Chicken Feed 101 For New Owners

Chicken Feed 101 For New Owners

Healthy hens and roosters don’t come in baskets from storks. It takes the right kind of chicken feed to turn them into active clucking fluffy butts in your coop.

 

What is chicken feed called?

There are several types of chicken feeds. Starter feed is a protein dense variety of chicken feed designed to meet the dietary requirements of baby chicks. To complicate matters, there are varieties of chicken food known as starter/grower feed, which is essentially a type of feed that chickens can eat from 1-20 weeks of age.

 

Generally, chickens are to be fed depending on their growth development stage. 

 

For baby chicks a day old to 10 weeks starter feed should be crumbles or mash that contain 18% protein. Don’t be confused with crumbles and mash. Crumbles look like tiny pieces of granola while mash are finely ground chicken feed pellets. Both are easier to be consumed by chicks compared to huge pellets.

 

Eventually, they’ll start laying. Chicken layer feed would be similar to the textured mixture of crumbles, mash, and pellets. However, It needs at least 16% protein minimum, with added calcium. Layers need high protein chicken feed as well for more eggs. You also need to stay away from feeding onions, and other strong tasting foods to layers. They cause and undesirable taste to the eggs.

 

What do you feed chickens for tasting the best eggs?

We try different types of chicken feeds, but we feed them high quality layer feed and supplement it with our very own blend of natural herbs, oyster shells, garlic for immune boosting, and apple cider vinegar granules to balance gut pH and introduce beneficial bacteria. You can check it out here.

 

What do you feed a chicken?

The basis of any good chicken diet is a high quality poultry feed. We feed our girls a layer mash, which provides them with the right amount of protein and minerals to keep them laying eggs! In short, you can feed chickens:

  1. Layer pellets (16% protein)
  2. Dried insects like black soldier fly larvae or mealworms
  3. Vegetables (here’s a list of vegetables you can feed chickens)
  4. Fruits such as grapes, berries, and melons
  5. Grasses
  6. Seeds like wheat or millet

 

What is the best feed for chickens?

The best feed is high in protein, while providing all the nutrients chickens need. While there are a lot of commercial chicken feeds on the market, I still prefer non-GMO chicken feed. We’re proud to have the best chicken feed that can even give chickens fluffy feathers and produce the best eggs! Click here to know where to get chicken feed.

 

If you want to make your own homemade feed, just make sure it has essential chicken feed ingredients. You can read my favorite chicken feed recipe here.

 

How much do you feed a chicken per day?

A well known ballpark figure for estimating purpose is 1/4 pound of feed per chicken per day, or, 1.5 pounds of feed per chicken per week. Keep in mind that this is a ballpark figure, and you’ll need to watch your flock’s intake. If they gobble their feed quickly, and still seem hungry, offer more.

 

Do free range chickens need feed?

Yes. Even though they have access to pasture, you still need to give them poultry chicken feed to make sure they’re getting the right kind and enough nutrition.

 

Do chickens need food and water at night?

Chickens roost and sleep at night, and they won’t get up to eat and drink until it’s light again. However, you should always provide 24 hour access to water. Here’s a list of waterers we recommend.

 

How often should chickens be fed?

How often do you feed chickens is a very common question in growing backyard chickens. Food must be available to chickens whenever they need it. The full feeding method is a good technique to guarantee that there is constant supply of feed at all times. You can also use automatic feeders like these. We’ve also reviewed Duncan Feeder’s automatic feeders here.

 

How much food does a chicken need per day?

¼ cup of a high quality chicken feed. Best to offer free choice all day.

 

Can you overfeed chickens?

Everything must be taken in moderation. Overfeeding chicken is possible and they become obese especially if they’re confined to the coop. Free range hens however get enough exercise and are unlikely to be obese.

 

Do free range chickens need scratch? 

No. They don’t. Unless it’s winter and the ground is covered in snow.

 

Then there’s also grit. Grit is not feed, it’s rocks. Chickens need grit to help digest their feed. It’s their equivalent to teeth. Free fed chicken will find their way to grit in the form of tiny bits of stone and gravel but it would be helpful if you threw some in the coop or their feed too. 

 

Grit comes as flint and oyster shell. Oyster shell is soluble and it provides calcium which would be much used by layers in particular. It’s just like feeding chickens with eggshells.

 

What should you not feed chickens? What foods are poisonous to chickens?

While looking for alternative chicken feed, you might have considered beans. Although they look like something chickens would eat, dried and raw beans are a no-no. It contains phytohaemagglutinin which is fatal to chickens. Moldy fruits and vegetables aren’t good as Fowl feed too.

