There are many poultry feed manufacturers and a wide variety of feeds available. We recommend that you do a little research on the internet at some of the chicken forums, like backyard chickens and see what other chicken raisers are using and why or why not.
Baby Chicks up to 16 to 18 weeks should be fed, Chick Crumbles that are especially prepared for the needs of a growing young chicken. Look for wording on the feed bag that uses any of the following combination of words: chick starter, chick grower, start and grow, etc. Note that some chick feed is medicated and some are not. You should learn the advantages and disadvantages of both and decide what you feel is best for your situation.
Pullets are young female chickens up to the age of one year and when they are approaching the age where they may start to lay eggs you need to change their feed to a brand that contains more calcium. Look for wording that says something like: Layer mash, Layer crumbles, Layer pellets or Flock Raiser or Flock Grower will all work well.
Stratch is NOT Feed
Scratch or cracked corn is not the same as chicken feed. This is purely a TREAT and cracked corn is like CRACK to chickens. They LOVE it but it doesn’t have much nutrition. We don’t use it but some folks who live in very cold climated do provide it as a way to help their flock keep warm during the long and cold winter nights. If you give it to your chickens it should only be offered in the afternoon during the wintertime so that as they sleep during the nigh their bodies will digest it and this process will help to keep their bodies warm. Offer it very sparingly so that they don’t fill up on it and not eat the feed with is much more nutritious. They can also eat so much corn that they can develop an impacted crop or develop sour crop where the undigested corn ferments in their body. Not fun to deal with and chickens can die from both of these things if they don’t get some human intervention.
Grit is needed to help chickens digest their food because they don’t have teeth to chew it. Once the baby chicks are old enough to start pecking around outside on the ground you need to provide “Chick Grit.” This is really small grains of stone to help them digest the vegetation and bugs that they will be eating along with their feed. Sometimes the chick grit is lightly flavored to entice the babies to begin to eat the grit.
At about four months of age, chickens can move on to Adult Grit which is most often crushed granite. Always provide the grit in a container near their food or outside where they peck around so that they can eat it Free Choice.
Oyster on the Crushed Shell
Laying hens and pullets need calcium supplimentation and crushed oyster shell is a good way to provide this. Offer it in a dish or bowl the same as you do the grit so that they can eat it Free Choice.
Things to NEVER Feed Chickens
Any food or chicken feed that is moldy, foul smelling, rotting, etc. If you don’t think it is safe to feed yourself, don’t feed it to the chickens.
Any food that is very sugary, salty, or fatty should not be feed to chickens.
Potato Peels – do not feed raw potato, sweet potato, yam etc peels, especially any part that is green. the green color indicates that it was exposed to sunlight while growing and that it has developed a toxic substance called Solanine.
Raw, Dried or Undercooked Beans – these contain a poison called Hemaglutin that is toxic to chickens.
Avocado Pits and Peels – these have low levels of toxicity.
Candy, Sugar or Chocolate – it isn’t good for their systems and chocolate can be poisonous to many pets.
Salty foods can cause salt poisoning in the small bodies of chickens
Chicken – we don’t feed them chicken because in under natural and healthy conditions, chickens do not eat other chickens.
Some plants can be TOXIC to chickens and they may not know which ones. The following is a link to a list of toxic plants. This list was developed from plants that are toxic to reptiles and there is some discrepency as to the severity of these items if ingested by chickens. Most people do follow these guidelines. Toxic Plants
Raw Eggs – this encourages them to pick at and eat the eggs that you want to eat.
Good Treats for Your Chooks
Greens – lettuce, beets greens, collards, etc.
Berries of all kinds
Broccoli & Cauliflower
Cabbage, Kale, Spinach, Chickweed
Carrots and Green Carrot Tops
Cucumbers – especially the flesh and seeds
Hard Cooked Egg Yolks
Edible Flowers – Marigolds, Pansies, Nasturtiums
Fruit – from most trees and vines
Grapes – cut in half
Melons – both seeds and flesh
Squash and Pumpkins – seeds and flesh
Cooked Spaghetti Noodles
Sprouted Seeds – like sunflower are very good when fed during the winter
Watermelon – great when hot in the summer if chilled – both the red flesh and the seeds
Yogurt and Kefir – good for probiotics – boosts immune system and aids digestion
Live Crickets, Mealworms, Soldier Fly Larva, and Earth worms.
To listen to the audio teaching that corresponds to this article use the player below.
What special things do you feed your flock as treats? Do you mix your own feed, if so what ingredients do you use? Please share with us.