What to Feed Backyard Chickens and Hens

What to Feed Backyard Chickens and Hens

A balanced diet is essential for healthy, happy chickens. If you keep chickens for the fresh eggs, you know that the diet of your layers determines the quality and quantity of eggs produced. But what is the best food for laying hens?

Dine a Chook reduces the stress and work of keeping backyard poultry. We have helped hundreds of customers ensure that their hens are happy, healthy and laying well. This handy guide to Feeding Backyard Chickens answers our customers’ most Frequently Asked Questions. If you have more questions about Feeding Chickens, please ask us through the website.

What is the best type of chicken feed?

So many of our customers start out using mixed-grain as the basis of their chickens’ diet. This may seem like the “best-looking” feed available, but there is a reason why it is usually the cheapest. “Scratch” mixes are aptly named – the attractive variety of grains encourages your chickens to “scratch” the feed around to consume only their favourite morsels. Not only does this lead to mess and waste, which will attract vermin to your chicken coop, it also means that your chickens are not getting the right balance in their diet.

The best type of chicken feed is a crumb or pellet feed. If you prefer a feed based on whole grains, choose a crushed product or mash, rather than scratch mixes. Or use a scratch mix as a treat for your birds, rather than as their primary source of feed.

Crumbed and pelleted feeds are balanced, ensuring birds receive the ideal proportions of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and fibre. Because individual grains are not recognisable, these feeds also discourage selective feeding. Combine with a Dine A Chook Waste-Reducing Chicken Feeder to save you money and deter rodents in the coop.

What is the Best type of Chicken feed for laying hens?

When choosing a commercial chicken feed, look for a mash or pellet feed that contains:

  • 16-18 % protein
  • High calcium levels for optimal egg-shell production (at least 2.5 %)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • A maximum of 10 % fibre
  • Essential vitamins (especially A, E, D3 and B vitamins) and minerals (including iron, iodine and zinc), unless using an alternative supplement.

What is a healthy nutritious diet for chickens?

Many customers feed their chickens a grain mix supplement along with kitchen scraps as well as garden waste. This is the worst diet for a laying hen. Scratch mixes are low in protein. Chickens also select what they like and leave the rest.

Unlike scraps, commercial feeds supply all the nutrition they require. While they are the more costly choice, you will save more in the long run as the hen is not selectively feeding.

The best diet for chickens is a complete feed. Crumb and pellet feed helps prevent chickens from selectively feeding. If adding treats, they should be healthy treats. Chickens love pure carbs, but bread isn't the best treat for chickens. Instead, go for lots of leafy greens, insects and other high protein treats and garden waste; which should be young and tender, not hard or fibrous. Dried mealworms are popular with chickens as a protein treat which you can also rehydrate to soften before feeding. 

Are scraps good for chickens?

Kitchen scraps are good for chickens as a treat. Like anything else, too much of a good thing can have a negative effect. Leftovers may be tasty, however, they are unlikely to have everything necessary good health and consistent egg production.

A good guide is not to give your chickens more scraps than they can consume in 20 minutes. This ensures the majority of their daily diet comes from their nutritionally balanced feed.

Why aren’t my hens laying?

There are many reasons why a chicken may not be laying well – it may be broody, moulting, too old or too young. But often the underlying cause of poor laying is a nutritional or dietary deficiency. If your hens are not laying well, check the nutritional content of their diet to ensure that they are receiving enough protein and calcium. If they are, it may be an issue of access; watch your flock to ensure that more dominant birds are not preventing the weaker ones from feeding. If they are, we recommend installing a second feeder in a different area so that all birds have equal access to feed.