 

Caffeine is also toxic to chickens. Giving them a few pecks of chocolates would not cause too much harm but remember, chocolates are known to cause cardiac arrest in birds!

 

Other foods that are not good for chicken are:

  1. Processed food
  2. Raw potato peels and green potatoes
  3. Avocado skin and pit
  4. Raw meat
  5. Greasy food

 

You can see a list of what not to feed chickens here.

 

What scraps can chickens eat?

Some table scraps that are safe for chicken to consume are:

 

  1. Vegetables (cooked or raw)
  2. Fruits (leave the seeds out)
  3. Grain
  4. Oatmeal
  5. Corn (cooked, raw, and dried)
  6. Peas
  7. Bread
  8. Yogurt

 

Again, make sure that these foods are not moldy or spoiled. You might have also heard of feeding chicken expired yogurt. It’s not something to be frowned on. Feeding chicken yogurt helps even out chicken gut bacteria for a better digestion. You can also add a few tablespoons of yogurt when fermenting chicken feed.

 

Where can I buy chicken feed?

You can find chicken feed for sale at local farm stores. You can also find them on Amazon here.

 

How can I feed my chickens cheap?

To reduce chicken feed bill, free ranging would be a good idea. A garden can provide additional and natural feed for your chicken who sometimes don’t stop eating. Another option is to make your own chicken feed. Learn how to make chicken feed and check out my chicken feed recipe here.

 

What can I grow to feed chickens? 

Growing chicken feed is not complicated at all. Remember what was in grandma’s garden and sow them! Chickens can eat vegetables like corn, lettuce, kale, and any other leafy vegetable you usually grow. Sunflower and Millet are great seed producing plants too! These make great grower feed for chickens and organic chicken feed too.

Poultry Grit: Your Questions Answered!

Poultry Grit: Your Questions Answered!

Chickens don’t have teeth. To help them digest their food, owners must provide their hens and roosters with poultry grit. 

Mainly made of crushed granite, it helps the chicken grind down their food while in the gizzard, the part of their stomach where food and grit are mixed together with all the acids and digestive enzymes. This process allows for the breakdown and absorption of the nutrients chickens need to be healthy.   

Many free-range chickens get the grit they need from small stones and rocks while foraging for food. But if your flock doesn’t free range, it can be difficult for the chickens to access the poultry grit they require, especially when they’re kept in fenced enclosures. For this reason, you should introduce one of the numerous varieties available of chicken grit substitutes into your flock´s daily diet.

In this article, we’ll cover the different types of poultry grit available, their quality, and their advantages.  

Grit and Oyster Shells Aren’t The Same

Grit is small stones that chickens naturally pick up. They’re important for digestion, and help chickens break down their food. Sometimes, you’ll see oyster shells referred to as grit on the Internet. While oyster shells can perform some digestive activities that grit does, these two things aren’t the same.

Oyster shells are an important source of calcium, and you should feed it so your hens lay eggs with thick shells that don’t break easily. However, it will be digested eventually, whereas rock grit will stay in your chicken’s digestive system until it’s pooped out.

Grit, on the other hand, is usually granite, and doesn’t provide any nutrients or minerals. However, because they aren’t digested, they will remain in your flock’s digestive system longer. Stones are also stronger, and better at helping break down food. It’s best to offer both of these important supplements to your chickens to help them be as healthy as possible. Now that we got that clear, let’s talk about the different types of poultry grit available.

There’s 5 Types of Poultry Grit

Small stones found in nature

Yep, if you’re on a budget or just want to use materials already available to you, then you can go collect a bunch of small stones and make them available free choice. Stones smaller than a pea are best (about the size of an elderberry). You want to make sure your chickens can swallow them! If you don’t want to search for stones, then you have commercial options listed below.

Chick grit/Flint grit

It’s very tiny and thin flakes of crushed granite. It is used for grinding down food and helping chickens, ducks, and other poultry with their digestive processes. You typically see this type for baby chicks, and used in quail grits and turkey grits because the stones are small and easy for chicks to swallow. Smaller flakes are less useful for adults.

Granite grit

This is probably what you’ll see when you look for poultry grit at your local farm store. It’s larger pieces of granite that are the perfect size for adult chickens to swallow. You can offer this granite grit free choice or mix it with your flock’s feed. Your chickens will pick up the stones as they need them.

Oyster shell grit

As mentioned above, this isn’t the same type of poultry grit as granite grit, but it can still help your flock breakdown food in their gizzard. Unlike rocks, it will eventually break down in their digestive system. This type of grit is mainly made of ground up oyster shells and it is a great source of calcium to help chickens develop stronger egg shells.

