Keeping chickens is becoming more and more popular among homeowners around the country, both in rural and suburban areas. After all, it’s a highly sustainable way to produce fresh eggs for your family, all from the comfort of your own home. Additionally, all chickens possess their own personalities and can serve as great companions for families with children. Your chickens will very quickly become part of your family and you want to provide them with the best care possible. This guide to feeding your backyard chickens will help you develop a feeding schedule to help your flock flourish.
Feed for all ages
One of the most important things to remember is that chickens of differing ages will require different feed. Newborn chicks should be fed starter feed until they are about eight weeks old. As chicks move into their teen years—which generally spans until 18 weeks of age—they should be fed grower rations with roughly 18 to 20% protein. Providing feed with this nutritional value ensures that the chick’s body is not hurried into egg production, which can be possible with high-protein diets.
Full-grown hens should be fed a diet that is rich in calcium, as this will help them produce high-quality eggs. If a chicken does not receive enough calcium in their diet, they may produce soft-shelled or shell-less eggs, or they may even stop producing eggs entirely. Consider providing supplemental sources of calcium such as oyster or eggshells in a separate dish for laying hens.
Chickens need to eat continuously throughout the day and should have sufficient access to high-quality feed at all times. Many who keep chickens find that the best practice is to top off their feed in the morning and check them regularly throughout the day. A full-grown chicken can consume about 1/4 pound of feed each day.
Be sure to feed your chickens at roughly the same time every day. Adhering to a structured feeding schedule allows you to more closely monitor their feeding habits and nutritional intake. Plus, you’ll notice discrepancies in feeding behavior more quickly should they arise.
Tricks and treats
There are several different tips and tricks you can implement in order to provide your chickens with the most luxurious life possible. For starters, provide your chickens with a clean and cozy coop. Outfitting their habitat with high-quality chicken coop bedding will help reduce the moisture, waste, and pests in the coop—all of which can significantly impact feeding habits if not addressed.
You can also diversify your chickens’ feeding habits by scattering scratch feed throughout the coop. This type of feed encourages chickens to run about the yard and scratch the ground in search of their food, which also serves as a stimulating activity. And, of course, no diet would be complete without dessert! Don’t be afraid to treat your chickens to a sweet treat every once in a while; however, only indulge them in moderation. Apples, raisins, corn, and cucumbers all make great treats for chickens.