What do chickens like to eat?

What do chickens like to eat

Chickens like to eat a varied diet.  They like to forage for greens, bugs, worms, seeds and other tasty treats.  However, even in a free range environment it is really important to make sure your chickens have a balanced diet that contains all of the essential nutrients and vitamins.  This comes in the form of layers pellets (or layers mash) and should be provided to your flock on a daily basis.  This will help to keep them to stay healthy, happy and continuing to lay lots of lovely fresh eggs.

Layers Pellets keeps the diet balanced.

Layers Pellets (or mash) is a balanced feed for laying hens.  It usually contains a mixture of oats, barley, wheat and maize.

It is also important that it contains protein and this is usually in the form of soya.  Layers pellets is available in the regular variety and the organic variety.

Layers Pellets v Mash
Layers Pellets v Layers Mash

Chicken food is available as pellets or mash.  The contents and nutrition of both are exactly the same.   Mash is the crushed individual ingredients where as pellets are compressed into larger pieces and which means the hens needs to eat the entire pellets rather than selectively choosing some bits.  My opinion is that the pellets lead to less waste as if they end up on the ground they can be foraged for later by the chickens, whereas I see mash literally get stood upon and disappearing into the bedding of the hen house or chicken run.

How much feed is required?

Food should be available to your chickens throughout the day as they don’t have certain mealtimes like us humans.  All kinds of containers can be used to provide feed to chickens, but they should be heavy as otherwise they will soon be turned over and the food wasted.  The other thing to consider is chickens like to scratch and if they can get in to the feeder the feed will quickly be flung to ever corner of the chicken coop or pen.

A proper chicken feeder is recommend as this will supply a steady flow of feed

The typical amount of feed required by a typical laying hen is  about 150g, so this is a good place to start.

The amount of feed required can depend on size and if their diet supplemented in some way (e.g. free ranging).

In my experience, chickens do not over eat if fed on layers pellets.  For that matter, they don’t never tend to overeat unless they are given a lot of unsuitable foods.

Whole grains are great as a treat!
Whole grains are great as a treat!

Other Feed

Chickens love whole grains such as oats and wheat and sunflower seeds.  These should be given as a treat or scratch food, but not as the flocks main diet.  Whole oats and wheat are great in winter, as the process of breaking these grains down generates heat for the chickens.  For this reason they are best given an hour or two before bedtime as they will help the chickens stay warm through the cold winter nights.

Greens

Greens are very important for a chickens diet.  If the birds have free range access to the garden their is usually no need to provide additional greenery.  However, if the chickens are penned we they can be given greens such as lettuce, spinach and cabbage.  Consider hanging a head of cabbage on a string within the pen as this gives several days of enjoyment to a few hens.
As well as the hens enjoying the greens it is important to remember that access to greenery will help to improve the flavour of the eggs and also contribute to a beautiful yellow/orange egg yolk colour.

Kitchen Scraps

Scraps from the table are usually fine in moderation.  A little infrequently, that they can eat up in a minute or two is fine.  If the hens eat a lot of scraps they will fill up and not eat a well balanced diet on that day.  If this happens frequently hens can become unhealthy, unwell or very heavy.  Also note that a fat hen will not lay any eggs!

Garden chickens should not be looked upon as kitchen scrap processing machines.

Here at Farm Fowl, we tend not to feed scraps, instead sticking to the layers pellets with a mix of whole grains and of course what the birds forage as they free range.

In Summary

  • Layers pellets is important to ensure a complete balanced diet.
  • Feed should be available to chickens throughout the day.
  • Chickens will typically eat about 150 g of layers pellets per day.
  • Whole grains and greens are great to provide also.
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