Are you trying to keep your chickens happy and healthy? What you feed them can make a difference. If you are new to the chicken business, you may wonder what can chickens eat? What you feed them can depend on what you want to do with the chickens. If you are raising layers, then you want to ensure they get enough calcium to produce strong shells on their eggs. If you are raising them for meat, you want to feed them a diet that will cause them to be meatier. You may also want to consider chicken feed that includes certain minerals and maybe even antibiotics.
Commercial chicken feed comes in crumbles, pellets, and mash. Most chicken feed is prepared for a certain stage in the chicken’s life. For example, if you are raising chicks, you will want a high-protein feed to help with growth and development. If your chickens are older, the feed should be designed to keep them healthy, full of energy and keep their feathers shiny. The type of consistency you use in your chicken feed is often just a matter of preference.
If you feed your chickens by hand, you may prefer pellets or crumbles since these are the easiest to handle. If you want to increase the weight of your chickens, you may decide to feed them a mash feed. This type of feed is slower to digest but is absorbed more quickly.
If you are raising your chickens for egg production, you will want them to eat a diet high in protein and calcium. Chickens can begin producing eggs while they are still maturing. During this period, it is important to provide a high-protein feed since their egg production will fall if their protein levels fall.
Commercial producers who are feeding thousands of chickens every day watch the protein amounts since it can be expensive. They usually provide a feed with 18 percent protein for the first four months, then reduce the protein to 16 percent.
Backyard chicken owners will typically not go to all the trouble of monitoring age and protein intake. Instead, they will usually begin feeding a protein-rich feed that starts about 16 or 17 percent.
It is also important to include some type of grit in a chicken’s diet. If you are feeding your chickens any type of whole grain, this is critically important. Grit helps the chickens grind the grains and improves digestion. Remember, a hen will eat just about anything, including feathers and sticks. Grit helps get these things through their digestive system without injury.
Chickens will also eat table scraps, but these should be carefully monitored. Leftover vegetables and fruits are good, but should not make up their entire diet.
Calcium is another important element in a chicken’s diet. This is how they make hard shells. Their feed should include at least three percent calcium. Oyster shells may also be used to help increase calcium intake.
As with any animal, it is important to provide plenty of fresh, clean water. Chickens will stop laying if they are too thirsty, even if for a short period of time. Keep your chickens healthy and happy by knowing the answer to what can chickens eat.