Chicken Feeding Myths – BUSTED!
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Bust common chicken feeding myths by learning the best nutrition tactics for feeding your flock.
Myth #1 – My chickens don’t need a complete feed, they can just eat scratch grains.
FALSE: Hens, just like any animal, do better when they are fed a diet that is designed specifically for them. For a laying hen, balance is key. Think about baking a cake. You need certain ingredients for the dish to turn out right. Every 26 hours, a hen’s body is creating an egg that is made of water, protein, and other nutrients and covered by a hard shell. She has to have all the ingredients ready in her body to create this amazing egg — every single day! If the hen is short on one of the ingredients, she can’t run out to the store like we can and pick up some extra calcium or protein … she makes do with what she has. This may mean that the egg doesn’t come out quite right — kind of like trying to bake a cake when you don’t have enough flour. You may notice thin eggshells, runny whites, or a yolk that doesn’t hold together. You may also notice that the rate that your hen lays is not quite where it should be — instead of an egg every 26 hours, she may only lay an egg every 48 hours. Nutrition is one of the first places to check if production is not up to par.
Myth #2 – Treats are always good!
FALSE: Everyone loves a treat, it’s true. And while your hens will do their best to convince you that they NEED the whole loaf of stale bread and not just a slice or two, it is not in their best interest to give them all the goodies they might want to eat, just like it’s not good to give your five year old all the candy bars they’d like. As we stated above, hens need balance in their diet. Treats in general (especially whole grains, bread, etc.) are low in protein and that throws off the overall protein level in the total diet. So how do you know if your hen’s diet isn’t balanced? Besides the egg production issues we described above, you can also look for some behavioral signs in your flock. One of the most common of these signs is feather picking.
If you’ve noticed that some of your girls are a little light in the feather department recently, you may need to check for feather picking. If it’s not molting season, your birds have plenty of space, and you don’t have a parasite problem, this may be the culprit. Feather picking in your flock most often develops from a lack of protein in the diet. To fully identify this may take some detective work, but there is one main clue to look for — you won’t find any feathers on the floor of the coop or run. Why? Because your birds are eating them. Feathers themselves are high (about 85%) in protein. So if your girls aren’t getting enough protein in their diet, they’ll look for it in other places, and may find it on their neighbor! To correct this, decrease treats to no more than 10% of the total diet (or about what your birds will completely clean up in 15 minutes, once per day) and make sure you are offering a high-quality laying feed that is at least 16% protein.
Myth #3 – Free-range birds will find all the nutrition they need.
FALSE: It is great to think that our chickens are super smart and can determine exactly what they need to eat and then go out and find it themselves. But that is not always the case. While they do require protein and may go chasing after protein rich bugs and grubs, I’ve also personally witnessed members of my free-range flock trying to snack on some wayward packing peanuts! The lesson here is that even if your birds are in a free-range situation, you still need to provide a wholesome, healthy, balanced diet for them to eat free-choice in the form of a complete layer feed. You should also always offer free-choice grit (to aid in digestion) and free-choice oyster shell (for added calcium). The standard rule for grit and oyster shell? When in doubt, put it out! This rule applies whether your birds are free range or confined to a coop.
Myth #4 Feeding chickens is difficult.
FALSE: Not to be a Negative Nelly, but this myth is false also. Feeding chickens isn’t difficult and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Balance is key! Find a balanced, complete feed that is designed specifically for laying hens. This diet will have added calcium, plenty of protein in readily available sources, and all the vitamins and minerals that your flock requires. Limit treats, offer feed free-choice along with oyster shell and grit, fresh, clean water, and you’ll be all set!
One thought on “Chicken Feeding Myths – BUSTED!”
A few of my hens are losing or have lost lots of feathers , could it be a fungus spreading through my flock ?