What is the Right Chicken Feed?
Feed that is specially formulated to meet your flock’s nutritional needs and is one of the most important things there is when it comes to properly caring for chickens. So what is best when it come to feeding your chickens?
That's a great question, since the answer can affect both the size and the health of your birds as well as the frequency that they lay.
The good news is, choosing the right feed is a lot easier today than it was just a few years ago.
Choosing the Best Chicken Feed
Providing your family of chickens with a ‘complete feeding diet’ is always best. Complete feeding diets need no additional supplements.
If you feed your chickens a “complete feeding diet” you can feel confident that your chickens are receiving the best possible diet in terms of the nutrition they need to stay healthy and thrive.
As a result, you will enjoy one of the most important benefits of healthy, productive chickens, a plentiful amount of fresh, nutritious, delicious eggs.
Also, with this approach you are able to fill the chicken feeder from a single bag rather than combining feed from several different bags.
The two most important questions to consider when choosing the best complete feeding diet are:
What is the age of the bird?
What is its purpose?
Raising Young Pullets
If you are raising pullets to become layers, you do not want them growing too fast because they need to develop good strong bones and reach a normal body weight before they begin producing eggs.
Diets that are too high in protein tend to hurry your young hens into production before their bodies are quite ready.
Therefore, the best adult chicken feed for growing pullets; from about six to eight weeks old through about fourteen weeks old should be 18% protein.
Grower Pullet Rations is just the right ‘complete feeding diet’ for this stage of their lives.
Pullets Up to Point of Laying Eggs
From about fifteen weeks to twenty two weeks old or until your pullets begin laying eggs, whichever comes first, protein levels should be lowered a little from 18% to 16%.
The goal is to raise well grown pullets without having too much fat in their feed. Developer Pullet Rations is just right for this stage.
Note: Your feed should have normal levels of calcium and other vitamins until your hens start laying eggs. If you're feeding them a diet that's too high in calcium and phosphorus while they're too young, it can cause kidney damage.
You don't want to begin using layer feed until your pullets are at least eighteen weeks old.
At about twenty two weeks of age, or when your pullets begin laying eggs, and throughout all of their egg laying years, they need a protein level of sixteen to eighteen percent.
The calcium and minerals should be formulated for laying hens. Adult Layer Feed is just the right adult chicken feed starting at this point and for the balance of their egg laying years.
Do not feed adult layer rations to other types of chickens because the higher mineral content may damage the kidneys of chickens that are not laying eggs.
The exception would be for a rooster that may be living with your family of hens. The rooster will be fine consuming Adult Layer Feed.
Feed comes in three forms:
Research has shown that chickens grow and lay better on crumbles.
Pellets are the second best.
Mash is the least preferred.
This is sometimes referred to as a "developer’" diet. Continue with this diet until the young chickens are about 20 weeks old.
If you're getting thin or soft egg shells, you may need to add a calcium supplement. You can give your hens some additional calcium in the form of oyster shell in their diet, as well as some hen scratch feed, starting at about 20 weeks.
The supplemental oyster shell will help strengthen your chickens' egg shell and is also good for building strong bones while the hen scratch can be used to maintain body weight in laying hens during the colder months as well as an occasional treat.
Hen scratch is NOT meant to be used for the primary feed source!
Do not force extra calcium and minerals on hens by adding things to a properly formulated ‘complete feeding diet’. Too much calcium can cause kidney damage or failure.
Let them self regulate by providing the oyster shell in a separate container.
Most formulated chicken feed is sufficiently ground up and doesn't include grit because it isn't necessary for the chickens to digest the feed.
If circumstances require your chickens to be in enclosed in small chicken runs, you can add some hen grit. In situations like this, the additional grit may aid the gizzard in the digestion process.
Chickens love other treats as well as hen scratch, as omnivores chickens will find and eat bugs, ants, snails, worms, lizards, and even small mice, making them great backyard pest exterminators!
Chicken feed with proper nutrition, provided at each stage in your hens’ lives will help maintain the growth, the egg-laying performance, and the health of your family’s backyard chickens.