Feeding your chickens a complete and balanced diet is essential to making sure they stay happy and healthy.
Chickens are omnivores and will eat (or try to eat) just about anything they can get their beaks on. When free-ranging, chickens will find a smorgasbord of protein- and vitamin-rich food on their own, including insects, vegetation, and seeds. Fairly indiscriminate, they may even try skinks, toads, or small snakes before determining it is not to their taste. During warmer months, a substantial portion of a chicken’s diet may come from foraging, although free-ranging is not required for a backyard brood to enjoy a healthy, balanced diet.
A good quality commercial poultry feed should be the main component of your chooks diet to make sure they get all the nutrients they need. These feeds can come in pellet, mash, or crumbed forms and are made up of a mix of grains (corn, oats, soybeans), grit, and vitamins (calcium).
- A simple guide on what to feed when is:
Chicks – From hatching to 5 weeks old chicks will need to be fed chick crumble. These are roughly 19% protein, and suitable for chicks.
Pullet – From 6 weeks to 18 weeks, chickens do lots of growing so will need a type of feed to help them do that. This feed is called growers pellets or crumble. This feed is typically 15-16% protein.
Laying hens – When your chickens start to lay eggs they will need to be fed an adult layer feed. This is usually 15-17% protein and will help them to regularly lay eggs.
To select the right commercial feed for your flock, read our guide. “The type of chicken feeds” here.
Chickens need to eat small stones in order to help digest their food. Chickens don’t have teeth so swallow whatever they choose to eat whole. Any grit they eat is used to grind up food in their Gizzard. When keeping chickens it is important to give them a supply of grit as they may not be able to naturally find enough.
Your flock’s diet will tend to shift with the season changes.
During the winter months, carbs are a great source of energy and help to keep the chickens warm. Make sure to keep this high-carb diet during the colder season. Not only will their dietary requirements change but the volume of food they eat will also change during the winter. It’s important that during these changes you keep an eye on your hens and provide them with not only the right food but the right amount of food. Some great options for winter are Poultry Porridge, Corn, and Muesli Munch.
In Summer, when the temperature is hot, the most crucial requirement that a chicken has is freshwater. Drinking fresh water is the best way chickens can keep themselves cool, and in the hot weather, they can dehydrate quickly.
Summer heat tends to reduce feed intake, so the complete chicken feed should be the first dietary priority. When birds have a balanced diet, plenty of water, and a cool, comfortable environment, they are better able to remain healthy and productive. Some great ideas for summer are frozen watermelon, berries, or iced Tea Tonic. It is also highly beneficial to add electrolytes to their water. In addition to providing electrolytes, maintaining healthy gut microflora is very important in helping your birds stay healthy and productive during times of summer stress. Gut Health blend specifically targets this with high levels of both pre and pro-biotics.
Autumn is the time for moulting season.
The number one nutrient switches from calcium to protein. This is because feathers are made of 80-85 percent protein, eggshells are primarily calcium. Our calci-protein blend and protein power bars are perfect for boosting your chook’s protein levels. If you can switch to a higher protein feed such as red hen 17. A high-protein complete feed can help hens channel nutrients into feather regrowth and get back to laying eggs.
Some high protein treats also include:
During Spring, continue incorporating a higher protein diet for your chickens to support egg-laying and increased physical activity. If your flock free ranges, they will no doubt find all sorts of delicious bugs and worms to snack on. It’s important to give your girls the calcium they need to lay strong-shelled eggs – so a decent diet of calcium rich-foods is very important. Continue to provide a constant supply of shell grit and supplement your flock with some mealworms, cooked eggs, BSFL, and Calci Protein.
Any change in your hens’ feeding behaviour or a lack of appetite can also indicate something is wrong. If you notice any changes in your bird’s feeding behaviour or appetite you should consult a veterinarian
- What not to feed
Chickens should never be fed food scraps that contain anything high in fat or salt, and do not feed them food that is rancid or spoiled. Specific types of food that hens should not be fed include raw potato, avocado, chocolate, citrus fruits, uncooked rice, or uncooked beans. Check out the rest of the list here.
- How to feed
When deciding how to feed your chickens their meals, it’s best to utilise feeders created specifically for poultry. Doing so will ensure less waste and less exposure to bacteria.
Feeders intended for chickens will prevent your birds from scratching the feed out (creating waste) and also prevents them from soiling their feed by sitting in it, which can spread bacteria and disease.
I prefer to feed my flock ad-lib. Chicken’s will not overeat, they just take what they need. By restricting feed you can risk underfeeding your flock. An adult chicken will eat around 1/2 cup of feed per day. This will differ and change depending on their age, breed, size, and if they are laying eggs.