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oyster shells
wheat berries
backyard chickens
insect traps
egg shells
calcium supplements
What Do Chickens Eat?
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What Do Chickens Eat?

Before you bring home those chirping chicks form the local feed store, it's a good idea to ask the clerk, "What do chickens eat?"

She'll likely tell you that while chickens will eat any number of things they may find in a pasture or forest, as well as human foods and table scraps, their optimal diet should include plenty of protein, grains, calcium and fresh green grass.

Chickens Should Eat these Foods:

  • Protein-rich laying pellets or crumbles
  • Three-grain scratch mix (oats, wheat, corn)
  • Calcium supplement (ground oyster shells are great)
  • Fresh grass
  • Insects

Laying pellets are specially formulated to provide chickens with all the protein and fat they need to lay nutritious eggs while staying healthy themselves.

However, backyard chickens do best with a variety of food sources and sometime much prefer the whole grains found in chicken scratch mixes -- typically whole oats, wheat berries and cracked corn. As long as they have access to pasture or wooded areas and free range most of the day, they'll be getting enough protein from the insects they find.

Always have calcium supplements -- pulverized oyster shells and finely crushed egg shells -- available for your hens, and mix it into their feed if their eggs have thin or soft shells (both are signs of calcium deficiencies).

Chickens love fresh grass, open pasture and free ranging. Allow them access to this as much as possible. If predators prevent your chickens form having access to the open yard most of the time, supplement with fresh clipped grass straight from your untreated lawn pr fields -- simply mow with a collection bag and empty the newly mowed green grass right into their coop yard.

During the winter, cooped-up chickens will eat alfalfa hay in addition to their normal feeds, in lieu of fresh green grass.

Bugs, worms, fly larvae and other insects are great treats to hens and roosters alike. They'll find these on their own as the roam, but any extras you find, catch with non-toxic insect traps or even buy (fishing worms, for example) they will heartily appreciate.

The more time backyard chickens can free range and forage, the less expensive it is to feed them as they'll need less grain in their diet. Grass, table scraps (such as bread, lettuce leaves, apple skins, and other chicken-friendly foods) and extra bugs help supplement their diet and also cut down on grain intake.

Raising day-old chicks is fun, easy and rewarding -- once you know what chickens eat, the rest is simple. Before you know it, you'll have laying hens and fresh eggs: a wonderful reward.

Street Talk

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