What should I feed my chickens

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Ryanm57, Jan 12, 2013.

  1. Ryanm57

    Ryanm57 Hatching

    Dec 23, 2012
    Paducah ky
    Hello everyone I'm new to the world of raising
    Chickens and not real sure what I should feed them
    Have been feeding them chicken scratch and cracked
    Corn .i have one bantam rooster And 3 Hens 2 of which are
    Big girls . The chickens laid eggs when I first got them but haven't
    Laid in a couple weeks which I figured the cold has stopped them
    Also put a light in their coop a week ago so figured they would start
    Laying but haven't yet .just wasn't sure if I was maybe not
    Giving them the nutrients they needed to lay . The light comes on at 5 in the am and goes off well after daylight then comes back on around 4:30 pm
    And goes off around 9 at night
  2. goldfinches

    goldfinches Songster

    May 6, 2011
    Scratch/cracked corn should just be a treat, not their main source of food. You can go to the local farm store and get layer feed, it has the protein necessary for laying, or you can feed them something with a lot of protein, (ask at the store), and supplement with oyster shells. They should start laying, especially with supplemental light, after a while on this food.

    (just eating scratch for them is like you just eating snacks and never a real meal.)
  3. groundpecker

    groundpecker Songster

    Jun 26, 2011
    Rison, Arkansas
    You should feed them laying rations if you really want them to be in good health.

    Many conditions exist that can stop hens from laying:
    moulting. stress, crowding, improper nutrients, weather and light to name a few.
  4. DayOldChicksNY

    DayOldChicksNY In the Brooder

    Jan 11, 2013
    New York

    How Much and When to Feed Chickens

    Feeding backyard chickens is an imprecise science. It's difficult to tell someone how much to feed their chickens, or even when to feed them. So many variables are involved: the type of chickens, whether they're growing or laying, how active they are, how neat you are, the type of feeders you have, the number of free-loading pests you support, and the weather.

    Use these guidelines for feeding your chickens, but alter them for your own flock.

    Our modern, high-production egg breeds convert feed to eggs very efficiently, especially if they are fed a ration formulated for laying hens. After they're laying well, it takes about 4 pounds of a quality feed of 16 to 18 percent protein to produce a dozen eggs. The breeds kept for dual purposes (eggs and meat) generally have heavier body masses to support and need more feed to produce a dozen eggs than a lighter production breed.

    It takes about 2 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of body weight on a growing meat-type bird. So if a broiler weighs about 6 pounds at 10 weeks, it will have eaten about 12 pounds of feed. Remember that it ate less when it was small, and the amount of feed consumed increased each week. A medium-weight laying hen will eat about 1/4 pound of feed per day when she begins producing. These are rough estimates, but they give you some idea of what to expect.

    Chickens eat more in cold weather and less in hot weather.

    If you are unsure how much to feed your chickens (and don't want to accidentally deprive them), fill the chickens' feed dishes so food is available much of the day, or use feeders that hold several days' worth of feed. You can use this feeding method for all types of chickens. It's the way chickens would eat in nature; they eat small amounts frequently.

    You can continue that method if you like, or you can feed your chickens at certain times of the day. (Most people who use this method choose morning and evening.) This allows you to control the amount of feed that may attract pests. And if the chickens are too heavy, it restricts the amount they can eat. With free-range birds, it encourages them to lay and to sleep in the coop. Usually, however, it's just a matter of preference; some people like to observe and tend to their chickens more often than others. This method works well for all but meat birds.

    Because of their heavy rate of growth, the meat-type broiler chickens need to have food available to them at all times, day and night. Remember, chickens don't eat in the dark, so the lights must be on for these birds all night. For the Rock-Cornish crosses, the lights should be on 24 hours a day, and feed should be in the feed pans at least 23 of those hours. Some people recommend an hour of no feed, but most home chicken-keepers find that difficult to regulate. Just make sure they always have feed. Laying hens, pets, and show birds are fine with restricted times of feeding and don't need feed at night.

    Be very careful not to feed moldy food, which can kill or harm your chickens, and make sure food is stored so it won't attract rats, coons, and other pests. If you're using a lot more feed than you think you should, pests like rats may be eating it at night. You may want to empty feeders at night or put them inside a pest-proof container for all birds other than the broiler-type meat birds.

    If you need to add grit to your chickens' diet, you can supply it in a small dish from about the fifth day of life. Chicks should be eating their regular feed well before you add grit, or they may fill up on it. Make sure the dish is covered or narrow so the birds don't dust-bathe in it. Discard it and add clean grit if it becomes contaminated with chicken droppings.

    How to Choose Commercial Chicken Feed

    Feeding chickens isn't just throwing some corn outside the coop, no matter what old movies show. To find the commercial feed that's best suited to your chickens, you need to understand the purpose of different types of feed, the forms in which feed is available, and the info you can expect to find on package labels.

