Chicken Feed (and don't forget grit!)

What's the Best Food for Your Chickens?

By Martha White
May 24, 2016
Brahma Chicken-by Transalien, Wikimedia Commons
Brahma Hen photo by Transalien: Wikimedia Commons

Don’t know what to feed your chickens? Follow our tips and advice!

  • For simplicity, most owners of small flocks buy commercial rations from their local feed stores.
  • Young chicks will require “starter” feeds, and you may have a choice of medicated or non-medicated versions. (If you can keep a healthy flock with the non-medicated rations, do so.)
  • Once the hens reach laying age, at approximately five months, you’ll want to switch to layer rations with at least 16 percent protein.
  • Chicken feeds can be supplemented by homegrown or home-mixed rations of grains (oats, corn, barley, wheat, etc.), various brans, fish meal, alfalfa meal, and bonemeal.
  • You can add scraps from your table, such as fruit and vegetable peels or leftover breads.
  • Avoid offering raw potato peels (hard to digest), garlic or onions, (which may alter the way the eggs or meat taste), or anything spoiled.
  • Feeds bought from the store contain all the phosphorus and salt your hens will need, and they eliminate the need for grit.

If You Free-range Your Hens or Supplement Their Diets …

  • Be sure to offer a hopper of grit to help the hens grind up any grains or plant matter they eat.
  • Hens also need a hopper of ground oyster shells or other calcium source to prevent soft-shelled eggs.
  • Fresh water should be a constant supply.

Do you have any special foods your chickens love? Let us know!


The 2000 Old Farmer's Almanac

Reader Comments

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Feeding My flock In The Winter Months.

I would collect and get from friends any extra or out of date cans of veggies, potatoes, soups, and meats, warm them on the wood stove with some rice or noodles.
My girls would hear me open the door to bring it out to them .. would meet me in the yard, some flying at me and landing on my head or shoulders.. They loved it !! I also kept a small heat lamp in the hen house for them for extra warmth.. I never lost production in the winter..
The warm stew and light helped them to stay warm enough.
I miss them.. when my mate passed of cancer after fighting for 13 years.. we gave the flock to his sister. Someday.. someday, I will have another.. I miss them a lot.

Sexting chickens

How do you sext a chicken and how old do they have to be?

how to sex a chick

The Editors's picture

There are two ways: visually identifying the sex organs, or venting, a complicated method that is usually left to commercial experts (there are more than 15 different organ shapes to consider) ; and feather sexing, based on feather characteristics that differ from male to female chicks. This second method can be complicated by the genetic strains of particular breeds.

The small flock owners’ most convenient method of sexing chicks is the wait and see method: In males the comb and wattle will become larger than those o females and the head will become more angular. Female chicks remain smaller and more refined than males. The characteristics begin to become apparent at between 4 and weeks of age.

Rice protein is an essential

Rice protein is an essential ingredient for animal feed industry because it has amylase which is best digestible protein. The animal feed industry can be more prosperous if the rice protein produced by Shafi Gluco Chem because it has high amount of methionine which is required for appropriate feathering of the birds.

"Rice protein is an essential ingredient for animal feed ind..."

Hmmm... and all these years I thought amylase was a carbohydrate, a sister to amylopectain, and was reduced into glucose by amalose. My bad... thank you for straightening me out.

I have ten chickens and they

I have ten chickens and they go nuts over cooked meat.

Only had my 4 hens since

Only had my 4 hens since October 2015 as my daughter bought me a hut for my birthday
I have given them names of my four granddaughters middle name's , I shout and they they come running
They love mealworms and any greens and love peas and sweetcorn
I have just been and got another 4 today so have decided they will be called after grandmothers and my best friend as they have such fantastic caricatures

Our chickens go crazy over

Our chickens go crazy over mealworms!

What is a good source of

What is a good source of grit?

Can my hens eat catfood. They

Can my hens eat catfood. They seem to love it and chase away my cats just to eat it.

can chickens eat cat food...

Chickens are cannibales... they'll eat anyting including themselves.

I feed my hens anything that

I feed my hens anything that goes with chicken. My husband calls it stuffing the birds

My chickens love watermellon,

My chickens love watermellon, grapes, lettuce, cabbage, strawberries, apples. The only thing I've offered them that they didn't like is cantaloupe. Chickens are so much fun!

We are manufacturer and

We are manufacturer and exporters of poultry feed supplements for egg production enhancer in poultry layers and breeders. It helps in stimulation of egg production as well as in achieving higher as well as longer production peaks through presence of Chromium an Insulin hypothesis that stimulates the ovaries.

So hormones! I think everyone

So hormones! I think everyone who has chickens at home is trying to get away from the hormones added to their food. This is horrible.

Hormones are AWFUL!

I couldn't agree more! It defeats the purpose of having BYC if we feed them hormones!

Can chickens eat raw rice?

Can chickens eat raw rice? Cooked rice?

My neighbor feeds rice to her

My neighbor feeds rice to her flock, although she hasn't been in the country that long. Anyone else know if chickens can digest rice?

Cooked rice is fine. Uncooked

The Editors's picture

Cooked rice is fine. Uncooked is not advised. Just know that plain white rice has little nutrition and is just a nice filler snack. Don't give them too much or the chickens won't fill up on more nutrient-rich food.

Chicken 'n Rice

Raw rice contains phytates. These are considered antinutriants because they block the uptake of many minerals.
Raw rice has arsnic in small amounts.

Both of these can be eliminated by fermenting the rice for around 30 hours at 80 drgrees f.... or longer when cooler. Discard the water and lightly cook the rice. It's highly digestable at this point.

I do a 2 day ferment with all of my chicken feed... the results being thay have better gut health, gain weight better on less feed, and produce less litter.

Cooked rice...

Cooked rice...

Can Chicken eats raw rice ?? or cooked ?

Can children eats raw rice ?

My chickens LOVE TUNA! I also

My chickens LOVE TUNA! I also cook whole wheat berries with some carrots and other veggies thrown in...they truly love it!

We grow sprouts for our flock

We grow sprouts for our flock in the winter

Me too! They FLIP OUT over

Me too! They FLIP OUT over fodder! It's like candy to them!