If you’ve just purchased some chickens (or are planning to), congratulations! Chickens are some of the simplest, most fun, and most rewarding birds to raise and tend. While chickens are surprisingly hardy, considering their lack of brain power and flight ability, there are certain things that can harm them: predators, rainstorms…and improper foods.
Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about that last one! If you want to learn about what do chickens eat, read this blog post about ten great foods that your chickens can safely eat:
1. Chicken feed
Do you own any actively laying hens or hens that should be laying? If so, you need to start providing them with chicken feed as soon as possible. In any farm, chicken feed should be part of your most essential poultry supplies.
While hens can lay eggs supplemented only by food found while roaming free range, providing them with chicken feed (particularly in the winter months) will ensure that they lay healthy, large eggs that are full of proteins and vitamins. If your goal is to eat or sell eggs laid by your hens, then you should do everything possible to enrich and strengthen their diet.
2. Grubs and insects
When chickens are allowed to roam free range, they will be quick to pick up seeds, vegetation, and bugs to satisfy themselves. W
hile the prospect of your chickens eating whatever they find might be a little terrifying, chickens are generally smart enough not to poison themselves. Insects and grubs can provide protein for laying hens and are safe for chicks, hens, and roosters to enjoy.
You may be content simply feeding your chickens regular feed and allowing them to pick up whatever they want off the ground. However, you would do well to supplement their diet with more unique fare – both as a health benefit and a way for the chickens to see that you appreciate them.
Admittedly, they’ll love you even if all you give them is normal feed. Still, it’s the thought that counts. Oats are chock full of great, chicken-friendly nutrients that will keep your feathered friends healthy and happy.
4. Oyster shells
A hugely important component of eggs is calcium for creating the egg shell. Most chicken feed (if not all) comes enriched with calcium, but sometimes that isn’t enough. And frankly, the more calcium your hens get in their diet, the better.
That’s where ground up oyster shells come in. You can purchase the shells, pound them into a coarse powder, and then slip the powder into your hens’ feed to give them a more calcium-rich meal.
Chickens will probably find a few berries on their own as they forage for food (check to make sure there are no poisonous berry bushes in the vicinity of your brood) but you can also feed them some berries more ‘formally’.
Most safe-for-chicken-consumption berries are packed full of vitamins and other nutrients, so give a few to your chickens every now and then. They’ll be happy to eat them fresh or frozen – whatever is easier for you.
6. Pumpkin seeds
Along with providing your flock of chickens more variety or nutrition in their diet, different foods can have other health benefits. Pumpkin seeds in particular are an excellent deworming agent.
Yes, chickens can get worms just like dogs or cats and it’s important to remove them as quickly as possible. Let your chickens eat some pumpkin seeds to get rid of those disgusting worms (and so you don’t have to really get involved).
If I asked you what do chickens eat, your first answer probably wouldn’t be eggs. Okay, it probably sounds like cannibalism to you – right? But the truth is that scrambled eggs (cooked) are a great source of essential protein for your chickens and you shouldn’t pass them up as a viable food option.
The chickens won’t actually know what they’re eating, but they will grow stronger and healthier. So maybe at least consider it, yes?
8. Garden leftovers
If you’ve planted a garden along with raising chickens, they can get rid of your weeds for you – just toss those leafy greens inside the chicken pen so they aren’t cluttering your lawn or garden.
Also, if you’re thinning out your vegetable garden, most fresh vegetables are perfectly safe for your birds to eat. Appropriate produce includes (but is not limited to) broccoli, tomatoes, kale, spinach, and cucumbers.
9. Cracked corn
When you crack open the eggs from your chickens, are the yolks disappointingly pale? This could be an indication that your hens aren’t getting enough proteins, vitamins, and nutrients – or it could just be that your chickens lay pale eggs. If you’d like a brighter yellow-orange color, feed them cracked corn. It’s a treat they love and it will boost the color tone of their eggs.
Another somewhat weird food – for chickens that is – but one that is actually super healthy for them. Yogurt is full of probiotics that improve your chickens’ digestive health. Healthy chickens mean lots of eggs and maybe even some baby chicks. So definitely dole out the yogurt on occasion!