Chicken Nutrition for
Your Flocks Health

Chicken nutrition is essential for the health of your flock.

Chicken feed accounts for 2/3 of the cost of keeping your flock healthy.

Supplemental Grit, calcium and salt may be needed if your chickens are only foraging for food.

How you feed your chickens depends on the age and purpose of your flock.

Poor chicken nutrition can effect egg laying and growth in meat birds. Commercial chicken feed will provide your chickens a balanced diet. Most commercial feeds contain corn for energy and soy bean meal for protein.

As your chickens grow they need less and less protein. Breeding chickens need more protein and molting chickens use more protein.

As the seasons change your chickens diets may need adjusting.

Feed Formulations

Commercial chicken feed comes in different formulations according to your flocks needs.

Choices include:

Formula Protein

  • Chick Starter 18%
  • Grower/Finisher 20%
  • Layer 16%

Scratch is made up of at least 2 kinds of grain. One of them is usually cracked corn. Scratch is cheaper than commercial feed but should not be used as your main chicken feed. Scratch will affect the chicken nutrition if used as daily feed. Scratch is a treat and can be used for:

    1. Energy boost in the winter. Throw a couple of handfuls in the coop before evening. It helps keep the birds warm during the cold nights.

    2. To stir up bedding on coop floor. As the chicken starch for the grains, they stir up the bedding keeping it loose and dry.

    3. Add to rooster feed to lower protein for a maintenance diet.

During the cold months of winter, chickens need more energy to stay warm. Increase scratch during the winter months. I usually give them some in the morning and evening.

During the warm months of summer reduce scratch. When chickens are stressed they eat less. If your hens eat less it affects egg production. Whole oats have been known to help hens improve egg production in the hot summer months.

Sometimes you’ll need to increase the protein content of your chickens feed when your chickens start to molt, and during breeding. Add scratch to your chicken feed to reduce the protein content.

You can increase the protein of your chicken’s diet by mixing few cups of cat food into your chicken feed. Cat food contains animal protein rich in amino acids which chickens need during molting.

Keep your feeders out of the weather. Wet feed will quickly spoil and grow bacteria that can wipe out a flock. Don’t feed any moldy feed or spoiled food to your chickens.

Home Mixed Feeds for Chicken Nutrition

Mixing your own feed can be complex depending on what grains and protein meals are available in your area. When feed price soared in 2008 I mixed my own feed to save money. Now the cost of chicken feed has come back down so I don’t take the extra effort. Here is a simple formula I used based on calculation using the Pearson’s Square.

Grain 18 % protein 16 % protein

Parts Whole wheat 10 12

Parts Cracked corn 3 3

Parts Oats 2 2

Parts Soybean Meal 6 4

Feed oyster shell for calcium

Pidgin grit provides the grit for grinding the whole grains as well as minerals.

This simple formula works great for backyard chicken nutrition if your chicken’s free range during the day. If they are caged provide a variety of fruit and vegetable scrapes for the extra vitamins and minerals they need.

Feeding Method

How much your chickens eat varies by the season. Chickens eat less when it is hot and when they free range during the day. They eat more during the cold winter months when they need extra energy to keep warm.

How you feed your chickens depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

    Free choice feeding is when you leave the feeder out all the time. Letting the chickens eat through out the day. Free choice is easier and saves time and no chicken goes hungry.

    Restricted feeding involves feeding your chickens more often usually once in the morning and once in the evening and then removing the feed after a certain amount of time. You may restrict diet for show birds or broilers so they don’t grow as fast.

    When you use this method you’ll need more feeders so all the birds can feed at the same time so chickens on the bottom of the pecking order get enough to eat.

Feed Storage

It is important to store feed properly to insure freshness and to keep out rodents and other animals. A separate storage area near your flock to keep the feed dry and handy is great. If not Use galvanized trash cans with tight lids.

I have one for my scratch grains and one for my commercial feed. The tight lid keeps the feed dry even in the snow and rain. I keep them next to my coop.

Store only enough commercial feed for a few months at a time to keep it fresh. My trash cans hold 100 pound of feed and lasts 3 to 4 months feeding 5 chickens.

Fresh Water

Plenty of fresh water is needed for good chicken nutrition. Chickens drink 1 to 2 cups of water a day. Laying hens need more water than non laying hens. Eggs contain 65 percent water.

Water fountains need to hold enough to water your flock for a day. Keep water fountains free of dirt and droppings. Clean water containers once a week with a bleach solution to disinfect.

I use an automatic bowl fount to water my flock in the summer and a heated dog bowl during the winter. The heated dog bowl holds a gallon of water. I use two for my 5 chickens.

The automatic fount was easy to install and easy to clean. It insures my flock gets all the fresh water they need. I can leave for a few days and not worry about my chickens.

Fresh Greens

Fresh greens of weeds and vegetables help provide variety and increase chicken nutrition. If your flock is able to free range during the day they will get all the fresh greens they need. If your flock is confined, feed them weeds from the garden..

In the winter growing wheat grass is a great way to give your chickens a nutritious treat.

Over ripe fruit and vegetables and any slugs and bugs you find when gardening, scraps from your table. Don’t feed your chickens raw potatoes, meat scraps.

My chickens come running when I come into the yard. They know I will have treats for them. Feeding your chickens a variety of food will keep them healthy and happy giving you years of pleasure.

› Chicken Nutrition