    Some brand-name feeds may be made by different mills and contain different ingredients in different areas of the country. So it pays to look at the ingredients and the guaranteed protein and other nutrient levels rather than purchasing feed by cost or by brand name.

    Starter rations for chicks. The ration for layer-breed chicks, usually called "starter rations," should be 20 percent protein. From the time they start eating, meat chicks need a high protein feed of about 22 to 24 percent protein for the first six weeks. It's called "meat bird starter" or "broiler starter."

    Most people use a medicated feed for the first few weeks of a chicken's life. You should stop using medicated feeds at 18 weeks for layers and about 2 weeks before you intend to butcher meat birds - even if you haven't finished the medicated feed.

    If you have different types of birds in a brooder, it's better to feed the higher-protein meat bird feed to all the chicks rather than use a lower-protein feed. However, separating your future layers from meat birds when they leave the brooder is strongly recommended. Meat birds should have a protein level of about 20 percent until they are butchered, which is too high for layers.

    Grower pullet rations. If you're raising young pullets to become layers, you want them to grow slowly enough to develop good strong bones and to reach a normal body weight before they begin producing eggs. High-protein diets tend to hurry the birds into production before their bodies are quite ready. Therefore, the ration for growing pullets, from leaving the brooder at 6 weeks to about 14 weeks, should be about 18 percent protein.

    "Developer or finishing" pullet rations. At 15 weeks, it is ideal to lower the ration to 16 percent protein. From 15 weeks to 22 weeks old or until they begin laying eggs, whichever is first, protein levels should be about 16 percent. The object is to get them well grown without too much fat.

    Your feed should have normal levels of calcium and other vitamins until the birds start laying. If you feed a diet high in calcium and phosphorus to very young birds, it can damage their kidneys, so don't begin feeding layer feed until pullets are at least 18 weeks old.

    Adult layer rations. After the hens reach the age of 22 weeks or begin laying, and throughout their laying careers, they need a protein level of 16 to 18 percent. The calcium and minerals should be formulated for laying hens.

    Don't feed adult layer rations to other types of chickens, because the higher mineral content may damage the kidneys of birds that aren't laying. The exception would be for a rooster housed with a laying flock; he'll be fine consuming laying rations.

    Also, don't force extra calcium and minerals on hens by adding things to a properly formulated feed. Too much calcium can cause kidney failure. If you're getting a lot of thin eggshells or soft-shelled eggs, give your hens some calcium in the form of crushed oyster shells in a feeder where they can choose the amount.

    Broiler rations for Cornish X Rock broiler hybrids. Cornish X Rock crosses grow extremely quickly and require precise diets. After the first six weeks, the protein percentage for these birds can be lowered to 18 to 20 percent until they're butchered. "Meat bird" or "broiler grower-finisher" is generally a label aimed at meat birds in their last weeks. Grower and finisher rations shouldn't contain antibiotics because these can be carried into the meat.

    Broiler rations for heritage and free-range meat birds. These types of meat birds grow more slowly and add less muscle meat than the broiler hybrids. They take longer to reach a satisfactory butchering rate. After the first six weeks, you can lower the protein to 18 to 20 percent for the next 6 weeks, and after that, protein content can be 16 percent.

    All stock or sweet feed. In some areas a pellet and whole-grain mix is sold, usually under the name of "all stock" or "sweet feed." It's covered with molasses or another sweetener to hold it all together. While these rations sometimes list poultry on them (or more often, include a picture of a chicken), they really aren't formulated for poultry. You can use these feeds on your other farm animals, and you don't need to worry if the chickens steal a bite. But definitely don't use them as your sole chicken feed.

    Forms of feed. Feed comes in three forms: crumbles, pellets, and mash. Research has shown that chickens grow and lay better on crumbles (commonly used for finisher rations and some adult feeds). Pellets (usually used for adult birds) are the second-best, whereas mash is the least-preferred although the most common for starter rations.

    If mash is the only type of feed available to you, you can add a little warm water to the feed just before serving it, which gives it the consistency of thick oatmeal. Chickens generally gobble this down. Water from cooking potatoes or other vegetables or milk also can be used. This is a good way to use up the fine pieces of crumbles or pellets left in the bottom of a bag or the feed dish. However, don't let this wet mixture sit too long; it will spoil and become moldy, which could harm the chickens.

    Grit. Grit, a mixture of crushed limestone and granite, helps chickens digest food. In nature chickens pick up small rocks, pieces of bone, and shells. If you're feeding any kind of homemade diet, whole grains, or have your birds on pasture, you need to supply them with some kind of grit.

    If you're feeding only a commercial mash, crumble, or pellet, your chickens won't require additional grit.

    Hope this answers your questions :)

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