What do we feed our chickens? To be honest, they aren’t really picky. They get to free range for several hours daily when the days are longer. Here lately they only free range on the weekends. They have a large run, so they are never at a deficit for space, but I do like for them to get out and spread their wings. With the free range time, they will eat just about anything. Bugs, plants, and the occasional lizard is the norm.
However, I do supply them a daily ration of commercial feed daily. All feeds are not created equal, so your own research and experimentation is essential, but I will give you an idea of what my birds have. I tend to blend multiple types of feed. In a 50 gallon trash bin ( purchased for the feed) I will mix a variety of feeds. Layer pellets or crumble will make up the majority of what I use, but I do add scratch and various other components to increase nutrition and variety.
I add around 3-5 lbs of scratch grains to ever 50 lbs of feed. I will also incorporate my oyster shell and grit to the feed itself so that the birds have that available in their feed pans. Most commercial layer feeds have an adequate amount of calcium added to them, but I have never once had a soft shell egg appear with the added oyster shell. I will also add black oil sunflower seeds, extra barley, and wheat when they are in season. These are completely unnecessary, but I do like to give the birds variety.
The added bonus of buying bags of seeds is the ability to sprout them and give them extra green feed all year-long. This green feed, or fodder, is a wonderful addition to your chicken feeding system, and it is also a joy to watch the chickens eat the long sprouts like spaghetti. That being said, I try all sorts of things with the flock and I have discovered one important thing. Chickens will tell you if they do not like something.
I discovered that my birds love squash. So much so, that they decimated my squash plants when they got into my garden. My birds do not like cabbage that much unless its shredded. They pretty much like anything else that it available and green. Dandelions, plantains, and chickweed are no match. One of the most amazing things that I discovered that they will eat and love is pig feed.
Now some people will tell you that pig feed should never be fed to chickens. Through my research, that would be correct for most feeds. However, read the labels. Most milled feeds come out of the same big batches of ingredients and are then adulterated with different additives. I have found one variety of pig feed, that comes in a very attractive bag, that has very safe concentrations of all the same ingredients of my normal chicken feed. It has more protein, which is great for winter, when the chickens typically eat less.
Experiment and enjoy your birds. Just remember to read the labels, look for things that aren’t good for chickens, such as onions, and find what they like and what gives you the best result in bird health and egg production.
What do you feed your chickens? Do you experiment with new things? Do you find yourself buying atypical treats for your flock?