Chickens are production birds and therefore demand a highly nutritious diet. Even though some people keep them as pets, they still require a lot of nutrients to help them grow and also lay eggs.
When asked what is the best chicken food, the answer is largely dependent on the type of chicken and whether they are being raised for eggs or meat.
Many people interested in rearing chickens may have possibly wondered what scraps are safe for feeding their chicken and what needs to be avoided.
Interestingly, even though you give chickens food that is unsafe for them, most likely they will not eat it anyway. Chickens are very selective on the type of food they eat and will easily leave out what is not good for their health. We will however, list some things you do not need to feed your chickens a little later in this article.
If you want your chickens to stay healthy and also lay many eggs, it is paramount that you feed them on a balanced and complete diet. Chickens will eat almost anything and a lot of it will help prevent health problems and deficiencies hence you need to offer them a variety of healthy foods.
There are many commercial chicken feeds available in the market that may confuse one in making the right decision. You may also lose sight as to what is good for chickens and what offers optimal nutrition.
There are different types of commercial feeds:
The following feeds and descriptions can be found on Wikipedia.Organic Egg Layer for laying hens: This provides high energy with a good balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, and amino acids. This is good for all breeds.
Corn Mash: For chickens over 6 months of age. This has a great balance of textures and flavors.
Crumble: This can also be used for young flock under 6 months.
Pellets: For more mature chickens.Chicken Scratch: For all chickens.
The preparation of feeds is done according to an age group’s nutritional requirements.
Above everything else, chicks require protein for quick growth and development. On the other hand, older chickens require starch in order to increase their energy to run and also give shinny feathers.
Out of the three, crumbles and pellets are the most convenient forms for feeding chickens as they can be dispensed easily by hand.
What do chickens eat for protein?
Protein for chickens comes in many forms.
Earthworms are rich sources of quality protein as well as good fats. It is very easy to grow earthworms as they convert almost all organic waste materials like paper, used tea bags, potato peels, hair and horse manure to chicken feed ingredients.
80 % of the diet for the laying hen should be carbohydrates. The sources that are most concentrated include barley, wheat, oats, and rice and vegetable seeds integrated with permaculture.
The layers require calcium in their diet. Calcium is available in green leafy vegetables, oats, peas, sesame seeds and sunflower.
Chickens that free range or have the availability to roam during the day will obtain most of their mineral requirements from vegetables and herbs they obtain from their natural surroundings.
Chickens can be classified as omnivores meaning that they naturally eat both vegetables and meat. It is therefore, alright to feed chickens some meat scraps even though you will not feed them directly. These can be obtained it in form of insects or worms also.
Crushed egg shells-Chicken requires calcium in their diet as it is essential in producing strong shelled eggs. Note that chickens can easily break eggs that are thinly shelled which can then result to eating their own eggs.
A cost effective way of obtaining calcium for the chicken is crushed eggshells. Ensure they are crushed in small pieces for the chicken to be able to eat them easily. Many folks bake them for just a few minutes to kill any bacteria before crushing them.
Shell-grit is a good alternative as it also offers low release calcium for the chickens.
For the birds that lay many eggs, grinding dried egg shell to powder and adding it to their usual feeds offers a simple and high calcium supplement.
Layer pellets may also be supplemented with calcium. Thin and soft shelled eggs are an indication of deficiency of calcium in chicken.
Grit-A farmer may also consider feeding the chicken on grit which is slower in digestion hence making it the perfect winter season feed.
As additional calcium sources, hens can also be given
oyster shells. Some farmers and owners also invest in giving multivitamin oils that are particularly chicken formulated. One or two drops of this formula can be added to these feeds.
Scraps and treats are essential for adding variety in order to compensate for other nutrients that the chicken may need.
Lawn cuttings or weed- feed your chicken on green weeds from your garden since these are a source of vitamins that greatly contribute to carotenoid pigments useful for the yellow yolk color.
Do not allow your chickens to feed on the lawns or weeds if you have sprayed them. It is important to note that lawn clippings from the lawn may cause an impacted crop’ problems for the chicken.
As chicken eat various types of food, they fill up their crop and the crop empties into the gut at night. In case chickens consume large grass clippings, they form to a ball in their crop hence preventing them from feeding well. This problem will not occur if chickens are left to peck on the uncut lawn since they will eat small lawn pieces on the go.
Therefore, ensure that the grass cuttings are short and nice if you want the chicken to feed on them; if not so, save them for the compost heap.
Layer Pellets: Since garden weeds and kitchen scraps cannot be enough to form a balanced diet for your backyard flock you may want to add Layer Pellets for a better-balanced diet.
