Do Your Chickens Need Supplements?

Discussion in 'Sponsored Content, Contests, and Giveaways' started by Monica S, Sep 1, 2015.

  1. Monica S

    Monica S BYC Content and Advertising Specialist

    Nov 30, 2012

    Tiffany Towne, Nutrena[​IMG] Poultry Expert

    A stroll down the poultry aisle in your favorite feed store may display more options in chicken supplements than you knew existed. It can be confusing, overwhelming and difficult to know what’s right for your flock. Don’t panic. A good layer feed provides almost everything your chickens need for a balanced diet: protein, the correct balance of vitamins and minerals, and sufficient energy for their life stage. However, there are three additional supplements that your layer feed does not provide that you should consider.

    Supplemental Calcium

    This is most often in the form of oyster shell, and it should be offered to help restore calcium depletion caused by laying eggs. An eggshell is made of 97 percent calcium carbonate, which the hen must provide as the egg is forming in the reproductive tract. In fact, laying hens require three times the calcium of non-laying hens. So even though you may be feeding a balanced layer feed, some hens require additional calcium. Not having enough calcium readily available in her system can cause a hen to produce eggs with weak shells and can even cause other problems like weakened bones.

    When to Offer: Begin feeding oyster shell free choice in a separate container from the regular feed at 16 weeks.


    Grit, in the simplest terms, is tiny pebbles that the chicken ingests along with food. Since chickens don’t have teeth, they can’t chew their food into small pieces. Instead, the grit works in the gizzard to grind up the food into tiny particles that can be absorbed in the digestive tract. Without grit, your birds can end up with digestive issues like impacted crops.
    Free range chickens may be able to find enough grit-type material that they don’t need it supplemented – however, like the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Grit is relatively cheap to purchase and is readily available in all areas of the country. A small amount of grit will last your flock a substantial amount of time when offered free choice in a separate container from their normal ration.

    When to Offer: Provide grit as soon as your birds are eating anything other than a pellet or crumble feed. Around six weeks you may want to begin adding treats to the flock’s diet. At that point, grit becomes essential to help digest any fibrous pieces like grains, grass, etc.
    For supplemental calcium and grit, a simple rule to remember is “when in doubt, put it out!” Your birds will take what their bodies require.

    Scratch Grains and Treats

    When it comes to treats, balance is key. Your chickens will love getting treats occasionally, or even on a daily basis, but it’s important to limit the amount given.
    Scratch grains are typically made of two or more grains mixed together. When scattered on the floor of the coop or run, they provide a fun snack that encourages a chicken’s natural instinct to forage (or scratch) for food. But scratch grains should only make up about 10% of the total diet (or about the amount your flock will clean up in 15 minutes). While they provide a nice snack that birds love to eat, they do not include any vitamins or minerals and therefore are not a balanced addition to the diet, which is why they must be fed on a limited basis. Over feeding scratch grains and other treats can cause an unbalanced diet that does not include enough protein or the correct amount of vitamins and minerals for production. This can result in decreased egg production, feather picking, and other issues.

    When to Offer: Scratch grains and other treats are most often started when birds leave the brooder around six to eight weeks.

    Remember, a good layer feed is the foundation to a healthy flock. Adding supplemental calcium, grit, scratch grains and treats will help make sure your birds are at their very best.

    To find a Nutrena dealer near you, visit Also sign up for Flock Minder at to receive timely tips delivered directly to your inbox.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015
  2. Betsy57

    Betsy57 Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

    Mar 31, 2011
    Murphysboro IL USA
    I do put out grit for my chickens. Do the hard grains also serve as grit?
  3. tdepointe

    tdepointe Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 17, 2015
    Brooklyn, Connecticut
    I only feed use grit in the winter when the ground is frozen and the bird cannot get enough on there own. Commercial pellet and crumble foods have some grit but not always enough if much other supplemental food is offered.
  4. amenfarm

    amenfarm Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 10, 2011
    Chattanooga, TN
    No, hard grains will not work. I keep soluble grit (oyster shells-calcium) and insoluble grit (decomposed granite, or builder's sand) in my coop at all times ( highted to show most common terms for different grits). My girls decide when and if they are necessary. Mine are in a roofed run over 300 feet, there are pebbles to choose from, but the grit dispenser is used.
    It's like you trying to eat a steak/porkchop with no teeth, the grit rubs and breaks down the food from the inside. The calcium should be in constance supply, one reason: as the chickens are getting further from molt, the more calcium has been depleted from their bodies to produce eggs. If what they are eating will not dissolve in water, then they need grit.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2015
  5. Betsy57

    Betsy57 Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

    Mar 31, 2011
    Murphysboro IL USA
    I have grit and oyster shell freely available to them at all times too. Just was wondering if some of those bigger pieces of scratch grains would work kinda like grit too. Thanx.
  6. jak2002003

    jak2002003 Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 24, 2009
    I give NO SUPPLIMENTS to my chickens.

    They get layer pellets and the chicks get chick starter. Sometimes I throw them some vegetables as a treat. They get normal tap water with nothing added.

    They free range all day and can find all the grit, bugs and others stuff they need themselves.

    Many are over 5 years old and some are 8 years old now. All very healthy, laying eggs and raising chicks.

    No need for any extra store bought stuff, unless your chickens are penned up all the time.
    2 people like this.
  7. ruffnek5

    ruffnek5 New Egg

    Jan 22, 2015
  8. ruffnek5

    ruffnek5 New Egg

    Jan 22, 2015
    what brand of layer pellets are you feeding?
  9. Rustys Girls

    Rustys Girls Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 4, 2015
    Alta Loma Texas
    What kind of chickens are those, I see 1 barred rock, what are the front 2 chickens? rsgirls
  10. kilby

    kilby Chillin' With My Peeps

    grit is for carving up the hard grain so no.
    I sprout grains. That way the nutrition is boosted 100% Only takes 3 or four days. Grass would take long time
    1 person likes this.

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