Once you’ve built your coop and got some chickens, you have to now decide on what to feed them. Chickens are omnivores and will usually eat anything they can find or scratch out from the ground. It is important however to ensure that your chickens get a balanced diet to ensure they stay healthy and lay plenty of eggs. After trying and testing out many different types of feed, here are my recommendations.
High quality poultry pellets should form the main part of your chicken feed. Nowadays, pellets are made with just the right amount of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Pellets should be kept away from the water dispenser to avoid them from turning moldy (which can be very dangerous for your chickens!).
The pellets should also be made available to your chickens all day long. A constant supply of food is necessary if you want your hens to produce eggs every day.
- Vegetables and Table Food
To add variety to the diet, you can also include vegetables and fruits. My chicks love it when I chop up some spinach, cabbage and apples and scatter them in the feed area. I however try to avoid giving them anything mushy, such as avocado and bananas, as these can turn moldy quickly. You can if you want to, but just make sure that you clean any leftovers within a day or two of feeding.
You can also occasionally feed table food to your chickens. Leftovers such as bread, rice, pasta and beans are popular choices. You should not feed you chickens too much carbs though; otherwise they will get fat and suffer from a protein deficiency.
- Oyster Shell / Egg Shells
Sometimes, you may notice that your hens are laying eggs with very thin shells or shell-less eggs. This indicates that they are not getting sufficient calcium in their diet.
Oyster shell or crushed egg shells can be fed to your hens to supplement their calcium needs. Oyster shells are inexpensive and can be easily bought from stores.
If you are using egg shells, I would recommend baking the shells first to remove all moisture and bacteria.
If your chickens are kept in a coop most of the time and are fed commercial food without the opportunity to free range, you must incorporate grit in their feed.
This is necessary to help them with their digestion. Chickens do not have teeth and grit is required to grind up food which is swallowed whole.
The most important thing to bear in mind after deciding on the type of feed is the location of the food and water. These should be placed as far away from the litter area as possible to avoid contamination. Contaminated food can easily lead to a disease outbreak and that is certainly something you want to avoid!