Owning chickens can be enjoyable and a great way to enrich your diet! This is something that most owners of chickens already know. A lot of people take full advantage of their backyards, using them to house chickens. The great thing about chickens is that they lay eggs, a great part of a balanced diet.
It’s important to pay attention to what your chickens are eating as well. This is true whether you want them at peak health or just want some great eggs. Maybe you are new to raising chickens and this is your first time, or you consider yourself to be a seasoned pro. Either way, there’s no harm in finding out more and learning about what these birds need to eat.
For those starting out, it’s good to first learn what chickens do normally eat. Whether they’re being kept in pasture or being allowed to roam and eat outside, it’s important to know! Finding out the basics and then going from there is a great place to start.
What Chickens Will Typically Eat
The basis of a chicken’s diet can be very similar to other types of poultry. They like to eat grasses that are growing, which can include varieties such as buckwheat or clover. They’ll consume many types of weeds that have broad leaves. Chickens have a fondness for eating seeds and the growing ends of these types of plants.
In addition to plants, these birds also eat their fair share of bugs. This is great if you want to have an organic form of pest control right in your backyard! Those hens are going to do a lot of the work for you. The end result is fuller, healthy chickens that are happy with their diet. They eat a wide variety of insects as well as slugs and earthworms.
Chickens also typically like to eat grit or dirt. This may sound surprising, especially to beginners to chicken raising. They like to eat coarse dirt, sand or grit for digestive reasons. The material is kept in the gizzards, where it aids the chicken by grinding up what they’re foraging outdoors. So do not be surprised or alarmed if you see your chickens pecking at the ground. Chances are that they’re just continuing part of their healthy diet.
Chickens are also great for recycling purposes. Instead of throwing your organic food scraps in the compost or the garbage, you can toss them out to your birds! They love pecking at recycled scraps. You should avoid giving them avocado, rhubarb, citrus, onions, garlic, beans, or raw potatoes (which can poison them). Be sure to check that they’re not eating strange things that they shouldn’t as well, such as their bedding.
What Do Chickens Need to Eat
Chickens have a diet that is omnivorous. This means that they will attempt to eat a large variety of foods. Chickens that are free to range can find a variety of nutritious seeds, insects, and vegetation to supplement their diet. A lot of a chicken’s typical diet can come from foraging if they have that option.
If you do not keep your chickens free-range, you can still give them a healthy diet. Most owners will use a layer of feed to give their chickens a healthy diet. This can come in crumble or pellet form. It’s specially made to give chickens laying eggs the nutrition that they need. The proper nutrition results in healthy eggs that are well-formed and without issue. Commercial feeds will give your chickens the minerals and vitamins they need to lay healthy eggs.
Giving them scraps and food to supplement feed is a good idea. Chickens also take in more food during the cold season. You can give them grains, vegetables, and fruits that give them the balanced intake they need. This can be anything from apples and berries to grains and cereal to corn, leafy greens, and cooked beans.
What Do Chickens Need In Their Diet
Protein and calcium intake are very important for chickens. Having these building blocks allows the chickens to lay eggs that become an owner’s pride and joy. While they don’t necessarily need commercial feed, it’s a good idea if you want to provide a baseline of nutrition for your birds.
As such, make a good pellet for poultry the main part of their diet. These can be put into dispensers that keep the product protected and dry. Owners may want to give supplemental nutrition through scattered corn and wheat. All of this is great, but add vegetables and fruit that are fresh every day to take it to the next level.
Your chickens will love tearing into a head of cabbage or pecking at some banana or endive. From bok choy to vegetable peels or even spinach, these birds really love their greens. You can even give them cooked bread, legumes, pasta, or even rolled oats or wholemeal rice.
Chickens that lay eggs also can get a calcium supplement. This is usually done by grinding eggshells to make a powder. This powder is then added to the feed that they eat daily. If you’re seeing eggs that have thin shells, this may mean that your chickens need more calcium. Adding grit and letting them get insects in compost and garden plants is also great for chickens.
Avoid giving your chickens foods that are processed, have sugar or high fat, or are overly salty. Of course, never give chickens food that is ‘off’ or has spoiled and gone bad. They won’t like it and could get sick!
Why Do Chickens Need Protein
Why do chickens need protein? To put it simply, protein is a must-have in the diet of most animals. It helps them grow and is a basic building block for these animals. Protein helps chickens grow eggs, make feathers, and help their nails grow.
Chickens need different protein amounts depending on their life stage. Chicks and young chickens need protein to develop their body, and feeds are formulated accordingly. Starter feed will have more protein than a layer or normal chicken feed.
Giving them too much protein is not good, but they do need it for a healthy diet. Moulting season is a good time to give them protein snacks to let them grow strong new feathers. Consider giving them cooked eggs, shellfish, pumpkin seeds, Japanese millet, tuna/sardines, pork/beef scraps, or parsley. Nuts, seeds, fish, organ meats, and even cooked chicken are also good protein sources for this omnivorous creature. Healthy protein paired with a nutritious diet generates healthy chicken that lay fantastic eggs.