How to Feed Laying Hens? What do Chickens Eat?

Feed Laying Hens

You’re probably thinking about setting up poultry on your farm, but you’re not sure how to go about feed laying hens. In this guide, we’ll talk about the most suitable foods to feed your chicken. Remember that when setting up your own poultry on your farm, you need to know the most suitable diet for your chickens to thrive.

What Do Chickens Eat?

Take note that each chicken and bird have different diets. Birds can refer to geese, turkey, and other kinds of poultry. Generally, poultry would prefer to feed on growing grasses, such as buckwheat, clover, and bluegrass. They would prefer to eat weeds with broad leaves and would also feed on seeds.

Chickens will also love to eat insects, earthworms, mealworms, (read the related article for How to Care for Mealworms) and all kinds of slugs. But they also want to be messy and would love to have a bit of sand or coarse dirt as they feast on their meals. In fact, they would keep these in their gizzards to assist in grinding the wild foods they would feed on. Sometimes, the rooster will hunt a mouse in order to feed laying hens.

A backyard chicken will typically eat food scraps coming from the household. This can include beans, garlic, raw potatoes, beans, citrus, and onions. When feed laying hens with food scraps, try to avoid eggs. The taste of the egg will appear funky to them. Also, avoid raw potatoes because this is poisonous to the chickens.

You need to understand that chickens are curious creatures and would try to eat anything that looks attractive to them. They are not smart enough to know that Styrofoam is not edible. They might even eat pine shavings, thinking that these are food! So when setting up your own poultry, you need to make sure that the chicken doesn’t end up eating something they are not supposed to.

Chickens on Pasture

Hens raised on pasture produce eggs with deep orange yolks. When gathered fresh, the eggs have viscous whites that are bouncy and the yolks are fatty. If you plan on raising chickens on pasture, you cannot expect them to grow as fast as those that were confined and bed through the broiler. Also, chickens on pasture have denser meat as a result of regular walking. Tender meats also mean they have higher Omega 3, unlike those chickens that were grain-fed and sedentary.

If it’s not possible to leave your chicken to pasture in your farm or yard, try to give them access to a chicken. This is basically a fenced area in a farm or yard where the chicken can happily pasture around and feed on insects. Just leave the floor bare with dirt, so they can happily peck through it. Remember that when you leave your chickens to pasture around, you should have a fence or a guardian dog to protect them from any predator lurking around your farm.

What to Feed Laying Hens

When starting poultry, you should know what to feed your hens. Proper feeding is important to ensure maximum egg production, proper growth, and longer life.

  1. Greens

Chickens love to feed on greens, such as weeds, leaves, grasses, and plants. For laying hens, you can feed them with tender grass clippings, fresh greens, vegetables, and table scraps. When feeding table scraps, make sure you don’t include onions or garlic because the strong flavor could affect their eggs. If you’re going to raise your hen in the free-range system, avoid using fertilizers, chemicals, or pesticides. Don’t overfeed your hens. Limit their greens to a certain amount that they can eat within 20 – 30 min. As much as possible, always feed them with fresh greens.

  1. Chicken Feed

You’ll find several kinds of formulated feeds being sold in the market, which you can directly feed to your chicken.  Choose something according to the type of hen that you are raising and their age. There are feeds suitable for small chicks, growing chicks, and mature chickens. You can feed any of these commercially made chicken feeds to your laying feeds.

Commercially made feeds contain just the right amount of nutrients to keep your hens healthy. They are loaded with proteins, minerals, vitamins, and carbohydrates that are suitable for laying hens. It’s recommended to feed laying hens with 15 – 18% of protein. Make sure that you include this much protein in your hen’s diet as they start to lay eggs or at the start of the 20 weeks. These formula feeds will not only provide the nutritional needs of your laying hen, but they will also serve as their treats. When buying commercial chicken feeds, make sure to choose those that are freshly formulated.

  1. Vitamins

In order for your hens to be healthy, supplement their feeds with more vitamins and calcium, whether they are eating commercially made feeds or free-range. Vitamins ensure proper growth for your hens and better egg production as well. On the other hand, calcium helps to keep the shells of their eggs stronger.  You may also feed them with ground oyster shells. Place these in a separate feeder for the hens to feed on. Feeding them with ground oyster shells is the best way to supplement them with enough calcium.

  1. Scratch Mix

Chickens naturally enjoy scratching the soil in search of bugs, grits, insects, and greens that they can feed on. Provide your hens with a scratch mix that includes an assortment of seeds and grains, such as corn, oats, wheat, or barley. Spread the scratch mix all over the ground for your hens to feast on. Try to limit the scratch mix to feed your hens. It should just be enough for them to finish eating in around 20 min. Aside from the scratch mix, scatter granite grits as well where your hens can peck. Laying hens would need this in order to help grind the grains and seeds.

  1. Water

Aside from feeding your chicken with high-quality and nutritious chicken feeds, you must also make sure to provide your laying hens with a consistent source of water. Chickens drink 2 to 3 times the amount of the feeds that they eat in a day. Therefore, you need to make sure that you have enough fresh and clean water for your watering pot. Not having enough water could dehydrate and stress your hens. If your hens are stressed, they will stop laying eggs for several days or weeks! Therefore, always feed laying hens with a sufficient amount of freshwater.

When it comes to raising laying hens, it’s essential that you provide them with nutritious and high-quality foods. You should be able to provide a wide range of foods that has all the necessary nutrients to ensure that your laying hens stay healthy.

Other Supplements

Aside from feed laying hens with commercial chicken feeds, it’s a good idea to supplement these feeds. For instance, you can add oyster shells in order to provide your hens with a sufficient amount of calcium. You may also supplement with grits to help your hens digest their food.

Emergency Feed

If you run out of feeds, you can cook hard-boiled eggs and chop them to pieces to feed your chickens. Keep in mind that chicken can go a day without eating and even longer without issues. But what’s really important is you let them drink enough water, so they will stay hydrated.

Make Your Own Chicken Feed

Remember that you can always make your own chicken feed. In fact, there are poultry raisers who will grow their own seeds, grains, and other plants to feed their chickens. But if you don’t have the time for this, you might as well just opt for commercial chicken feeds. You’ll have plenty of choices for commercial feeds to feed laying hens. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for tips on how to feed your chicken.

How to Maintain a Healthy Coop

Remember that the overall quality of the coop will be a big factor in the overall egg production of your chicken. This will also have an impact on the feed consumption of your hen. Take note that unsanitary coops could breed disease and bacteria that could contaminate the food and make your chicken sick. This will also result in lower egg production.

Here’s what you can do to prevent these problems:

  • Deep clean the coop each month. Scrub it off with a scrub brush and spray with disinfecting spray.
  • Check the coop for any rotting feed and droppings and make sure you remove them.
  • Let the chickens roam freely for a couple of hours each day. Just make sure that they are safe from predators.
  • Don’t overcrowd your coop by placing too many hens.
How to Feed Chickens

How to Feed Chickens

Switching Chicks to Grower Feeds

When the chicks are 6-8 weeks old, switch their meals to grower feed. This way, they would be able to grow and develop to egg layers fast. When they reach 20 weeks old, switch them to the type of chicken feeds that are suitable for egg laying. You can refer to the feedbag for information about this or ask help from your local chicken feed store for tips regarding feeding the chicks at a certain age.

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Franck Wang
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