The Best Feed for Chickens
One of the most important topics under the category of chicken care is chicken feed. What should you feed your chickens? This is a very important question, as the answer can affect both the size and the health of your birds. The good news? Choosing the right feed is a lot easier today than it was just a few years ago.
When it comes to choosing the right chicken feed, you have a lot of options. The two most important questions to ask yourself when picking the right food are: what is the age of the bird, and what is its purpose?
Buying commercial chicken feed from your co-op becomes easy and affordable once you know what you need. Some examples of how this works:
Starter feed is formulated for younger birds. This type of chicken feed has the added nutrients, such as higher protein levels, young birds need in order to grow strong and fast. It also, normally, contains added ingredients to help fend off certain diseases that are common to young chickens.
Brooder feed is a choice for older birds that you plan to cull later on. It is not a good choice for young birds, but is an excellent option for those chickens that have matured.
If you plan to raise laying hens, you will want to purchase special feed for them. In order to produce high-quality eggs, laying hens need a diet that is rich in calcium. These mineral helps make stronger shells, which is an important issue for home-grown eggs.
If you visit a good feed store, you will probably see supplemental nutrients on sale. A word of caution on these: When you buy your chicken feed, look at the package. If it says that the feed is a complete formulation, then you should not add supplemental nutrients to it. For instance, you would not want to give your laying hens supplemental calcium if they are already getting the proper level in the feed that you give them. Giving them more calcium will only make the egg shells harder than they need to be and may actually cause health problems for your hens.
So when would you use supplemental nutrients? Generally, if your chickens are free range, meaning they eat what they find in grassy pastures, then you may want to add some nutrients to their diet. Of course, the better option for free range chickens is to give them some good-quality chicken feed every other day or so, or as needed, depending on their weight gain or loss, and the conditions of the pasture.
Some people wonder if it is safe to give chickens table scraps. The answer is it depends on what you give them. Most mature chickens love bits of fruit and green, leafy vegetables. Cabbage and lettuce being some of their favorites. It is not a good idea to give them any type of meat that has bones in it. You should also avoid giving them sugary foods like candy or chocolate.
In addition to the proper type of feed, chickens of all ages absolutely must have access to water. Fresh water is essential to the health of your flock. This becomes even more critical during the summer months when heat can kill off an entire flock in no time. Keep in mind that chickens are particular about their water. They will not drink water that is dirty or fouled, and they often will not drink water that is too hot which can happen if the water sits in direct sunlight.
Spend some time choosing the best chicken feed for your birds. This is time well spent and will pay off later in your overall chicken care efforts.