Getting free produce - is more protein necessary?


In the Brooder
May 26, 2017
Hi! We have a local store that’s donating their “old” produce to us for our chickens, who are LOVING it, but it made me wonder if I need to somehow up their protein intake. I use purina layer feed, and we get the produce 2-3 times a week. I’m sure since those days their protein ratio would be low, I should supplement, but with what? Cat food? I want something that’s higher in protein but doesn’t have any other crap that could be bad.


6 Years
Apr 13, 2016
North-Central IL
Yes, you should. If this is a practice that will carry on for awhile (the feeding extra produce) I'd go ahead and buy a higher protein feed rather than supplementing even more. Feed meant for broilers/meatbirds is usually 21% plus, that's what I feed regularly. If you're really giving them a LOT of produce you could even find a gamebird type feed, which is even higher protein.
Sep 20, 2017
Washington State
I'm on the fence about this... Most people would probably say that you should provide supplemental protein but a part of me wonders if we really need to be that scientific about our birds' diets. After all, most of us don't calculate the exact percentage of proteins vs. carbs vs. fats in our own diets. And, a person's nutrient consumption can vary a lot from day to day and from season to season. For example, in more traditional, rural economies, fall and winter are typically when people eat more protein as that's when animals are slaughtered, spring is a pretty lean time when winter stores are depleted yet it's too early for new crops, and summer is all about fresh fruit, vegetables and berries.

If my chickens are any indication, they seem to self-correct their diets pretty well. If I supplement too extensively with fruit and veggie scraps, they stop eating them after a while, or only nibble at them before walking away, and that's my sign to hold off or go lower on produce for the time being. In the summer, when bugs, worms and grass are abundant, my chickens eat a lot less of their normal feed and barely care for supplemental produce as they prefer to forage.


Crossing the Road
12 Years
Sep 19, 2009
Holts Summit, Missouri
When I think produce, that means fresh / not cooked vegetable matter that includes fruits and mushrooms. Generally protein levels in those products will be well below what is in a low protein level feed formulation for chickens. I would switch to using a high protein grower or chick starter and watch for change in feed selectivity. With that change, supply free-choice access to oyster shell.


Free Ranging
5 Years
Jul 26, 2016
Connecticut, USA
I feed a 18% Non-Medicated Starter-Grower or a 20% All-Flock/Flock Raiser feed to Adults and Pullets above 10 weeks old.
My first Flock of Golden Comets feather picked on a 16% Layers feed and I didn't feed veggies.

I'm nearly done with a bag of Flock Raiser and picked up a bag of Starter Grower feed at TSC yesterday. I buy whichever one is fresher.

I have 31 month old Golden Comets and 14 week old Barred Rocks. They have separate coops and pens. They all get the same feed. With access to Poultry Grit and the Adults also have access to Oyster Shells.
The only Treats they get are Scratch Grains as a mid-morning snack scattered in their pen.
I recently bought a bale of Alfalfa hay and toss a quarter flake in their pen once or twice a week as greens.
My Golden Comets went through 2 winters without greens. IMO chickens don't need greens, but do enjoy them. So I decided to buy a compressed bale of Alfalfa, its got lots of tiny leaves. They do enjoy tearing it apart. GC

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