20% laying pellets vs scratch


In the Brooder
10 Years
Feb 6, 2009
Our chickens live off of mostly 20% protein laying pellets and chicken scratch. What % of each should we be giving them? They are mostly hens either laying or beginning to lay?

My uncle do a 50-50 ratio. I think it should be mostly the laying pellets and scratch should be a treat. What ratio do other people use?

BTW. they also get grass, bugs, leaves leftovers ect.ect...
I'd give them no more than 10% scratch. Depending on the amount of leftovers, bugs, etc. I'd probably give them less. I actually don't give mine any scratch but they do get greens, weed and grass seeds, creepy crawlies and other things they find or is excess from my garden.

The layer feed meets all their nutritional needs. The greens, bugs, etc. adds certain vitamins and other nutrients and such and changes the egg yolk color. I think that is good and what makes our eggs better than the commercially produced eggs. The scratch just adds energy, not much varied nutrition, and does not lead them to a balanced diet. A little scratch does not hurt and can be very beneficial especially if it helps them to scratch up their litter to help keep the smell down. However, too much can lead to fatty liver syndrome, which can be fatal. Please do a search on here or google fatty liver syndrome and you will understand what I am talking about and see that I am not making it up.

Good luck!
I only give a cup of scratch in the morning just in their run. That covers 6 chickens until I let them free range for the late afternoon.

I felt the need to even add scratch becuase my ducks eat it too with their diet and I also have a couple broody hens that need the extra fats because they won't leave the coop or run to free range most times.

I used to just save it as special during the winter when the bugs are almost none-exsistant.
I agree with Ridgerunner. It is recommended that 90 - 95% of the diet is from the commercial feed. Thus will ensure adequate nutrition (most of the time). It is also important that the feed be fresh. You can smell if it is fresh; cardboardy smell is not. As the feed ages, all important vitamins are lost. Scratch is like candy is to humans .... not necessary, but tastes good!

Good luck, and best wishes!
On many bags of 20-22% Layer feed it states that you can feed up to 50% scratch & still have high enough protein. That is why if you feed something like Layena (16%) and you like to give a lot of scraps or scratch AND your chickens don't get bugs & other protein naturally, their diet is not high enough protein! So saying a 16% feed is all they need is only correct if you don't feed anything else. I would guess % of protein is nothing to get overwrought about in the backyard flock, but you have to take all this into consideration when choosing food or treats. JMHO
I make sure my scratch is a mixture of grains and not just corn. Then I add sunflower seeds which are high in protein. I don't feel bad about being fairly generous with that. They get table scraps, access to grass, weeds and bug (moveable pen) and layer feed.

BTW when putting out scratch put it on something you want scratched up like that patch of crab grass or bermuda....lazy way to till it up.
Yep. My grass has been nicely dethatched over the summer. It only cost me two or three sunflowers coming up through the grass, and when I hit them with the lawn mower they cut as readily as the grass did.

If you mix a 20% protein layer and a 9% scratch grain 50/50 that would put your feed at a 14.50 % protein mix...
You whould be better off going going at a 75/25 mix (75% layer and 25% scratch) that would give you a 17%mix

The layer ration is not just about protein. It also contains calcium, vitamins, and other nutrients in proportions to give a BALANCED ration. When you start feeding other things, you upset that balance.

I agree with Cindy that % protein is not all that critical in a backyard flock. The perfectly balanced ration will give you the best efficiency in egg production, but the extra bugs, greens, etc is what makes our eggs special. And if they eat something other than the feed we pay for, our feed costs may come down per egg anyway. I'll give up a few eggs in the name of efficiency to get the better eggs.

The risk I see is that if you give them too much of any one thing, you upset that balance, even if that one thing is something that is "good" for them. And scratch, which can be corn and other grains, is high in energy which can make them fat internally. Fat builds up on their heart, liver and other organs, which can lead to organ failure. Not that it kills them immediately. They may live for years that way, but it is certainly not healthy and the potential for death is there. Fat also builds up in great gobs in the vent area. This can lead to a hen becoming egg bound. When people say to not feed too much scratch, this internal fat is a large part of what they are talking about.
It really is not:

protein = protein = protein

The building blocks of proteins are the amino acids. Different proteins have different combinations of these building blocks.

You are trying to build "chicken protein" with its unique chain of amino acids with other stuff. If the amino acids aren't balanced in their ration so the birds can turn it into chicken protein . . . a lot of the protein in their feed may not be of much value.

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