What to Feed Your Chickens

We got our chickens as babies back in February, so we’ve had a few months to experiment with what to feed them. Their basic diet is organic feed from  Callahan’s Feed Store, but there are a ton of other things you can give your chickens as treats. Like grass clippings:

So grass clippings are a fun treat for your chickens (assuming it’s not chemically treated, of course), but what else should you feed your girls?

Chicken Feed Options

Start with a high quality feed formulated for the age or development of your chickens. If your chickens are of laying age, they will need feed that is designated for “layers.” This type of feed has the additional nutrients that hens need in order to lay consistently and remain healthy. Chicken feed is different from “scratch,” though — scratch is more of a treat that you throw out into the chicken run, and should not be the basis of their diet. It does look similar to their feed, but tends to be a bit finer in texture. I like to use an organic feed, which of course is more expensive, but since we’re eating the resulting eggs, I’d rather give our chickens the best kind of food I can give them.

Kitchen Scraps

We save some kitchen scraps for our hens and throw them out into the run every day. Here are some ideas:

  • Vegetable peelings
  • Fruit peelings/skins
  • Nothing moldy
  • Nothing cooked or with oils or spices
  • No pits (cherries, avocado, etc.)
  • No raw meat (we don’t give ours meat at all, but that’s just personal preference)

Other Snacks

  • Fallen fruit from your fruit trees (ours love figs)
  • Clippings from the vegetable garden (lettuce leaves, chard, collards, fallen tomatoes, etc.)
  • Grass clippings (I have just recently read to not give them grass clippings that are longer than 2″. The extra length can cause something called “crop impaction” which can lead to decreased weight and ill health).
  • Bugs like snails, slugs, grubs, grasshoppers, crickets

This is not an exhaustive list — I am constantly reading more and learning more about what is good for chickens to eat and what isn’t, and you should, too! While chickens will eat most things you give them, that doesn’t mean everything is “fair game.” And even if something is recommended or “okay” for chickens to eat, your particular flock will tell you what their preferences are. For example, our girls love spinach but turn their beaks up at swiss chard, both of which are just fine for chickens to eat. Do some reading and then experiment with your own hens — just avoid treating your chicken run like a compost bin by throwing everything you can think of in there. Remember, the phrase “junk in, junk out” applies to animals just like it does for humans!

Do your chickens have particular foods they love or hate? What do you recommend?

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