Chickens foraging | What to feed chickens

What To Feed Chickens – The Do’s & Don’ts Of Feeding Your Flock

Thinking about getting chickens or maybe you just jumped in with both feet and are wondering what to feed chickens? Wonder no longer, we are going to teach you everything you need to know about what chickens can eat- and what they shouldn’t eat. 

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Chickens in a barn being fed | What to feed chickens

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If you are new to raising chickens and are wondering what to feed chickens let me just share a quick fact with you. Chickens are not naturally vegetarians, they love a wide range of kitchen scraps- and bugs. Nothing makes a hen happier than getting to scratch around looking for bugs and fat worms.

What To Feed Chickens

  • Chicken Food (depending on the age of your chickens you’ll either feed them starter feed or layer feed). You can find some:
    • Tractor Supply
    • Local Farm Store
    • Amazon
    • Local Mills

There are tons of different brands and types you can get for your flock. I like to feed mine an organic non-GMO, No-soy based food, but pick one that works for you. 

  • Fruits:
    • Watermelon, cantaloupe and other melons are a favorite with our hens on hot summer days. 
    • apples (make sure you remove the seeds before allowing them at it), strawberries, grapes, berries, peaches, fruit peels, and nearly every other fruit can be fed to chickens. 
  • What To Feed Chickens: Vegetables:
    • Pumpkins & Squash are a great option when it comes to what to feed chickens, these can be fed raw or cooked to your chickens. I like to feed our flock the seeds (that I don’t save- check out our post on how to save seeds) and innards when we are processing pumpkins into a pumpkin puree. Pumpkin seeds can help to keep your chickens from getting worms which is an added bonus. 
    • Lettuce, greens, corn, carrots, beans, peas, cabbage, and other veggies can all be fed to your backyard flock. The only thing that shouldn’t be fed to your birds is green vegetable peels such as green potato peels.
  • Dairy products – poultry lacks the enzyme that allows them to digest milk on a large scale, but a small amount can prove beneficial to your flock. Yogurt, kefir, and even cheese are loved by chickens and the microbes do the same thing as they do for us. 
  • Sweet Potatoes & Potatoes – Make sure they are cooked (we don’t eat raw potatoes and neither should your flock. Some people include potatoes on their list of toxic to chickens foods but if cooked they are more nutritious then you think. Some say to only feed your flock potatoes in moderation but do some research and decide for yourself. Sweet potatoes contain much of the same nutrients as pumpkins and squash. 
  • Corn – This is another what that is greatly debated in the world of chicken keeping. The truth is chickens love corn, and especially in the winter, it’s a great thing to feed your flock as a high energy supplement. And in the summer it’s a good way to make sure overripe cobs don’t go to waste [don’t want to feed it to your chickens? Check out our post on how to start a compost]. This is another one you’ll want to research and make up your own mind. 
  • What To Feed Chickens: Grains – oats, millet, flax, wheat can all be fed to your chickens. 
  • Eggs (yes it’s safe to feed them eggs, but never feed the raw eggs. This can lead them to associate eggs with food- not a good thing). 
  • Table scrapes – a general rule of thumb is if you can eat it, so can they. Just make sure it’s wholesome food. 
  • Mealworms & other bugs – mealworms to my hens are like candy, as soon as they see me walking across the yard with the bag they all come running. I like to give them handfuls of mealworms when they are molting and on cold winter nights when they don’t get to free-range as much.

How Many Times A Days Should I Feed My Chickens

Another important question when it comes to what to feed chickens is how many times a day they need to be fed. Chickens like to eat all day long, a good rule of thumb to follow is topping their feeders in the morning and then letting them forage for serval hours at night- if that isn’t an option you can add scrapes to their coop for them to enjoy.

How Much Should You Feed Chickens?

A good ballpark estimate for how much to feed a chicken a day is 1/4 lbs of feed. Depending on the size of your bird this number may go up or down but this is a good place to start from.

Resources For Feeding Your Chickens

Here are some great resources for what to feed chickens:

What Not To Feed Chickens List

  • Super salty foods
  • Citrus
  • Foods that are high in sugar
  • Chocolate or candy
  • Avocado
  • Rhubarb
  • Garlic
  • Sweets
  • Heavily processed Foods
  • Dry beans
  • Avoid feeding your flock anything with mold
  • Trees or ornamental plants

Feeding Your Backyard Flock

Don’t stress about what to feed chickens, start with a balanced diet, and go from there. Go slow and figure out what works for you and your flock.

We hope we answered all of your what to feed chickens questions if not drop them in the comments and we will try to answer them. 

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