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Feeding Backyard Chickens - What works for us

The Dine a Chook ® Guide to Feeding Backyard Chickens

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

Dine a Chook is dedicated to reducing 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 is based on our customers’ most Frequently Asked Questions. If you have a question about Feeding Chickens that is not answered here, 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 on the market, but there is a reason why it is usually the cheapest feed available. “Scratch” mixes are aptly named – the attractive variety of grains encourages your chickens to “scratch” the feed around in order 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 balanced diet that they need!

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

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

 

How do I choose the best commercial chicken feed for laying hens?

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

  • 16-18 % protein
  • High calcium levels for 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 an alternative supplement is being used

 

What is the best diet for chickens?

When I ask customers what they feed their chickens, the majority are using a grain mix supplemented with lots of leftovers, kitchen scraps and garden waste. Unfortunately, this is the worst diet for a laying hen. Not only are scratch mixes low in protein, but the hens are constantly distracted from what should be their main source of energy and nutrition by a smorgasbord of treats in the form of kitchen and garden waste, which may be tasty but is unlikely to meet their dietary requirements.

The best diet for chickens is a complete feed, in crumb or pellet form, supplemented by no more leftovers, kitchen scraps or garden waste than can be consumed in 20 minutes. Garden waste should be young and tender, not hard or fibrous.

 

Are kitchen scraps good for chickens?

Kitchen scraps are good for chickens IN MODERATION. Like anything else, too much of a good thing can have a negative effect. Leftovers may be tasty, but they are unlikely to have the balanced nutrients that your chickens need for good health and consistent egg production.

The main diet of laying hens should consist of a high quality commercial feed that is scientifically formulated for optimum health and well-being. Kitchen scraps should be a treat, used in moderation. A good guide is not to give your chickens more scraps than they can consume in 20 minutes, so that 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.