Friday, 6 July 2007

Chicken Feed

I have had a few questions lately regarding what to feed grown chickens, which got me thinking - there really isn't much chickens won't eat ;-) Chickens are also quite individual - one will love lettuce and another will hate it, one will practically take your hand off for a piece of melon rind, whilst another will look at you like you are mad to even consider offering it to them in the first place!

So here is some general feeding information - Please feel free to add your own comments about foods your chickens love (or hate).

In the old days people used to make up their own chicken feed, things are a lot easier nowadays and it is possible to buy commercial feed aimed specifically at your type of chicken. The good thing about commercial feeds is that they are properly balanced so you know your chickens will be getting the nutrients they need (for example layer pellets / mash will include calcium to encourage strong egg shells). Some people feed their chickens only scratch but I would recommend not doing that as it is not a balanced food - scratch really should come under the 'treats' category.

As commercial feed is balanced you can let the chickens take what they need / want of it (chickens are very unlikely to overeat). In addition to the commercial feed chickens can also eat treats you give them such as the ocassional handful of scratch or 'healthy' (i.e. not salty or sugary) scraps such as watermelon rinds, steamed rice, figs, blackberries, green leafy vegetables, cucumber, ear of corn, broccoli, tomatoes, apple cores, cooked potato peelings (raw potato peelings can be slightly toxic) etc.etc. They'll also eat any worms and bugs they can find!

Grit is needed to grind anything they eat that isn't commercial feed (worms, veggies, fruits etc.), if they are free ranging they will probably get some grit from the earth, you can also buy grit from the feed store and put a little out for them to help themselves (in a seperate container to their normal feed).

Chickens eating salad


delaney said...

I just got 6 baby chicks, and i have never had chickens before. we were planning on making our wooden playhouse in to a coop. But new jersey winters get pretty col. what do i have to do for my chickens in the winter? Also, dose anyone know of any laws about keeping chickens in New Jersey suburburbs?

Unknown said...

Hi, Congratulations on your new chicks! Chickens (once they are fully grown and feathered) are quite hardy little things - 30 degrees above zero is not too cold for them, but if you do have very cold winters it probably is a good idea to use thicker walls etc to insulate the coop, maybe even an extra layer of shavings or straw etc. on their floor. Having a heat lamp in the coop for the very coldest nights could also help (at least to ensure their water doesn't freeze over), but chickens have survived for 100s of years without electricity in their coops, so insulation can work just as well. The main thing with coops is that they are dry and draft free (but ventilated). A little bit of cracked corn during the winter months as a supplement to their normal balanced diet can also help give them extra (internal) warmth.

Anonymous said...

I just got a tip today for a good egg diet. I haven't tried it on my hens yet as they are about 3-months-old and not layers yet. A friend told me he uses a good high protein diet of 1 part each of scratch, laying crumble, and turkey grow. He says some of his Rhode Island Reds will lay up to 2 eggs per day (1 every 12 hour period). He also said to add a little oyster shell for calcium. Anyway, I look forward to your newsletters, thank you for all
the good info and have a great day!

Eric said...

I recently read a book called "A Cure for Cancers" that said the main ingredient that causes cancer is Isopropl Alcohol and a parisite, which we get from meat. All that said, some commercial feed products contain alcohol. I personaly stay away from these products and feed an old fashion mixture of barley,oats,corn and wheat. I fatten with oatmeal,oats and warm skim milk, 3 times a day. A product I also use is Azomite,which is a form of mined clay that sprinkled on the chickens feed has increased egg production and increased the weight of my meat birds.(Plymouth Barred Rocks)I take the droppings of the chickens at each cleaning and put in a compost.In the spring the compost mix goes on my raised beds and garden which I have noticed has increased also healthier plant and fewer pests, insect pests that is.The Azomite is a product that doesn't claim any medical cures. My whole family uses this product as well as feeds it to there poultry.

Anonymous said...

Re: Potato Vine and Chickens

Hello Gina, I wanted to share some information. I had my Plymouth Barred Rock hen named Lucy die suddenly and became very concerned that potato vine covering the fully enclosed pen might have poisoned her. The vine is in the family of deadly nightshade plants. I called the Ag Commissioner and got to talk with the biologist. He checked and did not see anything toxic but said he would investigate further. Potato vine is not toxic to poultry but it is toxic cattle, horses and goats. The conversation concluded that Lucy probably died of old age or possibly a stroke/embolism kind of thing. I did not realize that chickens have high blood pressure...learn something everyday!! Really miss Lucy she was very animated and acted like she understood what you were talking about...very engaging chicken.

Kathleen Anderson

Max said...

Hey. Im from Mt.Prospect,IL. I would like to know where is a good place to get eggs with chicks in em so i could raise chickens. And I was wondering if chickens are allowed to be raised in Mt.P. I LOVE your website. So please respond. Bye.

Unknown said...


I am not familiar with your specific area so I do not know all of your local regulations (but often there are websites now for all local areas that will have the regulations on them - or at least a phone number of someone who would be able to tell you). Generally those in the USA can usually purchase hatching eggs through ebay - I have a 'window' showing some of the ones available at the bottom of 'The Settin' Hen' poem. You would obviously need some way of incubating them...

Another option would be to purchase day old chicks from one of the online hatcheries and they will send them to you through the post.

Another option is to find out if any of your local farms sell chicks (or even pullets) and purchase your flock like that.

Good luck!

Best Wishes

Anonymous said...

Pamela said....
Thanks for all the great tips, we have a new flock of 7 and are looking for knowledge as to how and when lighting is used and needed for laying??? Not much has been said other than to use a heat lamp on the coldest winter days. Do you need a light in the coop for the hens to lay?? Will they lay without a light??? If not, how long should the light be left on??? Does it have to be a heat light or will a regular bulb work??? Should a light be left on all night? during the day? or short periods throughout the day and night??? Any information would be extremely helpful as I haven't been successful in attaining the info I need to finish our coop for our hens. Thanks so much,
Pamela Beilman

Unknown said...

Lights and heat in winter really come down to a personal choice. The theory that they will lay better in winter with heat and light is based on recreating a normal 'day' in spring / summer when they are laying at their best. So that would mean a normal light coming on a little earlier than daylight and staying on a little after dusk to create the 'normal' 14 hours-ish of light. A heat lamp at night would be used to bring the temperature up to a 'normal' comfortable night.

That is the basic theory of it, but the other side is that it is more natural for chickens to have a bit of a rest from egg laying if they need one. Most egg laying breeds, particularly in their first year, may have a little slow down during winter, but do not stop completely.

Chickens are quite hardy, and as long as the coop is not damp and/or drafty they can live quite happily in low temperatures. A well inuslated, draft-free (but ventilated) coop, some extra bedding and their own body heat can make them quite cosy. A thermometer in the coop can help give a good idea of what their actual situation is and it is also worthwhile to stand inside to check if you can feel any drafts.

There are a few winter tips in the October 07 newsletter - current and past issues are available by subscribing to the keeping chickens newsletter at the top of this blog or at

Heat lamps for the coldest weather can sometimes be helpful, particularly if their water is likely to freeze, but it makes them less hardy in the long-run. If they get used to having heat in cold weather and then suddenly don't get it because of a power-cut etc. then it is likely to affect them worse than if they were not used to having heat.