Discover the Best Feed for Egg-Laying Chickens

It’s not rocket science, and even if you don’t do it perfectly, your flock will be fine. But here’s what you need to know for hens that lay well, stay healthy, and have strong eggshells.

What We’ll Cover

  • Essentials. The basics of chicken nutrition that can’t be overlooked
  • Extras. Treats, foraging, and more
  • Laying hens vs other birds. How the specific needs of laying hens affect their feed
  • Picking a brand: What to look for on chicken feed labels and the variety of available brand

The bottom line: Opt for any quality commercial laying hen feed and enrich their diet with access to grass and bugs. Save money and enhance hen well-being by increasing outdoor foraging time.

Essentials of Chicken Nutrition

Chicken feed is more than just grain tossed on the ground; it’s the bedrock of poultry health. A balanced diet for our feathered gals means a mix that includes protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Think of it like a chicken’s daily multivitamin. Growing chicks need hefty protein, around 18% to 20%, to build their bodies strong. But once they’re ready to lay, those numbers change.

hand holding pellets of chicken feed
  • Protein is still king, but at a slightly lower percentage, around 16%, to keep the eggs coming without overstraining the hens.
  • Calcium takes the spotlight, too, amping up to around 4.5%, ensuring each egg has a sturdy shell.
  • Fats, carbs, and other nutrients need to stay balanced. Too much or too little can throw off laying schedules and overall hen health.

Chicken feed comes in various forms. We’ve got crumbles, pellets, and mash on the menu. Each one has its pros and cons. Crumbles are a tad messy but easy for the hens to eat. Pellets are neat and let the girls eat more quickly, which is great when they have a busy day of pecking and lounging ahead. Mash is a bit like the crumble’s cousin, only finer in texture

So, while we may not ponder over what’s in the feed bag every day, it’s good to know our girls are munching on what keeps them at their peak.

Special Considerations

Laying hens have a special set of needs, you know. It’s all about the eggs at the end of the day. They need the right stuff in their diet – protein and calcium primarily – so they can lay those robust, nutritious eggs we love. Typical layer feed hits the mark with about 16% protein. That’s a bit less than what they chow down on when they’re younger, but it’s just right for adult laying hens.

Calcium

Then there’s calcium. Layer feed usually boasts a higher calcium content, somewhere in the region of 4.5 to 4.75%. This makes sense because, without enough calcium, those eggshells can turn out weak or, worse, the hens start pulling from their own bone calcium to make up the shortfall. And that’s a big no-no for their health.

Outdoor Access

But remember, it’s not just about what’s in the bag. Giving your hens the chance to peck around in the great outdoors provides them with a natural buffet of grass and bugs.

hen free ranging in fiel of clover.

And believe me, not only do they love it, but it also supports their overall health and contributes to the quality of the eggs. Sure, not everyone can let their chickens free-range, but if you have the space, it’s worth doing.

Treats

As for giving your ladies a little something extra, treats are always a hit. Mealworms, a bit of leftover pumpkin or squash, maybe a handful of oatmeal – they love it all. Just keep it balanced, don’t overdo it. Treats should be just that, treats. Their main diet should still be their commercial layer feed.

Now, onto the goodies—scratch grains. Think of them like candy for chickens. They love it, but it’s not full of the nutrients they need. So, we save scratch grains for treat time. It’s about balance, right? You can also throw in some kitchen scraps. Things like greens, fruits, and veggies make for excellent snacks. Just avoid giving onions, chocolate, avocado, or anything moldy to your feathered friends.

You might be tempted to buy the most expensive feed out there, thinking it makes a world of difference. But that’s not necessarily the case. I’ve found through my own experience that my hens are just as happy and healthy on a more affordably priced, yet quality commercial feed. In the end, it’s about the love and care you put into your flock – and making sure they have plenty of time to stretch their legs and wings outside!

The bottom line is, mix a few treats with good commercial feed, and you’re set. I go for quality feed that doesn’t bust the budget and give my girls plenty of fresh air for foraging. That’s my recipe for happy, healthy hens laying top-notch eggs.

Decoding Feed Labels and Types

Choosing the right chicken feed can feel like a puzzle. But fear not. Understanding feed labels will make you a savvy shopper. In the USA, labels must list ingredients and their percentages. Look for feed with protein levels between 15% and 18%. That’s the sweet spot for laying hens. Remember, fat is essential too, usually coming from vegetable oil.

pellet and crumble feed in metal tin.

Commercial feed types vary. There are soy-free, organic, non-GMO, and all-natural options. Some feeds are even vegetarian. Brand-wise, you’ve got choices as well. Purina, for instance, offers organic chicken feed in certain areas. Nutrena’s NatureWise line is also well-regarded among poultry keepers.

I recommend you choose what aligns with your ethics and budget. Personally, I keep it simple. Good quality, affordable feed mixed with the treats and foraging making my hens the happiest cluckers around.

Best Chicken Feed for Laying Hens FAQs

Do I need to buy the most expensive chicken feed for the best results?

No! It’s a common misconception that pricier equals better. However, any commercial feed specially designed for laying hens typically provides the necessary nutrients they require. Focusing on quality feed and allowing hens outdoor access for foraging can yield excellent results without breaking the bank.

What should I look for in a chicken feed label?

When examining chicken feed labels, look for a balance of essential nutrients. Protein levels should be around 16% for laying hens, with higher calcium content to support eggshell strength. Also, check for a decent balance of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals necessary for overall hen health.

Can I give my chickens kitchen scraps?

Yes, you can give your chickens kitchen scraps, and they usually love them! They’re great as a treat and can provide variety in their diet, but scraps should supplement a balanced commercial feed rather than replace it. Avoid giving them anything toxic to chickens, such as chocolate, avocados, or onions.

What’s the difference between crumbles, pellets, and mash?

Crumbles, pellets, and mash refer to the form the chicken feed takes. Pellets are compact and allow for easy intake of food, crumbles are broken-up pellets which are easier for smaller birds to eat, and mash is a loose and fine feed. The choice largely depends on the preferences of your hens and what you find works best in your feeding routine.

Are there any specific brands you recommend?

While specific brand recommendations can vary based on availability and personal preference, it’s essential to choose a reputable brand that provides well-balanced nutrition for laying hens. Some popular brands include Purina and Nutrena, but there are also many generic brands that offer quality feed at a more affordable price point.

Simplicity, quality, and variety reign supreme.

  • Quality commercial feed designed for laying hens meets the nutritional needs without the hefty price tag.
  • For the happiest and healthiest hens, combining feed with access to the outdoors for foraging is key.
  • Treats and kitchen scraps can be beneficial supplements but should not replace a well-balanced feed.
  • Understanding the significance of feed forms and ingredients ensures you make informed choices for your flock.
  • The right feed is the one that maintains your hens’ health and egg production while also fitting your budget and values.

No matter the brand or price, remember the well-being of your hens and their diet’s impact on egg quality. Balancing a good commercial feed with foraging and treats as needed is all you need.

4 hens eating feed in dish

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