This week, we’re talking all about chicken feed. This is a common question for new backyard chicken owners. There are so many options to choose from, so I will share what I use as well as how often I use it. Let’s start there.
Best Practices to Feed Chickens
There are many chicken owners who only put the feed outside twice a day. This is actually a really great way to feed your chickens while cutting down on the pest population. By keeping food and water out of your coop, you’ll likely keep mice, rats, and other pests out of your coop. I love this idea especially for people who are in the habit of feeding their farm animals twice a day. This is not what I do, however. I keep my flock’s food and water in the coop, and they have access to it 24/7. This is what works for me.
I have a large flock, and I’m worried that if I only fed them twice a day, not everyone would get what they need. This way, the higher up in the pecking order birds usually get to eat first. Then, the lower hens still get to eat. If the weather is nice, they always get their snacks, treats and leftovers outside. ‘
In the winter, I’ll put leftovers pan out and give them their treats in the coop. I’ll also throw their scratch down on their bedding and they turn their bedding for me. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Different Types of Chicken Feed
Okay, let’s talk about different types of chicken food. When I start my chicks out, I use a non-medicated chick crumble. I prefer non-medicated food because my Baby Chick Care Kit includes First Peep which gives them such a great start and natural ingredients to do the same things as a medicated food. This is a personal preference, but if you use Strong Animals Chicken Essentials, you likely want to do things as naturally as possible.
Once your chickens hit around 8 weeks, it’s a good idea to switch from non-medicated starter feed to grower feed. This is where your chickens will start growing into mature hens that will eventually lay eggs. Switching from starter to grower feed at this point will give them what they need to grow and thrive.
When I switch my hens over to layer feed, I switch to pellets. I’ve found they are much less messy and less goes to waste. The chickens protested right away, but now they seem to love the pellets just as well.
If you’re raising meat chickens, you need to feed them meat bird food their entire (albeit short!) life. This will cause them to grow rapidly to produce meat within about 6 weeks.
How Much Feed Per Chicken
When it comes to the amount you should feed chickens, it’s important to consider their nutritional needs in order to maintain their health and maximize productivity. On average, a healthy adult chicken will consume around 1/4 to 1/2 pound of feed per day.
However, this amount can vary depending on factors such as age, weight, breed and activity level. For example, young chicks develop quickly, so their feed requires more amino acids, higher protein and higher phosphorus levels to support their growth. Once your hens start laying eggs, they’ve reached sexual maturity and need to be switched to layer feed. They also may need a higher calcium intake to support eggshell development. I use Chicken E-lixir as an added calcium supplement to support eggshell quality.
How to Integrate Flocks With Different Feeds
The hardest part of these different stages of feeding chickens is if you’re adding to your flock. It’s tough to make sure your chicks get what they need while your hens are eating their own food to get what they need.
First, it’s important to separate the two groups and provide them with their own feeding areas. This will ensure that each group is getting the nutrition they need without competition from the other. When it’s time to bring the groups together, it’s best to slowly introduce the new flock to the existing one. This can be done by placing the new chicks or birds in a separate but adjacent area.
Keeping your flocks and their food separate is very important to start! But I like to do it so they can see and hear each other to get used to one another.
Over several days, each group can explore the other’s territory and get used to each other’s presence. During this time, it’s important to monitor their behavior and ensure that there is no aggression or bullying.
Once everyone seems comfortable, you can start to open up the barrier between the two areas and allow them to mingle freely. Keep in mind that the new group may need time to adjust to the new feed, so gradually transition them from their old feed to the new one over a period of a few weeks. With patience and care, integrating flocks with different feeds can be a successful process that leads to a happy and healthy flock.
Scratch is different from chicken feed! Chickens LOVE scratch. They would eat that over their chicken food any day. While scratch is a great treat for them, it cannot replace a good quality chicken feed. Chicken food is carefully formulated to give your chickens a balanced diet and good health.
What Not to Feed Chickens
When it comes to feeding chickens treats, there are certain foods they can enjoy and other foods chickens should avoid.
Firstly, chickens can consume a variety of fruits, such as apples, blueberries, strawberries and watermelon, in moderation of course. Vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, green beans and lettuce are also great for their diet. Chickens love grains, so treats like corn or oatmeal can be given as a special snack.
However, they should not consume foods that are high in sugar, salt or fat such as chocolate, avocado and junk food. Additionally, tomato plants and raw potatoes can be toxic to chickens, so it’s important to do your research before adding anything new to their diet.
If you’re new to raising backyard chickens, welcome to the club! It’s one of my best “yeses”. Or, if you’ve been doing it for a while, it’s always good to have a refresher on chicken diets, especially if you’re considering adding to your flock.
Until next time,
–The Wing Lady