What do we Feed our Chickens?
Let me introduce you to Hilda, Lydia, Mavis, Chicky and Birdie. These are our ISA Brown ex-commercial hens which we rescued early 2023 and they have been happily eating my garden ever since.
I find them hilarious. If I go outside, they all come running - sometimes even half flying in a bid to get to me first, just incase I have a yummy treat for them. So what do I feed them and what do they like best?
Currently, the bulk of my chicken feed is purchased on good old Amazon, containing all of the necessary daily nutrition they need. Next year I am hoping to produce at least a few months worth of feed in the way of oats - I'll let you know how i get on! I'm sure they must find the same old pellets day in, day out a bit boring though. Luckily there is room for treats - and I have to say, they do love their treats!
This is probably their 2nd most favourite winter treat. Normally I give my chickens treats later in the day to ensure they have already stocked up on the bulk of their daily nutritional requirements, however in the winter, they get a nice warm bowl of porrdige first thing to get them going.
Mealworms are without a doubt, are their absolutely most favourite treat by a mile. They are good for them too, being high in protein. Here in the UK, it is illegal to give chickens dried mealworms and buying enough live ones to keep up with their large appetites is expensive, so I bread my own. It's taken a while to get a good stock going, but I think I am finally getting there.
Garden plants, flowers and herbs
My chickens free-range in my back garden which I stock up with plants which make good treats for chickens. Here are some of the best ones according to my girls:
There are plenty of other options such as lavender, oregano, margiolds to name a few however, mine don't seem overally impressed on these.
Sweetcorn wins hands down in the veg category. Cabbage, lettuce, kale are also readily accepted but their second favourite veg has to be carrot tops. So much so, that I unfortunately didnt benefit from any carrots this year. Thanks ladies.
Rasperberries, blackberries and apples - definately the favourite here. They need a little help when it comes to these fruits, not being able to get up high enough to reach them, but that's where I come in. Strawberries however, I assume they can reach as I don't recall seeing many this year.. I also chop up tomatoes and cucumbers for them too.
What nutritian do chickens need?
At a very basic level, 'adult' egg-laying chickens need the following nutrition:
- Oils/fats 4%
- Protein 17%
- Fibre 4%
- Ash 14% (calcium, cobalt, iron, chlorine, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulphur, zinc)
The bulk of their diet (90%) should be made up of grains such as whole wheat, barley or oats. As well as contianing a good balance of the above, they also contain necessary vitamins and are high in starch and energy. The remaining 10% can be used for treats - like the ones mentioned above.
What is not good for chickens?
Chickens are generally very good at working out what is and isnt good for them. I know lots of people who have potentially harmful plants and free-range chickens who simply leave them alone. That may or may not be the case for your chickens, so just incase, here's a list of common foods and plants that can be harmful:
- Uncooked beans
- Green potatoes or green tomatoes
- Avacados (particularly the skin) can be harmful in large quantaties
- Apple seeds (although a few here and there are unlikely to cause problems)
- Hydrangea (although my chickens ate mine a few months back and are still going strong)
- Ground Ivy (I have lots of this in my garden, the chickens never bother with it
- St Johns Wort
So there you have it, a complete list of foods I feed my chickens. I hope you have found this useful, but keep in mind, your chickens might have a very different food palette to mine. Have fun trying out new foods for your fluffy bottomed friends.
~Mrs Homestead-Wannabe @21st October 2023