probiotics are a good way to maintain healthy digestion and help sick birds recover.
  • Brewer's yeast and enzymes also help regulate the digestive tract.
  • Oregano is a natural antibiotic and guards against infection.
  • Apple cider vinegar contains important probiotics.
  • Bee pollen can dramatically increase the health of your flock, containing all essential amino acids.
  • Electrolytes are good for sick chickens to maintain water intake.

Source

The Final Word

With the increase in popularity of backyard chickens, there comes a large variety in options to feed your birds. The secret is- you cannot go wrong if you research and choose what is best for you. Whether you care most about cost or want to spoil your fluffy birds, there is a feed that is right for you.

Ask your local poultry groups and mentors about their favorites, and make an educated decision. I wish you well on your journey!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2020 Ava Crawford

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)