Our recent post, just like many of them actually, talks about chickens. But even though we acknowledge the fact that chickens are an endless source of wonderment, people usually raise them for two things: Eggs or meat.
When it comes to eggs, things should be pretty straightforward, right? You feed the chickens, you shelter them, they give you eggs. Well, it’s actually not that simple. Let’s take a look at the complex process that is required to make sure your friendly birds give you the best eggs possible.
Things To Know
How you feed your chickens is obviously one of the more important tasks you can have when taking care of them since, you know, nobody can survive without food. This is not as easy as it looks though since getting it wrong can lead to reduced egg production, feather picking, and even deformed eggs which are of no use to anyone.
However, once you get the hang of it, it really is a pretty easy job. What makes it difficult is some of the false myths from the online community which can confuse you a little bit. For example, the myth that states feeding your chickens potato skin is bad for them is completely false, as your girls love it and it does not cause them any harm, as long as it’s boiled.
Other mistakes commonly made include offering vitamin and/or electrolyte supplements for more than 10 days straight without pause, regular addition of green chops, lettuce or other such vegetables to the diet or administering unnecessary medication. Never try to rush the process by supplementing already complete feeds with things like cracked corn, oats, etc.
Furthermore, know that chickens will typically adjust their feed intake to meet their energy needs for that time of the year. The temperature also plays an important role in this, as feed intake will always decrease during hot weather season. It will obviously increase during cold weather as your chickens need the extra energy to maintain their body temperature.
How To Feed Them?
If you have a small flock, the simplest way to provide for them is to buy a complete feed from a feed store. This way, you can make sure that all their nutritional needs are covered and they get a balanced diet. This is mandatory for optimal growth and egg production and usually vary with each particular chicken breed so each bag of feed will be labeled to help you get the right one.
If you prefer more control over their actual food, remember that the basis of any good hen diet will always be a high-quality poultry pellet. These usually contain a combination of wheat, sunflower seeds, oats, salt, and maize. Feeding them pellets allows vital vitamins and nutrients to enter their body.
In addition to this, you can add small treats of corn or wheat to give them some variety, but make sure not to overdo it! Furthermore, chickens love fruits and vegetables so you can use this to your advantage to spice up their diet. Feel free to try vegetable peels, carrots, broccoli, and bananas. Still, avoid raw green peels, such as green potato peel and all citrus fruits.
Remember that regardless of what you treat them with, the basis of their diet should be made of whole grain and low sugar and salt foods.
How To Choose The Feed
If you want to go ahead with buying a feed, we recommend to always scour the market first and see exactly what products are available as well as the reviews on them. One bad feeding may not hurt your birds but you may not realize the feed is not what it should be after just one meal and you’ll never get back the time and money you spent buying it.
Some products that have shown their value over time are: “Scratch and Peck Feeds Naturally Free Organic Layer Feed” and “Kalmbach Feeds Organic Layer Feed with Omega”. Other choices include “Hiland Naturals Non-GMO Chicken Layer” and “Prairie’s Choice Non-GMO Backyard Chicken Feed – Grower Formula”.
If you don’t know where to start, we advise you to research these products and pick one of them as your go-to feed. For an inexperienced owner, sticking to a proven feeding method is probably the best way to keep their girls healthy, happy and willing and capable of laying eggs.
The Manner Of Feeding
Now that you know a little about what things your chickens should eat, what about the proper space required for their feeding? Some people like to throw the pellets straight onto the floor and let the birds peck at it, further encouraging this already natural behavior from them.
However, this is not always the healthiest way of feeding them. A better way to do it would be to put the pellets into a chicken trough. This way, you can keep it clean and still provide them with a way of eating the food in a natural way.
When it comes to installing them, you should make sure the feeders are low enough that your chickens can eat from them but high enough that they won’t turn it over and need replacing every hour. Most experts agree that the height of the bird’s back is an adequate one to use.
How Much To Feed Them?
Generally speaking, free-range chickens are different from their cousins that are being raised for industrial egg production. They won’t really overeat so whatever you feed them that is extra will simply remain untouched. You should remember though that any food left out overnight can attract mice that could potentially be dangerous for your birds.
You will learn in time how much sustenance your chickens require and you will adapt to that need. This really depends on the breed, the temperature and how active they are during that specific time of the year. If you are always finding a bit of leftover food, feel free to slightly reduce the amount that you give them.
For a regular-sized trough, a large handful of pellets is mostly enough to satisfy about 3 hybrid chickens, which are usually the most common in backyard flocks. Feeding is also more about you than the birds because they like to eat small portions several times every day. If you are retired or you work from home, throw them pellets as many times as you want.
A tip for being a good owner is keeping an eye on the most dominant hens and making sure they don’t eat all the food. If this happens, you can wake up with half of your flock hungry and not producing, so you may want to consider feeding the weaker birds in a different way just to ensure they can get the needed sustenance.
While not a requirement, treats are a good way of spicing up their food life and keeping the hens happy. Even though chickens love a good treat and will usually come running from every corner of the yard when you shake the bag, don’t just throw anything their way.
Mealworms are perhaps their delicacy of choice since such a mix contains over 50% protein and is, as such, a great snack provided you don’t overtreat your birds. Watermelons are amazing in the summer since they are full of vitamins and they also provide another source of water for your hens. In the fall, you can replace the watermelon with pumpkins and keep them busy for hours.