Just wondering..

The Red Rooster

Poultry Observer
8 Years
Aug 14, 2011
Rapid City, South Dakota
This is kind of a dumb question
But do hens need layer feed to lay?
Or are they ok with free ranging? They have lots of bugs and grass hoppers to eat.
They also have kitchen scraps (sorry for the typo).

Sorry for the dumb question!


In the Brooder
8 Years
Aug 2, 2011
Snohomish, WA
My chickens free range, have kitchen scraps and have layer food and then some scratch once a day. They might get enough to be able to lay free range, but they might not lay as well as they would if they had layer food. I have never tried because I dont want to risk not getting enough eggs for myself and my customers.

HorseFeatherz NV

Eggink Chickens
10 Years
May 12, 2009
Sierra Foothills of Reno, NV
Yes and no.

No a pullet/hen does not need layer feed to lay. But they do need a good source of protein and also a good source of vit. D and calcium. I have never fed layer feed to my flocks – why? Because I prefer my flock to eat a higher protein than layer feed offers and I also do not like my roosters/cockerels to have all the extra calcium that is stuffed into layer feed.

My birds are also not the "typical" birds that tests are run on to see if the nutrients in layer feed meet their needs. Often these trials are run on leghorns (commercial laying birds) and I have dual purpose birds who are much heavier bodied and larger than commercial layer bird. Also commercial layers are kept housed for their short life - so generally have less muscle, and my birds run around on 11 desert acres and some even grow old.

I feed a high protein feed and offer oyster shells on the side (for calcium). This is fed from hatch to death (be it "natural" or by my hand).

Now if your birds just free range – not all their protein needs may be met. What does this mean? It generally means fewer eggs. Birds need protein to produce protein (eggs, feathers, muscles). There is a fair chance that your molt will be slower also - feathers are protein - so protein is needed to grow new feathers (often why a bird stops laying while in molt - the protein needs go to feather growth vs. egg production).


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