One of the biggest questions that I get when I am traveling around the country meeting fellow chicken keepers like you is, how do I keep my flock healthy and the eggs a-plenty? It’s actually not complicated and it starts by providing your flock with a healthy, well-balanced diet. We are at our best when we eat healthy and take care of ourselves. Chickens are no different. This is why chicken nutrition matters.
Over the course of their lifetime, egg-laying hens will be on three types of chicken feed. From day 1 until approximately 8 weeks, they will eat a chick feed. This feed is approximately 20% protein and is formulated in small little bits. It is perfect for your rapidly growing babies. Chick grit should also be available as free choice to aid with proper digestion and crop functioning. After 8 weeks, chicks should be transitioned over to a grower feed. While still growing, their protein needs are a bit less, down to 15-16%. During this time they will begin to feather out and form their final plumage. Chicks will remain on the grower feed until around 20 weeks of age, or until they lay their first egg. From then, they are transitioned over to a layer feed. Layer feed contains approximately 16-18% protein and contains calcium to help create strong eggshells. Hens should also be offered free choice oyster shells. This is not a replacement for poultry grit, but an added source of calcium just in case they need an additional boost. Another wonderful added bonus to some chicken feeds is the addition of prebiotics and probiotics. These not only booster digestive health but also support the flock’s immune system as well as egg production too.
You might also be wondering about feeding pellets verses crumbles. Nutritionally, there is no difference between the two. Some people believe that their flock has a preference one way or another. Others believe that feeding pellets can minimize food waste.
Chicken treats, including scratch and cracked corn, should only make up approximately 10% of their diet. Anything over that amount can greatly affect the production of eggs. A good thing to know is that chickens will never overeat. Therefore, feel free during their waking hours to leave the feeder out for them. Removing the feeder during the evening hours can cut down on predators as well as night time scavengers.
Chickens will eat approximately a quarter pound of feed per day and drink three times that amount of water. Chickens should always have clean drinking water available. You will also notice that your flock eats more food during the colder winter months than during the summer. This is for a number of reasons, including the availability of food during free-ranging, fall molting as well as their increased metabolic needs during the winter.
Lastly, it is important to know that what your chickens eat directly affects the quality and taste of the eggs that they produce. Allowing your chickens access to fresh green grass is a terrific way to get Omega 3 fatty acids into their eggs.
This post has been sponsored by Nutrena. For more information about their products and chicken nutrition click here. Enter below to win a bag of Nutrena Poultry Feed to try with your flock below. Retail value per coupon is $45.00.