What, exactly, do you feed your chickens?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by LearningToFly, Dec 30, 2008.

  1. LearningToFly

    LearningToFly In the Brooder

    May 4, 2007
    I'm talking about commercial feed, if you use any.

    We feed table scraps to the girls, and they love it, but for their main meal, so to speak, what do you use?

    I keep reading about 'mash,' but the guy at my feed store has never heard of it. He keeps saying, "Oh, you mean crumbles" and sells me this stuff from Purina. Do I mean 'crumbles'?

    And do you feed a grain mix? The only grain mix at my feed store is what the guy calls 'scratch', but it is just a little cracked corn and some other grains. Is that what you call 'scratch'?

    My feed store, the only one hereabouts, is in the middle of a suburban area, and caters to horses, and they don't really know much about chickens or what to feed them.

    So... I'm feeding this Purina stuff (my hens don't like that grain mixture the feed store has), and table scraps.

    What else should I be doing?

  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    I feed a commercial pellet feed and have it available to the birds 24/7.

    On the side they get table scraps and scratch in cold weather as treats. Not as a main stay.

    Mash is feed that has not been peletized, crumbles are pellets that have been ground smaller. I find mash and crumbles wasteful with my own flock, so thus stick with pellets.

    Any grain mix here is scratch, and it's used as a treat. What is in scratch often varies regionally. Here's it's mostly cracked corn with a few other oats and such.

    Most feed stores know enough to sell their stuff, and often the workers don't know what they are selling or what advice to give. Often the owners will have some idea, but their knowedge will vary from store to store, locale to locale.

    So just feed them the layer cruble/pellet 24/7, and offer them table scraps as a treat.

    That all said... if you ask 10 people what the best way to feed is, you will get 15 absolute only right ways to do it.

    Do what works for you!
  3. LearningToFly

    LearningToFly In the Brooder

    May 4, 2007

    Can you give me a name of the pellets so I can get the store to order it in for me? There is a lot of waste with this crumble stuff.

    Do you give grit in addition? The guy at the store says it's not necessary, but every book I read says it is always necessary.

    Can you tell I am a newbie chicken owner? I just want to take good care of our girls. I don't have any people I can ask directly, so I'm glad I found these forums.
  4. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    All brands of layer feed will come in a mash, crumble, and pellet. The next time you are there, just ask for a pellet layer. They should have it, as crumble and pellet are most common in feed stores. Pellets common because often it is related with less waste, crumble common, as some birds are small or just plain don't like pellets. Purina does have a pellet layer, and it's just the same as the crumble you have nutritionally.

    As for grit, my birds free range without fences, and have access to about 8 semi truck loads of driveway granite. With about 2-3 thousand square feet of crushed rock, I let them find their own! If your birds are cooped, have soft soil, sifted soil, or just plain not access to rocky soil/rocks, grit is a good thing if they are getting treats.

    However, I do give oystershell on the side free choice. If they are getting treats other than only layer, oyster shell helps make up for the calcium needed for egg shell production. Grit and oyster shell isn't the same thing. Grit is for digestion, oystershell is for calcium.

    And all chicken owners start somewhere! Good luck!
  5. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    We are happy you found BYC too and that you are "LearningToFly." Welcome!

    Grain is tuff for chickens to chew, especially since they don't have teeth [​IMG]. Their gizzards use grit to grind up the grain. If you are feeding a layer feed that is already ground, they don't really need grit.

    My birds can't get out and find small stones and sand with all the snow so I'm not feeding them scratch grains these days. I do have a little grit but very little. I'm not making a run to the feed store just to buy a bag of grit. Not goin' to do it, wouldn't be prudent . . . [​IMG]

    If I decide the birds should have some of the scratch, I'll cook it for them. That will make it more digestible.

    Not every pet shop, feed store, and mill has the same products even if they are dealers for one company or another. They often wonÂ’t have the entire product line. I am dismayed to learn that some will allow their inventories to run down so that sometimes, they run out of what they usually carry. Don't these guys know that if a feed makes up 85%, or whatever, of your animals' diet - you can't make a change without it causing problems?

    As far as that other 15% or whatever, chickens are omnivores - just like people. They will eat your healthy diet right along with you. (In fact, they will eat it right off your table if you set a place for them [​IMG].)

    Remember that they are small animals. Giving a bird that weighs 5 pounds, 2 cups of left-over gravy isn't a very good idea. She may eat it, or try to, but that day's ration is going to be way off the "healthy" side of the dial. An unbalanced diet will be unhealthy in the long-run and probably the first you know of it is when egg production suffers.

    Think of them as little feathered people who can eat the peelings off the carrots, chopped broccoli leaves, and left-over meat loaf. If you think they may have trouble using some things - cook them. And, if you enjoy a slice of lemon chiffon pie, they probably will to. Just make sure that neither one of you tries to make a meal out of it.

    [​IMG] Steve
  6. Catalina

    Catalina Songster

    Jul 19, 2007
    I wish I could find a pelleted layer food!

    I feed mine crumbles, because that's all there is at my feed store.
  7. CovenantCreek

    CovenantCreek Chicks Rule!

    Oct 19, 2007
    Franklin, TN
    When I was willing to put out the money for organic feed and the shipping, they were getting mash. Now that I'm shopping a little closer to home they're getting a pelleted feed. At one point I had bought some crumbles when I was running low on the mash, but that neither looked nor smelled good -- I ended up putting most of into the manure spreader and tossing it out the lawn.
  8. B. Saffles Farms

    B. Saffles Farms Mr. Yappy Chickenizer

    Nov 23, 2008
    Madisonville, TN
    I feed commercial layer crumbles to my chickens. And I mix scratch in with it from time to time.
  9. Cetawin

    Cetawin Chicken Beader

    Mar 20, 2008
    NW Kentucky
    I feed an organic all-in-one crumble now...it is a little higher in protein than plain layer and they get scratch (1 scoop per day) during the winter...once it warms up a bit I will give them their layer crumbles and stop the scratch.

    They get veggie scraps, steamed rice, cooked oatmeal and I bake a seed block for them. They are really spoiled brats but I love em that way. [​IMG]
  10. gretchenhau

    gretchenhau Songster

    May 15, 2008
    Lebanon Ohio
    Can ducks eat the pellets too?

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