Feeding your chickens a complete and balanced diet is essential if they are to stay healthy and lay lots of lovely eggs! Chickens will eat almost anything so to prevent deficiencies and health problems, a wide range of foods should be offered.
From hatchlings to chicks, from days old right up until about six to eight weeks old depending on the breed, you need to be feedling a chick crumb. Then, from six to eight weeks again, depending on the breed, you move on to readers pellets that have got everything they possibly need in it. From about sixteen to eighteen weeks, you need to put your girls onto layers pellets. BUT, it’s very important not to put them onto the layers pellets too soon. You don’t want your girls laying too early as their bodies aren’t ready for it.
You’ll find that the feeding patterns of your chickens changes throughout the year. Your chickens will benefit from foraging for bugs and greens in the summer and consequently eat less pellets. Whereas in the winter when the weather gets colder, they’ll eat far more pellet based food to keep warm.
And another good tip is to hang your feeders. Hang them about five inches off the ground so that they’re mobile and the girls can’t knock the feeders over, spilling food and wasting it, which in turn attracts rodents.
Corn is a huge favourite with our chickens. It warms them up at night in the winter, but more importantly, throw it on the floor and let them scratch for it. It’s their entertainment. It’s going to keep them occupied and hopefully, they’ll fill up on that, and go to bed with a nice, full crop, which will keep them warm over the night.
The other thing that chickens need available all the time is mixed grit. It’s a mixture of flint grit and oyster shell. Now, chickens don’t have teeth, so need the flint grit to aid the digestion of their food. The grit and food goes into their gizzard where a strong muscle action, ‘grinds’ the food up. It also helps prevent crop impactions. The dissolvable grit, like oyster shell, they use for their egg shells and mineral intake. For birds that are laying large numbers of eggs, an easy and high calcium supplement is dried egg shell ground to a powder and added to their normal feed. Layer pellets are supplemented with calcium as well. Soft or thin shelled eggs may indicate calcium problems in your birds.
In addition to a good quality poultry pellet, a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables should also be given daily. Examples of raw fruits and vegetables that can be fed include: Bok choy, silverbeet, spinach, endive, chickweed, cabbage, vegetable peels and fruit (e.g. banana). In addition, table foods such as wholemeal rice, rolled oats, cooked pasta, beans, bread and legumes can be offered as well occasionally. If you are unsure about the safety of a particular foodstuff check with your veterinarian and/or experienced chicken owner first.
You can feed your chickens your kitchen scraps. But make sure scraps don’t contain anything that is high in fat or salt, and avoid feeding anything that is rancid or spoiled. Do not feed your chickens: rhubarb, avocado, chocolate, onion, garlic, citrus fruits or lawn mower clippings (as these can become mouldy quickly and mouldy food can make chickens very sick).