Chickens have nutritional needs not all that different from any other pet or living member of your household. They need a good balance of the macro-nutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. They also need a broad range of vitamins and minerals. While the subject of chicken nutrition can get complicated, chicken feed information and products are easy to come by.
What to Feed
Feeding your juvenile to adult aged flock is simple – just go down to a local feed store and ask for a few bags of “layer feed”. (Note: baby chicks need special feed, learn more.) The layer feed will generally come in pellet or crumble form, and the choice is up to you. Note: Some feed comes pre-medicated with antibiotics so be sure to you are getting non-medicated feed!
Like many people who want to grow their own food, you are probably concerned about the quality and health of the eggs you consume, as well as the overall health of your chickens. An alternative to store bought “conventional” feed is to seek out a high quality certified organic chicken feed, or make your own.
Since you’re chickens like to scratch in the dirt for their food, you can also pick up what’s known as “scratch”. It’s generally a mix of different grains and seeds, giving the chickens an assortment of vitamins and minerals. There are also a few certified organic chicken scratches on the market.
Since your chickens are laying a lot of eggs they have high calcium needs so you might want to pick up some crushed oyster shell. You can mix this in with their regular feed, add it to their scratch, or put it in a separate feeder / bowl for them.
Depending on the breed, you’re chickens will do a pretty good job of supplementing their diet with grass, small rocks, bugs, weeds, seeds, and even the occasional small mammal such as mice. Foraging is good for your chickens in so many ways. Not only does it supply them with exercise and fresh foods, but their constant digging helps to keep their nails trimmed. When chickens forage they also tend to take more dirt baths and eat tiny rocks, which are essential to their health.
Treats and More Treats
Most chicken keepers love to give their chickens treats. Here are a variety to try:
- If you have a compost bin that includes red worms you have an excellent source of fresh protein for your chickens.
- Fruit and vegetable scraps make wonderful treats- but only give fresh scraps- nothing rotten or moldy!
- Oatmeal and other grains. Our chickens go crazy when they see me coming with a bag of dry oats.
Fresh Water Always!
Chickens always need access to fresh water. You can provide it in a chicken watering container that you can find at any feed store, or whatever you choose. Since we live in the desert, we use a dog watering dish with a reservoir on top to ensure consistent supply.