When you’re keeping chickens in your backyard, there are many important chores you’ll need to do regularly to make sure the flock stays healthy. Among those, feeding correctly is probably the most important.
If you want to raise the healthiest chickens you possibly can, getting this right is important. That’s why we’ve prepared a short guide, which will answer any burning questions you might have regarding chicken-feeding. Like, for example – is it possible to overfeed them?
It’s not really possible to overfeed chickens as they naturally stop eating once they have consumed enough to sustain them. However, it’s wise not to provide any more feed than necessary as this may attract vermin to the coop.
If you take at our tips for feeding chickens, you’ll learn everything there is to know about this crucial aspect of raising a happy and healthy flock. If you get this right, you’ll end up with merry little chickens, happily clucking away at the snacks you bring them. But if you don’t, you may end up with distressed chickens who lay less eggs, or experience infighting among members of the flock. That’s why feeding them right is so incredibly important!
What Should You Feed Chickens?
As you will soon see, if you learn all the basic steps, feeding your chickens the right way isn’t that difficult at all. What makes things confusing is the fact that there are many myths online you have to wade through to uncover the truth. For example, there are those claim that giving potato skin to your chickens will do them harm, whereas in actual fact this is a complete falsehood – chickens absolutely love eating potato skins.
But what should you actually base your chicken diet on? Naturally, the basis of all proper chicken diets is a good-quality poultry pellet. This staple food ensures your hens get enough minerals and protein; ultimately allowing them to happily continue laying eggs. The contents of the pellets are typically pretty basic, including items such as sunflower seeds, maize, oats, and wheat.
And if you feed these pellets to your chickens, this ensures that they have all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals they need to remain healthy. Also, a little tip: a proper diet for your chickens becomes even more crucial if they haven’t got a lot of outdoor room; meaning that they won’t be pecking a lot of naturally occuring salt and other minerals from the land.
Apart from layers pellets, you need to supplement your hen’s diet with certain other foods, mostly cereals such as wheat and corn, that may not be present in the pellets. Even though they’re chickens, they still need some variety in their food.
Also, feel free to give chickens vegetables and fruit on a daily basis. They absolutely love stuff like broccoli, carrots, apple cores, and bananas. Indeed, you can pretty much give your chickens any fruit or vegetable, with two notable exceptions: avoid giving them green raw peels (even a green potato peel), as well as any kind of citric fruit. So, no lemons or oranges. Keep in mind, what chickens need are foods without a great deal of sugar, not a lot of salt, and plenty of whole grains.
You may be wondering, if you’ve seen people feeding their chickens dinner scraps; can you do the same? Actually, yes – you just need to be careful about which kind of table food remains you give them.
It’s also worth mentioning how to ensure your chickens get the best feed possible. If you live in the US try to ensure that they have a feed that’s milled in the United States, that it’s organic and has a high protein content. Taking the time to make sure the chickens get a good feed, ultimately means you’ll keep them happy and productive.
How To Feed Them?
Okay, so we’ve covered what you should feed your chickens, in terms of particular food types. But the next logical question is: how should you feed them in practical terms? If you ask me, feeding the chickens pellets two times a day is a good idea; give them some in the morning and the evening. Keep in mind, chickens like eating quite often, but they consume small portions.
You’ll see that some chicken keepers like to just throw the pellets onto the floor of the coop, letting the chickens simply peck when they want. However, we recommend pouring the pellets into a nice trough, so the food remains dry and clean. Hygiene is important!
Of course it’s also a good idea to have a permanent ‘feeder’ container in the coop as well (mounted so as not to attract rats), however it’s worth feeding ‘by hand’ as well to add variety to the feeding experience, and so that you can keep an eye on the flock to make sure all the hens are eating as they should be.
How Much Should You Feed Chickens?
You’re probably also concerned about the possibility of overfeeding your chickens. And as we know, generally you can’t really overfeed free-range chickens. If you give them too much food, they’ll simply stop eating when they’re no longer hungry.
Though, it’s still not a good idea to leave pellets or chicken feed just lying about. Overnight, there’s a high chance this food will attract nasty pests like mice.
But just in terms of how much food chickens need, don’t worry; you’ll get a feeling for it pretty soon. Making this judgement is simply a matter of experience.
Naturally, a lot depends on what breed your chickens are, what season it is, and how much physical activity they’ve been getting. But yes – if you keep finding remains of feed in your chicken trough, it’s a safe bet that you can reduce the quantity of food you’re providing accordingly.
How Often Should You Feed Them?
As we’ve said before, chickens don’t mind getting extra food; they just won’t eat it if it’s too much. So, your feeding routine and its frequency will largely depend on your own schedule and preferences. For example, if you spend a lot of time at home, you can give your chickens smaller amounts of food throughout the day.
On the other hand, for people who spend a lot of time at work or away from home, you need to a least aim for two feeds per day- once in the morning and once in the evening. If necessary you might need to deputize this activity to someone else, if you want to be able have your chickens fed by hand, and not simply via a static feeder.
There’s something else to keep in mind while you devise a feeding schedule. Depending on your flock, you may notice something nasty happening: the most aggressive chickens in the pecking order eating most of the food. This can be an issue esepcially when you’re not around to witness it; so if you notice or suspect something like that is happening, take the time to feed the weaker chickens separately.
Feeding chickens potato peel
As we’ve talked about above, one of the great things about having chickens in your backyard is that they can eat a lot of kitchen waste. That’s fantastic for both them and yourself; you save money on food, and they get a varied, healthy diet.
When it comes to what they can eat, a common sense approach works best. Make sure to give them wholesome stuff; like vegetables, fruit, oats, pasta, rice, etc. However, don’t give them anything that’s too salty, or too fatty. And don’t forget to avoid giving them citric fruit!
So, just cut up everything that remains from your meal into small pieces they can peck – and throw it all onto their floor in the pen! Don’t put any of it in the feeding trough, or it’ll get incredibly dirty; use this only for dry pellets.
Consequences of a Bad Diet
Knowing just how important the correct diet is for chickens, it’s probably worth knowing what can happen if you don’t feed them properly. And for that matter – how can you tell that the chickens are having dietary problems at all?
First and foremost: if you notice they’ve changed their eating habits in a significant way, we definitely recommend a vet having a look as promptly as possible. But even so, there are some signs of an incorrect diet that you can spot yourself, like:
- Reduced egg production: If you notice the chickens aren’t giving you as many eggs, that’s usually an indication that something is going awry with their diet; unless it’s just a change of seasons.
- Unrest in the flock: If there is unrest in the flock you can’t pin on seasons changing or some other external factor causing stress, there could be something wrong with what’s being provided to eat. Chickens won’t pick on each other for no good reason, after all.
- Strange eggs: You may start noticing eggs that are abnormally small, or have double yolks too often than can be considered natural. That’s a sure-fire way to conclude that the chickens’ diet isn’t right.
As you may have gathered, feeding chickens in the best way possible is incredibly crucial to their wellbeing. And that doesn’t just mean giving them the right type of food; you also need to feed them in the right way, and at the right time. If you take care of all of this, the effort will definitely pay off; what you’ll get is a merry, healthy chicken flock!