Mixed poultry grit

Because these 2 types of grit described above behave in different ways in the chicken gizzard, one is soluble and the other one is not, they can be mixed together to allow for a greater benefit.

Poultry grit with probiotics

Lately, a lot of commercial companies have started adding probiotics to oyster shells. Probiotics are always a good idea – studies show that chickens with healthy digestive systems are healthier overall, weigh more, have better food absorption, and lay better eggs.

4 brands of poultry grit

The purchase of chicken grit can be quite affordable nowadays, and doesn’t need to break your bank. To choose the best option for your flock, first of all, it is important to understand the different types of grit available and what specific benefits they can offer to your chicken and their needs. 

We have done the homework for you, so let´s have a look at some of the best considered brands and varieties of poultry grit you can buy and which will not cost you a fortune:

Manna Pro Poultry Grit

This poultry grit is made of insoluble crushed granite, and it has been specially created to aid your chickens with a thorough digestion. Additionally, it comes in a handy 25lb bag. For more detailed information and to buy this product click here.

Nest Herbs With Oyster Shells

If you want to provide your flock with oyster shells, then this product makes it easy. Chickens love it! The oyster shells are the perfect size for hens, and the aromatic herbs make their coop a more relaxing place to lay eggs. You can buy this product here.

Purina Chick Grit

Ideal for chicks, young turkeys and game birds of up to 10 weeks of age. The crushed granite has been sized smaller, making it easier to swallow for chicks and helping them to support a healthy digestion. You can purchase Purina Chick Grit here.

Cherry Stone Poultry Grit

By Cherry Stone, this poultry grit has been specially designed to enable a more efficient digestive process. It is made of 100% crushed quartzite, which is harder and sharper than granite. To buy Cherry Cherry Stone Grit click here.

Is sand good poultry grit?

While you might hear that sand is a good poultry grit substitute, it’s not. Because it’s very fine, and absorbs water, sand can clump together in the crop and digestive system, causing sour crop or an impact. Larger stones will pass through the digestive tract better.

How much poultry grit should I feed my chickens?

In most cases, you can offer it free choice and let your flock decide when they need it. Put the poultry grit in a separate container from the food. A small bowl, chicken feeder (check out my recommendations here) or poultry grit feeder will work just fine. Check on the feeder regularly, and top off as needed.

Can I feed my chick the same grit as the adults?

No. You should feed chicks a type of grit specifically created for their size. Otherwise, your chicks might not eat it, or they might choke or become impacted because the stones are too large. Most commercial chick grits will say on the package that they’re for younger poultry. You can introduce adult sized grit at about 16 weeks. Until then, providing the chicks with a high quality starter chicken feed will suffice. 

I hope this poultry grit guide has helped you decide which type is best for you and how to feed it so your chickens are as healthy as possible!

7 Natural Chicken Keeping Mistakes New Owners Make

7 Natural Chicken Keeping Mistakes New Owners Make

The second we got our farm, natural chicken keeping became a priority.

 

The egg itself is said to be the perfect source of protein, and chickens are so easy to keep that they make sense for any farm.

 

Natural chicken keeping also has the added benefit of saving you money, as long as you do it right (and there certainly are times when it’s best to not cut financial corners.)

We’ve saved by using fermented feed, herbs to keep our chickens healthy, and using food we could easily grow on our farm.

 

Buuuut….

 

We also made mistakes. 

 

At one point, we went 6 months with no eggs. That’s a huge bummer, believe me!

 

We’ve also had chickens stop laying in nesting boxes—and had to figure our way out of that one! (hint: placing eggs where you want them to lay helps!)

But we improved and got better.

 

Trust me, as a chicken owner, you will make mistakes (which you’ll learn from and get better from!)

 

As I’ve gained more experience in natural chicken keeping, and become a resource for new hen owners, there are certain mistakes I see time and again.

 

Here’s the top 7 natural chicken keeping mistakes that you can avoid—and the chickens you have hunting and pecking in your backyard will thank you!

 

1. Worrying too much about the GMO/Non-GMO debate

 

I frequently get emails from new owners who want to know whether they should provide non-GMO feed, or who don’t know what to do because they can’t afford organic non-GMO layer mash.

 

The bottom line is the quality of your hen’s diet is the most important thing. If you can’t afford organic, non-GMO feed, then just opt for what you can afford.

 

While people will tell you that natural chicken keeping begins with feeding non-GMO, organic feed, it’s also about using naturally-found herbs, fermented grain and vegetables, or even crafting your own feed to raise healthy hens.

