Raising healthy chickens in your backyard is all you feed them. Knowing what to feed chickens is essential to their health and to yours as a chicken owner if you enjoy their eggs. So we have compiled a big list of what we feed chicken.

What do you feed chickens - chickens eat grass

Chickens can eat a lot more than you might expect, and they also need more feed than you might expect depending on the time of year. This was a big surprise to us as new poultry owners a few years ago, but learning the correct way to feed chickens is essential to their health. Poor nutrients for your chicken can lead to serious and harmful health problems for them. There are many ways in which their food affects them just as food affects us as well as humans.

The best way to think about feeding your chickens is to feed them things that they would naturally encounter in foraging whether or not your chicken feed applies this rule. Another rule to know about chickens is that they need rocks and gravel to help digest their food properly. Their stomachs and system work quite differently from humans, so they need rocks to help break down food. Finally, if you live in a cooler climate, backyard chickens will generally need more food during the winter. In order to produce body heat, they need to stay healthy and not freeze, they need more food. This is also part of the reason why we don’t give our chickens a lamp in the winter.

However, knowing what your chickens can eat is very important and what you should feed them to keep them healthy and knowing that whatever they eat you will also consume more or less if you eat their eggs. So, here is everything you need to know about what to feed chickens.

Chickens can eat avocados - Three chickens in a snowy land are trying to find something to eat

What can you eat chicken?

Below I’ve broken down what chickens eat into several different main categories to be helpful in understanding what you can feed them and what they need. The most important thing to know is that they need a good quality diet which they can easily handle on their own if they are foraging and supplementing with forage and a few other things, but when winter comes this can be a little harder to achieve. The menu in mind is good throughout the whole year.

What can a chicken eat - several chickens are looking for food on the snow-covered ground

Feeds and Supplements

These are the basic elements of what you should provide for your chicken through purchase. Most other things you can buy but can be found and obtained naturally. Remember, you’ll want to think about your toxins, etc. So be mindful of what you give your chicken and where it comes from. Chicken feed is the most important of all of them.

  • Organic and non-GMO chicken feed: Not all feeds are created equal by any means and knowing which ones are correct is difficult for your flock. Their needs change as they age and it depends on why you are raising them, but I like the Grubbly’s feed as well as this one from Hen Up too. If you want a more affordable option, this one is foolproof.
  • oyster shells: These are great for serving chickens to support their eggshell. They contain calcium so they will enjoy it to help complete all the egg laying they do. Serve them in a bowl to use as needed.
  • Chicken scratch: This is a treat for your chickens and spreads widely on the ground. It contains a lot of nuts, seeds, etc. that they enjoy.
  • flock block: These are great for keeping your chickens busy especially in the winter. We keep one running all winter long to avoid clicking on each other out of boredom.
    poultry grit: This helps your chickens process their food better. It is not necessary though if your chickens are fed regularly and have rocky or sandy soil they can access. Sometimes this is necessary in the winter.
  • Germinated grain / fodder: This is great for your chickens in the winter. The sprouted grains generate tons of heat and stimulation in the digestive pathway which helps warm them up. All you have to do is take a bean like winterberry or barley and leave it in warm water for 24-36 hours, then strain it and feed it. In the summer, you can freeze it into blocks to get great rewards.

Chicken treats - a chicken in the backyard near the flowers

Bugs that chickens like to eat

If your chickens are out looking for food, there will be less need for them. We feed our chickens 2-5 times a week depending on the time of year. In the winter, I would suggest picking out a couple of bugs below, which you can find dried to serve as dessert because they will enjoy and miss them in the depths of the cold.

Best herbs and plants for chicken feed

One of the best ways to ensure your chickens get plenty of nutrients is to feed them weeds! This is usually what you will see your chickens eating when they are eating, but adding them to the mix by collecting them in a bucket and then throwing them on the run to eat is a great way to take unwanted plants in your garden or flower bed and turn them into feeders and put them to good use. Below you will find a list of plants but you can also include all botanical garden plants and herbs. We talk about how we’re using our chickens to help transform our garden and forage in this post about our DIY compost bins if you’re interested in learning more.

  • shrub
  • clover flower
  • dandelion
  • grass clippings
  • Lamb’s quarters
  • plush
  • fire herb
  • Nettle plant
  • sour
  • plantain
  • purslane
  • wild violet
  • Most of the plants you grow in your garden

Chicken can eat lettuce - the chicken near the sunflower is looking for food to eat

How to feed chicken

Knowing not only what chickens eat but also how to feed them is really important to know when to learn what to feed chickens. It’s a lot easier than you think, and oftentimes they organize it all without much of our intervention.

How much should you feed them?

The good news is that your chicken will never, ever eat. This is correct. We have a gravity-fed tub that we fill every few days for them. They organize their eating while they are inside their barns where they sleep at night.

How often should you feed them?

We feed our 12 chickens every 2-3 days using layer feed depending on how much they have consumed. We allowed them to forage regularly during the days when it wasn’t snowing and they had access to the daytime running that they organized. automatic door. We also bring them scraps from the kitchen and/or garden every day.

water for your chicken

Chickens can’t go more than 24 hours without fresh water, so check their water at least every two days to make sure it has enough. For us, our chickens make it very clear when they need water, but that may not be true for your flock. No matter the time of year, be sure to set up a great irrigation system to keep their water pure and clean every day. You can see our list of the best chicken waterers and the best hot chicken waterers here. If you want to come in handy, you can make a very simple DIY Chicken Waterer system like we did.

What you should not feed them

What not to feed chickens is really simple… They basically won’t eat citrus peels, banana peels, etc. They should not contain cores of apples, garlic, rhubarb, or feed them with avocados. They should also not be fed heavily processed foods or things that contain sugar.

What can happen if their diet is incorrect?

decreased egg productionEgg production is a strong indicator of the health and age of the chicken. Most egg problems can stem from the diet. If something changes with your chicken’s egg production, their diet may not be right for them, so keep an eye on their eggs and their overall health.

General disturbances and feather picking: If your chickens are pecking at themselves, each other, and both may not be getting what they need for their diet or natural cravings. This means that they may need more foraging for food, a candy, a tap block, or something else. This is very common in the winter.

abnormal eggsEggs with changes in texture, color, shape, or anything in between could mean they may contain too much protein or too little calcium. Another thing to watch is the size of the egg and if it has double yolks more often. This could also be a sign of a problem with their diet.

Feathers and livestock health: If you see a lack of color or shine in the feathers, the chicken is not healthy. You may need to change their feed, allow them to forage for more food, or provide them with more choices for their diet. You can also consider supplementing their water with apple cider vinegar and adding a cup of it kelp meal Per bag of feed to help their health too.

What do chickens like to eat - chickens in a coop fed by a chicken feeder
It is contained.

Feeding your chickens properly is not only important, but vital to having a happy flock of chickens in your backyard. Just remember that chickens can eat a lot of what you and I eat, but they just need a few other things. You also want to make sure you feed them things that are good for you, too. They are given plenty of good leftovers in the kitchen, plenty of forage, clean water and fodder while keeping an eye on their eggs, rattles, and feathers. If you do, you should have a batch of very healthy chicken.

More posts to help you raise healthy backyard chickens:

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