What you should be feeding organically grown poultry.
What do chickens eat?
Feeding and Types of Chickens
What chickens eat depends on the type of chicken you are feeding. Also if you are growing chickens for eggs, or growing chickens for slaughter.
With a good rich diet ,commercial broilers reach their table weight between 4 and 7 weeks.
On the small farm or backyard it is often more practical to feed rooster and hen chicks together regardless of their different destinies.
However, expect such roosters being grown for the pot to take more than twice as long as commercial birds to reach a respectable size for eating.
Laying hens also have a quite a high protein need, They also need a lot of calcium, mainly for the eggs.
What does poultry eat?
Non-layers need a much less calcium!
Please note that giving high calcium to other chickens causes kidney damage.
Do not feed bad or mouldy food to your birds. Use fresh feed and don’t buy more than a few weeks worth.
If you can - always make sure your chickens get loads of fresh green growing stuff - grass, weeds, vegetables - they should have access every single day.
If you are Raising Chickens for Eggs -
For a chicken to produce eggs every day is a miracle - They need piles of nutrition.
Failure to give a good balanced mix is a sure recipe for low egg production.
What do chickens eat?
Feeding layers with commercial feed
The easiest way is to buy a high quality food that has been specially formulated for laying birds..
This contains everything your laying chickens need. The mix contains correct balance of grit, vitamins and minerals.
Let your flock eat from this whenever they feel like it.
Commercial layer feed comes in seed mixes, pellets or crumbles. You should use a poultry hopper, best half full and raised to the head height of the bird to stop waste.
Expect each laying hen to use 114 gms or half a cup, of commercial chickens feed per day.
Extra feed for laying Chickens
You can greatly reduce your food cost by using cheap locally sourced grain.
It is good to use the grain free choice (around 50 grams per hen per day) in hoppers or spread on the ground in the deep clean litter to promote scratching. Also use a higher protein (20 to 22%) laying feed.
When feeding with a complete 16% protein laying feed, reduce the grain fed to half of this amount - you do not need overweight poultry'
You can use milk (fresh or sour), stale bread, table scraps, garden waste to help reduce the amount of commercial food purchased.
Consider local supplies of these resources – like restaurants, bakeries, lawn-mower cuttings, fruit and vegetable shops
If you are making your own feed mix:
Grit is good for all your chickens.
Chickens eat grit to compensate for having no teeth? It is needed by birds to assist in grinding the seeds in their stomach. It can be in many forms - the best is fine gravel or small sharp granite flakes and chips.
calcium for laying hens.
The formation of egg shells requires considerable amounts of calcium. Provide it free choice as either calcium grit, natural lime sand, or oyster shell.
You can also recycle egg shells back to your hens after first washing the albumen off them to prevent bacterial growth, then drying and then crushing them up.
Making your own Homemade Mixed Food
Commercial rations can contain some unsavory industrial waste products such as sewerage, brew yeast or citrus sludges, as well as medication such as antibiotics or coccidiostats.
So what do chickens eat when you are raising organic chickens or simply prefer a purer, fresher, more wholesome diet for your chooks?
One option is home mixed feed. It is not without its problems though.
Apart from the time and trouble of ensuring a balanced ration, I’ve done some calculations on home mixing my own “complete” chickens feed from bought ingredients and found the commercial feeds a cheaper option.
You just can’t compete on price with the big feed mills! If you can grow your own grains this is not such an issue though.
To do this right you must find the best and most cost effective local sources of protein and carbohydrates, and provide these in balance with sufficient calcium and grit to meet your chickens nutritional needs (see chart above).
Ideally, what do chickens eat when they are layers?
16-17% of the diet (by weight) should be protein. Wheat only has 12.5% protein. How do you make up the difference? By feeding the grain (wheat in this case) with a high protein feed.
Watch out for feed chickens beans and legumes
Grain legumes such as peas and beans contain Trypsin inhibitors that only reduce the availability of protein in the feed, and can also damage the chicken's pancreas causing chronic illthrift.
To use grain legumes you need to prepare beans or peas in a way that you kill the Trypsin inhibitors. This is done using heat – keeping them at or above 180°F (82°C) for at least 15 minutes.
The best method is:
1. Soak enough legumes for a 2-3 days overnight in water.
2. Bring the mix to the boil and simmer for 15 min.
3. Cool down then refrigerate.
4. Feed it directly to your chickens (in a heaped tablespoon with boiled soybeans per chicken per day).
Try this sample ration using parts are by weight.
