I'm sure your backyard chickens love donuts. Does that mean you should feed them these tasty glazed delicacies? Probably not. Following the tragic death of our chicken Alana, we had the vet investigate her cause of death by performing a necropsy (read more about it here). The determined cause was kidney failure, but the vet also remarked that Alana had excessive amounts of fat in her system. "More fat, more flavor," I typically say, but since we are not eating our chickens, we need to keep them lean and healthy in hopes that they will live long, happy, egg-bearing lives.
How to feed your chickens:
Free-choice feeding is the easiest. Rations are left out at all times and your chickens may choose to eat whenever their hearts desire. This way they will never go hungry. Although free-choice may sound great, rats will also have the option of eating whenever they please. The feed may also get wet and dirty if constantly left out.
Restricted feed will require a bit more time on your part, but it will prevent your chickens from overeating and they will be so excited to see you when you come bearing food. Feeding your girls twice a day is typically sufficient, but make sure each of them gets enough. Otherwise they may resort to cannibalism (no joke).
Range feeding sounds easy, but this may require a bit of regulation. Chickens can become destructive if they stick to a single area of your yard or property. To encourage even grazing, position waterers and feeders away from their home and throughout the grazing area. Scattering scratch in different areas each day will also help prevent overgrazing in a single area. Be sure to barricade any areas of your garden that you don't want your chickens to eat (vegetable beds, flowers, etc.).
What to feed your chickens:
What one feeds a chicken is determined by the chicken's age and purpose and the time of year. The best way to provide your chickens with a balanced diet is to purchase ration from your local feed store. Rations available include:
- Chick ration
- Broiler ration
- Pullet ration
- Lay ration
- Breeder ration
If you decide to allow your chickens to range feed on the grasses around your home, be sure to provide them with the following supplements to ensure balanced nutrition:
- Grit - aids in proper digestion
- Calcium - promotes strong egg shells
- Phosphorus - helps digest calcium
- A bit of salt - deficiency may result in fewer and smaller eggs and can lead to cannibalistic behavior
Instead of feeding them cookies as treats, feed them scratch. Scratch is much healthier for chickens than cookies and they love it. You may also use it to train your chickens to come when you call them, and if you throw it in their coop, they will stir up the bedding— helping to loosen it up and keep it dry. Seeds are also chicken-pleasing treats.
During molting season your girls will need more protein. Feathers are 85% protein and adding more protein to their diets will help speed up the process resulting in happier chickens. Low-fat, no-sodium cottage cheese or dried cat food are two good options.
Unlike your children, your chickens will gladly eat their fruits and veggies. Feel free to give them any produce you may have lying around.
How much to feed your chickens:
This will vary on the season and the temperature. Typically aim for about a cup per chicken per day. During the colder months or during molting, give them about a 1/4 cup more each. Don't over-do it on the scratch because it will throw off the percentage of protein they need in their diet. A handful or so once or twice a day is plenty.
- Don't feed them donuts, tacos, or chicken
- Feed them ration or allow them to range feed
- If you range feed your chickens be sure to provide them with supplements
- Feed them scratch and seeds as treats... not cookies or graham crackers
- Incorporate low-fat, sodium-free cottage cheese or dry cat food into their diets during molting
- Feel free to give them fruits and veggies
- Don't let your chickens near any plants you don't want them to eat
- Make sure they have constant access to a water source
And a joke:
Q: Why did this chicken cross the road?
A: To get his morning donut. Check out this video..