 

It’s more important that you enjoy your “pets with benefits” and feel good about them—and if you’re stressing about not being able to afford organic feed, or if you’re putting yourself in financial distress over it, then keeping a backyard chicken flock won’t be any fun. 

 

Do your best, and enjoy the parts of natural chicken keeping that are within your budget and time constraints.

 

2. Getting a rooster so your hens lay eggs

 

Every so often I encounter new owners who believe they need a rooster to get eggs from their hens, and that roosters are a part of natural chicken keeping.

 

One of the nice things about owning hens is they’ll lay eggs whether a rooster is present or not—you only need a rooster if you want eggs to hatch. 

 

(If you’re wondering how chickens mate, it’s pretty wild.)

 

Getting a rooster isn’t a bad idea, and it helps your hens feel safer and completes their social hierarchy, but you definitely don’t need a rooster to start all natural chicken keeping.

 

Which is good news if your town doesn’t allow them!

 

3. Underestimating chicken predators

 

Every time I hear about a new owner who loses their flock to a formidable predator, I feel terrible for them. 

 

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than working hard to raise a natural, healthy chicken flock only to have it ripped apart in one night by a raccoon. 

 

I’ve found that a lot of new chicken owners don’t realize just how crafty predators can be, and how much energy they’ll exert to get a free dinner.

 

Part of natural chicken keeping is making sure your flock stays safe. 
Sometimes new owners think chickens will be fine left to their own devices, but hens are pretty much defenseless against chicken predators

 

Usually, they either run away or fly up away from predators. Other than that, they don’t have many natural defenses.

 

You might not realize that predators aren’t just wild animals—domestic cats and dogs can cast an eye at your flock.

 

We made the same mistake, until we started losing them to our dog! I’ll never forget the day we learned that our dog, who was so great with people, was a chicken killer.

 

So, even if you don’t have wild predators, remember that a secure coop and run will help prevent your flock from becoming a chicken chew toy.

 

4. Assuming chickens will fend for themselves and stay healthy

 

Probably one of the biggest mistakes I see is when new owners assume that natural chicken keeping means letting the hens forage for their own sustenance.  

 

Natural chicken keeping doesn’t mean allowing your hens to fend for themselves, and if you go this route, you run the risk of unhealthy hens, no eggs.

 

You won’t believe how many emails I get from owners who aren’t getting eggs and have no idea that diet is the issue.

 

You might also lose chickens to predators as they stray further and further from their home.

 

Sometimes I read advice that it’s natural to allow a chicken flock to feed itself because our ancestors did it, but it’s simply not true.

 

For example, what happened in the winter with snow on the ground and nothing growing? Were the hens foraging then?

 

Natural chicken keeping doesn’t necessarily mean throwing chickens in your backyard and forgetting about them until you want eggs, but it’s a common mistake I see new owners making.

5. Thinking oyster shells and grit are the same thing

 

When I read Facebook posts from people trying to explain natural chicken keeping, they frequently say something like “give your hens oyster shells or grit to help them digest.”

 

While you should offer both to your chicken flock, oyster shells and grit serve two different purposes.

 

Oyster shells are used as a calcium supplement so your hens can form healthy, hard egg shells. 

 

Without some sort of calcium supplement, your hen might become deficient in the mineral.

 

She then might start to lay soft shell or other abnormal eggs, or she might start drawing calcium from her own bones to lay natural normal-looking eggs.

 

Grit, on the other hand, helps your hen digest food, and without it, she might develop an impacted crop or even sour crop.

 

Your hen will swallow the grit, and it will make it’s way into her gizzard, where the stones will sit and help “chew” whatever food she’s eaten.

 

So, each serves a very different purpose, and shouldn’t be confused (but both are equally important for your chicken.)

 

6. Using vinegar to clean wounds

 

While vinegar works well in natural cleaning solutions, it’s not a good idea to use it in wounds. 

 

I do see this advice from time to time, and it’s a common issue in my area.

 

Even my vet asked me whether I use vinegar to clean wounds when I brought a rabbit to see her, and was relieved to hear that I don’t use it.

 

Vinegar doesn’t have the same bacteria-killing qualities as alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, for example, and it simply won’t be as effective in preventing an infection.

 

You’ll be doing your chicken a disservice by using it.

Failing to learn about common illnesses and how to treat them

 

Although many of my readers DO try to learn about common chicken illnesses before getting a flock (and a hearty high-five to them!), many owners out there DON’T—and then use Facebook groups as a way to diagnose their chickens.