Do not restrict the quantity grain mix or layer pellets that chickens can eat in one day. To satisfy their nutritional requirements, chickens will need to be fed on a regular basis, as they do not overeat.
Most backyard chicken owners use a self- feeder to regularly feed their chicken.
Most of the egg laying chicken feed on roughly 120 g grain mix or layer pellets per day or 850 g in a week although this depends on scrap quantity or grass they are supplied with in a day.
Most breeders of show chickens want birds that are healthy, shiny feathers and fertile hatching eggs. The following are the ideal foods for such chickens
Blue Seal Breeder Pellets:
Our main feed, always available, Black oil sunflower seeds – This enables feathers to become shiny.
This helps in making good quality of feathers.
Bird Seed Mix:
This is normally fed as a treat.
Fresh, clean water:
One may occasionally add probiotics or vitamins.
This is necessary for strong egg shells.
Only a few pieces, particularly during and after a molt.
Offers nutrients and vitamins
To compensate for not having teeth, all chicken require grit in order to help them grind seeds in the stomach. This can be in form of small chips of granite or fine gravel. The smallest sizes of gravel should be given to the young chicks while the larger ones are given to large adult birds.
Home Mixed feeds:
Commercial rations may at times contain unpleasant industrial waste products like brew yeast, sewerage, citrus sludge and such mendicants like coccidiostats or antibiotics.
Some chicken and owners prefer to regularly feed their chicken on a grains mixture. Apart from being natural, it also offers the necessary starch required by older chickens. Due to the fact that chickens are not very picky, farmers may also come with their own food blends.
From research, some farmers feed their chicken on a mixture of sunflower seeds, vegetable oil, oatmeal, and grains. On average, chickens require to be fed four times per day although it all depends on how hungry they are. This should however be given with moderation unless you really want to plump up your chicken.
Their diet’s mainstay, high-quality poultry pellets. In case the poultry pellet is given in a commercial dispenser, the pellet will be maintained dry. One may also scatter grains like corn and wheat within the environment to have the diet augmented.
Besides the good poultry pellets, chicken can also be fed on fresh vegetables and fruits on daily basis. Some of the examples of raw vegetables and fruits include spinach, silverbeet, bok choy, chickweed, endive, cabbage, vegetable cuttings and fruit peelings (like banana).
Broilers are mainly reared for their meat. These birds usually grow slowly and add less muscle compared to layers. They take long in reaching a satisfactory rate of butchering. Lower their protein to 18-20 % after the first six weeks before lowering the protein to 16 % after that.
If you want to plump and increase the old chickens’ weight, the most recommended food is mash. Mash digests very slowly and is usually heavier on the gut but upon its digestion, it can be absorbed quickly. This type of feed is observed on those battling with cock fights of which we do not approve of!
Occasionally, such table foods like rolled oats, whole meal rice, beans, cooked pasta, legumes, and bread may also be given. If you are not sure of the safety of certain foods, it is important to check it first with an experienced chicken owner or with a veterinarian.
Since chickens are very sociable birds, they function better if maintained in two or more in number. Due to this reason, feeding chickens is a group work exercise. Keep monitoring the chickens in order to ensure that the dominant birds are not preventing the younger and weaker birds that may need to be fed separately.
If you notice any changes in the feeding behavior or appetite of the birds, it is good to consult a veterinary or other experienced chicken owners
Ensure that scraps do not contain anything high in salt or fats. Also avoid feeding them on anything spoiled, molded or rancid.
Chicken should also be allowed to feed on burrowing insects and earthworms commonly found in compost and leaf litter. Allow them to access pulled garden weeds but be cautious not to give them poisonous plants. For the free range chickens, a weed lawn is more preferable than a monoculture lawn.
Do not feed your chicken on avocado, rhubarb, onion, chocolate, garlic, lawn mower clippings and citrus fruits. This is because they can quickly get moldy and chickens get sick due to moldy foods.
Chickens also need to be supplied with clean water. During winter, always ensure that the iced water troughs are cleared every morning to enable access.
Generally, free range chickens roam about so that they can eat on anything they wish to. Some of them feed on small worms while others feed on grains.
Controlled fence kept chickens live their lives inside a fence or small yard are subject to the home owner for their food.
Following the information above will help you better understand what chickens eat and what best foods to provide for them.
To conclude, what is the best chicken food? Pretty much anything they can fit in their beaks! It is up to us as chicken owners to take care of them just like we do our other pets whether we are raising them for meat, eggs or just pets, the ultimate responsibility lays on us!