Choosing the Best Chicken feed
The most common reason that our customers keep chickens is for the “free” fresh eggs. So while I understand wanting to save money by buying the cheapest feed (particularly if you don’t have a Dine a Chook Waste-Reducing Feeder, ultimately the quality and quantity of eggs produced depends on the diet of your layers. It is for this reason that I have always sought out the best possible feed for my chickens.
Through my many years of working with both new and experienced chicken keepers, I have learned that nutrition is one of the most important, and least understood, aspects of poultry care. And I feel it is important to point out that I am not a poultry nutritional expert, but I am eager to be as informed as I possibly can so that I make the right decisions for my birds, thus assisting others to do the same.
As keeping poultry has grown in popularity, so too has our understanding of chicken nutrition. Leading manufacturers of poultry feed have used scientific advances to improve their feed, creating exceptionally high-quality products ideal for the backyard chicken.
However, the knowledge needed to raise healthier, happier and more productive hens must pass onto the consumer. Too many backyard poultry keepers continuing to rely on poor-quality grain mixes.
Why aren’t my hens laying?
There are many reasons why a chicken may not be laying well, but often poor nutrition or a dietary deficiency is the underlying cause. The first question I always ask a new customer is 'what type of chicken feed are you feeding your chickens'
Just the other day, a new customer walked into our store in Townsville and asked about feeds. He was not getting many eggs and his chooks did not seem to be feathering well after a recent molt. The customer had asked his previous feed store for suggestions to improve the health of his chickens, only to be told that the feed he was using was the “best-seller”.
This “recommended” feed was a grain mix with a protein level of 15 % and containing only 2.5 % calcium. It is sad that even feed sellers do not understand the nutritional needs of laying and molting poultry, both of which require a high-protein, high-calcium diet.
The best feed for laying hens
When I ask people in store what they feed their chickens, 95% are using a grain mix. Many people believe that “scratch” looks the best, supplementing this with leftovers and kitchen scraps. The result is a commercial feed with low nutritional value; with lots of scraps taking them away from an already average diet and limiting the nutritional intake even more so.
Unfortunately, this is a poor diet for a laying hen. Not only are whole-grain mixes often low in protein, these scraps constantly distract the birds from their main feed source by a smorgasbord of kitchen scraps which, while they may be tasty, do little to meet nutritional requirements. Add to this the fact that chickens have a very high tendency to be selective feeders. Chickens will pick though to find a tasty bit like corn or a sunflower seed. Never mind the rest of it.....as far as they are concerned, it can go to the rats!
In order to remain healthy, laying hens need a diet that contains:
- 16-18 % protein
- High calcium levels for egg-shell production
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Additionally, a pellet or crumb feed is preferable to a grain mix; this discourages selective feeding and ensures that birds receive the ideal proportions of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and fibre.
Dine a Chook recommends a high-protein chicken feed
In our Townsville store, located in Garbutt next to Lounds Seafood, you will never simply be given the “best-seller”. We have a range of feeds to suit that needs of all of your backyard poultry, as well as vitamin and mineral supplements that ensure the optimum health and performance of your flock.
We are always happy to advise you on how to care for your chickens, and what to feed them. For laying hens, we recommend a crumbed or pelleted feed (not a grain mix!) with a minimum of 17% protein and 4% calcium.
For the average backyard layer right through to show quality birds, we usually recommend Showbird Breeder MP and Red Hen 17.
Produced in Australia by Lauke Mills, both Showbird Breeder MP and Red Hen 17 are scientifically formulated to meet the needs of breeding and laying hens. Containing a minimum of 17% protein for egg production and bird health, as well as 4% calcium; these feeds are balanced to provide the ideal amounts of fats and fibre.
Know that your birds are getting the energy they need to be healthy and active, as well as all the essential vitamins and minerals for egg production and feather regrowth with these top quality feeds. In a crumb or micro-pellet form, these feeds may reduce waste by discouraging selective feeding, while maintaining the courser, attractive appearance preferred by most birds. Showbird Breeder MP contains additional vitamins and minerals which may increase the fertility and hatch-ability of eggs for breeding birds.
For more information on Showbird Breeder MP, Red Hen 17 and other feeds for chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and pigeons, visit our Poultry Feeds page or come into our Townsville store.