52 parts Wheat, 24 parts boiled Lupins or Soybeans,
14 parts Meat Meal,
13 parts Corn,
9.5 parts Lime Sand (38% Ca),
9.4 Skim Milk powder,
4.7 parts Sunflower Seeds,
0.4 parts Iodized Salt
What do chickens eat for vitamins and minerals?
Essential vitamins and minerals are got from either in the form of a commercial mix, or as dried kelp from the beach. Don't forget daily nutritious weeds, herbs and vegetables from your garden.
Growing your own chicken food.
Purchased chicken feed of all kinds is becoming more scarce and expensive because of peak oil and climate change.
Raising organic poultry means also growing organic food for your chickens.
Feed chickens Carbohydrates?
Animals need carbohydrates for energy. Laying chickens should have about 80% of their diet carbohydrates. The most concentrated sources of carbohydrates are the grains, wheat, barley, rice, oats, and vegetable seeds that birds farmed in conjunction with Permaculture vegetables can access.
You should be growing these products yourself, try to get a constant supply of stale bread from your local baker, Grain will have to be purchased locally.
Hens with no commercial feed will need 50 to 100 grams of grain every day, depending what else is available, and the season - chickens need more food in colder weather.
Feed chickens eat Protein?
Chickens love to eat worms. They are a great source -28%, of high grade protein as well as having good fats and other nutritious.
Earthworms are easy to cultivate, they will convert most any organic material – from horse manure, weeds, hair and vacuum cleaner dust , to used tea bags, paper and potato peels- into a fantastic chicken feed ingredients.
Under ideal conditions earthworms reproduce rapidly. Grown on horse manure, one square meter can yield 1.7 kg of earthworm protein a year, enough to exceed the protein needs of 1 hen.
You can either grow your earthworms in separate worm farms and feed your chickens, or grow them in the soil of designed organic vegetable garden systems The birds can help themselves, when they need.
Other High Protein feed you can Grow
High protein and a good source of many vitamins and minerals, Lucerne - a perennial plant that yields up to 0.3 kg of protein per m2 per year when well watered.
You can chop it and add it the chickens feed everyday.
If you have grey water to purify, duckweed - Lemnaceae, is a good option. Duckweed is a great supplement to the organic birds feed.
It has high concentrations of trace minerals, its protein is very rich in the essential lysine, amino acids, and methionine. Every square meter of water can give you around 0.4 kg of protein per year.
Comfrey supplies a protein and mineral-rich food. Comfrey will replace many costly commercial concentrates in the chickens diet.
4 - 5 comfrey plants per hen can meet a lot of the protein and calcium requirements of a chicken. Comfrey does not grow in winter.
As it is not so fibrous, it is better than Lucerne, suiting the digestive system of chickens better.
Comfrey has a dry matter protein content of between 15% and 30%, it is a great protein source as are legumes. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron, It also has sulphur, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium and germanium.
Feed chickens Calcium
Calcium is a must - give it to laying hens crushed. Use oyster shell or cuttlefish. Sprinkle it in small quantities on other feeds with crushed limestone -lime sand.
Many foods are rich in calcium and can be added to your chickens’ diet. Many green leafy vegetables such as collards or mustard greens and brewer’s yeast, kelp, cooked beans, oats, milk, as well as peas, sunflower and sesame seeds.
High in calcium vegetables and herbs you can grow for chickens include - dandelion, mustard greens, kale, chickweed, cabbage, dandelion, watercress, parsley, plantain, comfrey, raspberry (leaves), alfalfa, red clover, nettles, horsetail and also chamomile.
Many of these can be served fresh, dried or sprinkled over fresh food.
Fresh watercress is very high in nutritious goodies, giving 4% calcium, 3% protein, 1% phosphorus, It is also a good source of many other vitamins and minerals.
Feed chickens eat Grit
On your travels, look out for deposits of sharp grit of granite, gravel or other hard rock and collect a variety of sizes. Offer the smallest to young chicks and the larger ones to adult birds.
Feed chickens Minerals
If you are keeping them in a coop, give the chickens kelp fronds - these make a very good source of essential minerals.
Collect the kelp from the beach and hang them whole inside the coop for the chickens eat. They will take as they need.
A good multi-mineral multivitamin mix for supplementing all animals and humans:
• 1 part (by volume) Torula or Brewers Yeast powder
• 1 part Lecithin granules
• 1 part Kelp powder or granules
Mix ingredients, keep in the fridge in an airtight container, and give 1 flat teaspoon per hen twice a week mixed into the feed.