Question concerning feed mix for laying flock


12 Years
Dec 6, 2007
I have read many articles concerning feed for a laying flock. I have been using Layena pellets and have some concern about the protein level. Layena is rated at 16% protein.

I have found a local feed store that has laying pellets that are 20% protein. Their own brand. The cost is the same? Do you think it is a good idea to change? What about mixing the two.

I have also read about feeding them Alfafa pellets. What do you think about mixing the 16% 20% laying pellets and the alfafa pellets as my standard feed maybe even a bag of scrtach. Equal quantities or each.

My flock is penned but not caged I have 24 hens in a fenced lot of about 900 sq feet. They have worn it down to the dirt. Thus my thought about alfafa.

I do feed them table scraps but not meat. Yard clippings when i have them.

What do you folks ('the experts") think.

Bird feed is all about protein. If you had pheasants you would need a protein feed well over 20%, guys I know mix corn with unmedicated turkey starter. (turkey starter is 28%) For chickens its not that big a deal. 16% is probably the minimum for protein. Scratch grain (usually a mix of corn, wheat, oats, barley) is nice to toss but being whole grains are not as easily digested by the birds and too low in protein as their only feed. In other words they'll stop laying. This is why feed stores sell pellets, they're suitable for cages where the birds don't get any grit. What I like about pellets is that wild birds don't like it so they don't feed from your feeders. Wild birds can easily eat 20% of what you provide for feed. They are also the biggest worry for the industry as diseases (bird flu) move around with wild birds. The other thing is that I found chickens prefer the "taste" of true grains and will toss out the pellets while digging for grains. Chickens also hate powder. "Chopped" grains are good as they are digested better than whole grains. Alfalfa pellets is a good idea where there is no grass, but the birds may not eat it if not used to it. The latest thing is chopped flax seed mixed in the grain. This IS worth it as the eggs will contain omega 3 fatty acids which reduces cholesterol in the human body.

I would suggest that you do what I did: mix your own food. I did the math and found that the cheapest way to feed is to buy bags of grains (wheat, cracked corn) and a bag of protein supplement and mix it myself in a drum. 1 part protein 2 corn 2 wheat. Protein supplement is 48% protein and sourced from soybean. Chickens also love catfood and this can be used as a protein in the mix.

There did exist protein from ground chicken feathers formed into pellets. This may be legal in some places and may still be used in feed mixes that you buy from a feed store. (I wouldn't use it, this practice lead to mad cow disease, who knows what it does to chickens. Other cheap protein are bone meal and blood meal.)

So this begs the question; why are the other pellets cheaper?

The bottom line, they can survive on basically anything, but they will be healthier and the eggs and meat will taste better the more variety the birds get to eat. Just look at the colour of the yolk.. battery birds lay eggs with a pale yellow yolk where my free range birds would have a dark orange yolk.

For cheap extras for your birds, make friends with someone at a grocery store veggie department. The trimmings from lettuce, cabbage, and other tossed veggies (bad carrots etc.) will all be welcome by your birds.

Another idea, cut the yard in half with another fence, scratch with a rake and plant anything (even scratch grain: wheat , oats, and barley will come up), water once or twice and let grow for a while.
thanks for the good information. I have plans to expand the lot and only allow them to forage for short time and let the grass and weeds continue to grow in the new part that would be separated.

do you buy your grain to mix your own at the feed store or what type of store do you buy the grain to mix your own?

The cheapest grains is obviously from a farmer.

The feed store will sell bags of plain grain. I'm off the farm now (and am starting a new back yard flock) but the last time I bought corn I paid $12 for 100lbs and about the same for wheat. the protein sold at $22 for a bag (canadian dollars)

Your feed store will sell feed cheaper by the ton bagged and cheaper for a ton of bulk grain. (probably way too much for a small back yard flock. Then the more feed sitting around the more problems with mice.)

good luck
I'd study out whether it is safe to use soybeans with chickens first though, it causes the body to produce high amounts of estrogen, and may cause problems, such as fat gain, cancer, and other health issues. Some other sources of high protein grains are Spelt, and Kamut. But don't be afraid to give them animal protein as well. In the wintertime I feed our chickens scrambled eggs, ground meat, etc, every other day and this helps with their egg laying. We average about 33 dozen eggs from 20 laying hens each month with this addition, until they can go outside and forage for worms and bugs in the spring up here.

Edited to add: The addition of the higher protein in their diets also seems to take care of pecking issues.
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Close: Ground up bones from sheep was fed to cattle as a cheap protein: known as bonemeal or bloodmeal. The sheep disease is scrapie and this became mad cow disease. Both being mammals and distantly related. Carnivores: dogs (wolves) and cats (lions) and birds (eagles, condors, vultures) have evolved a proctetive mechanism in their digestion to be able to eat diseased animals and not get the disease themselves. Animals that are not carnivores do not have this protection. Cooking kills most pathogens that we might eat so that undercooked food is a source of food poisoning.

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