 

Similarly, about once a week I get a message over Facebook from an owner who asks me to diagnose their sick chicken—something that’s virtually impossible to do over social media.

 

While I feel for every flock owner out there with a sick hen, and it’s natural to want answers, don’t wait until you’re in trouble to learn about chicken illnesses.

 

There’s many natural remedies out there for common illnesses, but the time to learn about them is not when you have a sick chicken.

 

Learn about common ailments and how to treat them (natural remedies or conventional) before or as soon as you get your flock—life will get a lot simpler, and you’ll be better prepared to help your hen when she’s in trouble.

 

While as a new flock owner, you will likely make mistakes, natural chicken keeping is full of rewards—just give it your best shot!

I’d like to hear from you!

Is there anything on this list of natural chicken keeping mistakes you would add? Leave a comment below!

Best Eggs Ever! Backyard Chicken Treat

Best Eggs Ever! Backyard Chicken Treat

It’s spring, and yes, the hens are starting to lay again! Which means I get extra concerned about the quality of the eggs they lay.

 

Improving the egg quality a hen lays has been the subject of many studies.

 

The egg industry, after all, is concerned about getting as many eggs as possible, and researchers are concerned about the overall health of the eggs laid so people don’t eat contaminated food.

 

This week’s recipe includes some of the best herbs and other supplements you can give your hens to improve egg quality – and that’s why I’ve called it Best Eggs Ever!™.

 

Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic, & Oregano For Healthier Eggs

You’ll notice something interesting in Best Eggs Ever!™, which is the Apple Cider Vinegar granules.

 

If you’ve never heard of ACV granules, it’s really neat stuff: It’s raw apple cider vinegar that has been dehydrated.

 

In studies, chickens fed apple cider vinegar, were healthier, grew better, and the eggs they laid had lower amounts of pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter.

 

Similarly, when they used oregano around their chickens and in the feed, industrial egg farms found that the chickens were healthier and less likely to get sick.

 

Garlic is also included in Best Eggs Ever!™ because one of the chemical constituents in garlic – allicin – has been shown in studies to improve immune systems and can ward off mites in backyard chickens.

 

While fresh garlic is great to add to your flock’s water, granulated garlic is the perfect supplement to their regular feed because it can be mixed easier and the hens are more likely to eat it. Sometimes they miss fresh garlic if it’s not in their water.

Oyster Shells for Better Eggshells

If you want to make sure your girls lay nice, strong eggshells, then oyster shells are where it’s at!

 

All the calcium in them will give your hens the calcium they need so they lay healthy eggshells WITHOUT pulling the calcium from their own bones – which they might do if they aren’t getting enough calcium in their diet.

 

Oyster shells = better quality of life!

 

I’ve found that when the oyster shells are mixed with other yummy treats for my hens, they’re more likely to eat it.

 

Yes, they’ll eat it separately also, but they get wrapped up in the goodies, and down more of the calcium when it’s mixed.

 

If you don’t have oyster shells on hand, then feel free to substitute crushed eggshells.

 

Calendula for Better Yolks

You can see here the difference between a farm fresh egg from hens fed calendula and one from the store.

 

Calendula has a lot of beta carotene in it, which is super healthy for your hens AND will give you those golden yolks you’ve been dreaming of.

 

That’s why it’s a natural to be included in this recipe! (It also smells HEAVENLY which is an added bonus!)

 

Lavender & Chamomile for A Relaxed Hen

Hens that are relaxed lay easier and better – and they’re overall healthier than hens who are stressed (and they lay eggs with stronger, more regular shells, rather than wrinkled or abnormal eggs).

 

Hens also love to nibble on flowers & of course, they enjoy the scent! You can line your nesting boxes with lavender and chamomile, and they’re also great to include in their diet!

 

Are you ready to make Best Eggs Ever!™??? Here’s the recipe!

 

Best Eggs Ever!™

Ingredients

¼ c Calendula (buy in the store here)

¼ c Lavender (buy in the store here)

1/4 c Rose Buds (buy in the store here)

¼ c Alfalfa

¼ c Chamomile (buy in the store here)

¼ tsp granulated Garlic (buy in the store here)

¼ tsp Apple Cider Vinegar granules (buy in the store here)

1 tbsp Oregano (buy in the store here)

1 tbsp Parsley (buy in the store here)

1 tbsp Oyster Shells

 

Directions

Mix all ingredients together and serve as part of a complete diet. You can feed separately or with their regular layer feed. Feed Best Eggs Ever!™ to layers and adult roosters.