Whether you keep chickens on a farm, allotment, small holding or even have a couple of chickens in your back garden you'll know how important it is to keep your chickens happy and healthy, and this includes everything from daily feeds and treats.
Chickens love nothing more than a good forage but to keep your chickens healthy and laying lots of eggs, your chickens will need a balanced diet but knowing what food to feed your chickens and when can be daunting so we have put this handy guide together to make it a little easier!
THE FOUR STAGES OF CHICKEN FEED
Starter Chick Feed: Hatch to approximately 6 to 8 weeks - This feed is usually in found in crumb form and is generally around 19% protein, ensuring the chicks gain all the nutrients needed for strong growth. To support a smooth transition into pelleted food, it is advised to phase out the crumb feed over a 2 week period and begin to mix the feed with poultry grower pellets from 5 to 6 weeks. Feed is best given in small bowls to encourage chicks to feed, and fresh water should be available at all times.
Grower Poultry Feed: 4 weeks to 16/18 weeks - Designed to follow on from baby chick crumbs. Available in two forms - 'Grower Pellets' and 'Grower Mash' and this feed is usually around 15-16% protein. Although grower feed is lower in protein, you will find that the carbohydrate levels of grower feed is higher which helps your chickens produce all the energy they need to grow into healthy birds. Because grower feed is lower in calcium, once your bird starts to lay, switch them to a layer feed.
Layer Poultry Feed: 16/18 weeks onwards - When your chickens start to lay eggs they will needs to be fed ‘Layers Pellets’ or ‘Layers Mash’. This is usually 15-17% protein and will help them to regularly lay eggs. Layer feed is also contains higher calcium levels aswel as other aditives which are used to help increase egg quailty and quantity.
Finisher Poultry Feed: 16/18 weeks or 1 week before slaughter. A non medicated pellet for all fattening poultry. This product is designed with the correct energy to protein ratio to give the perfect finish.
Other Feeds Your Chicken Will Need
Because chickens have no teeth they need small stones (grit) to help them digest their food. There are two different types of poultry grit available; Flint and Oyster Shell.
Flint Grit: Also known as insoluable grit. Because this grit is smaller it passes through the bird to the gizzard and is used to grind down food, making it more easily digestable. It's important to remember the grit has to be a suitable size to match the bird as grit that is too small will pass straight through and will not help.
Oyster Grit: Also known as soluble grit this poultry grit is made up of oyster shells but can also contain cockle shells or limestone. Because oyster shell grit is larger in size than flint grit it dissolves in the birds digestive system and provides the chicken with more calcium allowing your birds to lay eggs with strong shells.
When keeping chickens it's important to make sure they have a good supply of grit alongside their feed as they may not find enough naturally when foraging.
Corn: Chickens downright love corn and it's a great treat for them. However, this is an end of the day food otherwise they would fill up on the corn and ignore their ration. Corn is also high in fat and if you allow your chicken too much they may become overweight and this will reduce the number of eggs they lay.
When keeping chickens make sure your birds have access to clean water at all times. In the hotter weather, try to make sure you top the water up frequently throughout the day and that the water is kept in the shade. When the temperature drops, make sure the water supply is not frozen over and still accesible to your birds.