Feeding Your Flock Organic Chicken Feed
What to Feed Chickens When You Want to go Organic
When deciding to use organic chicken feed for your flock, it’s first good to know what to feed chickens for a healthy diet. Believe it or not, an interesting fact about chickens is they don’t need grain to survive. Most people don’t realize chickens are not primarily herbivores (plant eaters). They’re omnivores (eat meat and plants). Mine love mice, worms, and all manner of insects. Insects provide an excellent source of high-quality protein.
If you are raising free range chickens, then you know the first thing they go after are bugs. Then they go for grasses and grains, if they want. There are nutritional and environmental benefits to providing some free range.
The old-timers free ranged their chickens during the day. In the evening, they gave them a little cracked corn in the chicken coop. They did this to ensure they came to roost. Smart, huh?
Many of the old-timey ways have been replaced with modern ways of poultry farming. So for those who want a measurement: a chicken eats 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of feed a day or 2 to 3 ounces per bird. If my chickens are confined to their yard for some reason, I feed them twice a day. The second feeding is garden or kitchen scraps.
What is Organic Chicken Feed?
People are becoming more and more concerned about the source of their food. They’re asking themselves where did it come from? How was it raised? And most importantly, how was it fed?
There are strict guidelines for organic feeds, including organic chicken feed. It must contain grains grown organically. This means with no pesticides, or chemicals of any kind. These grains cannot be grown from genetically modified seeds or contaminated by them. Non-organic, micro-ingredients like vitamins, minerals, salt, and the amino acid methionine are allowed to be in organic chicken feed. There can be no drugs, antibiotics, or hormones in it as the protein sources have to be organic.
Most farm supply stores offer a choice between organic chicken feed and conventional chicken feed. As with all other organic products, the cost will be higher. We each have to weigh the choices and make the decision that best suits our ideals and situations.
Why We Use Organic Chicken Feed
We live as natural a life as we possibly can in this modern world. We farm and live much the way my grandparents did. They didn’t have to worry about the food supply problems we have today.
Almost six years ago, we became informed about the many benefits of an organic, non-GMO diet. We made the change for ourselves, but what about our animals? After all, we are what our animals eat. So we made the switch to organic feed. We’re working on being able to provide our own feed, but we haven’t gotten there yet.
We are willing to pay more for organic chicken feed because of the real and tangible health benefits we have experienced for both the poultry and ourselves. We produce as much of our own food as we possibly can. Growing organic backyard chickens for meat and eggs, means feeding them organic chicken feed. Even our turkeys and ducks, as they are poultry, receive organic chicken feed.
There are several organic chicken feed choices. I spent several weeks in research until we found the one we could identify with in principle and in practice. They had the Non-GMO Project Verified seal of approval and that was important to us. Scratch and Peck Feeds is the company we prefer.
We’re in a rural setting, 90 miles from any big town. We believe in supporting local business, so we went to our local farm supply. After checking with their customers, they realized there was a market for organic, non-GMO feed. They were willing to work with us and order the feed. If you don’t live in an area where organic chicken feed is easy to get, try working with your local farm supply. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Working with our local farm supply store saved us money on shipping fees. Whether you choose to feed organic chicken feed or standard commercial feed, there are a few nutritional standards for your backyard chickens.
Nutritional Requirements for Backyard Chickens
Laying Hens: Need a minimum protein of 16% and a maximum of 18%; a minimum calcium of 3% and a maximum of 5%. All the other minerals are pretty standard in the various feeds: phosphorous, salt, fats, etc.
Broilers (birds grown just for meat): Need a minimum protein of 18% and a maximum of 20%; a minimum calcium of 0.90% and a maximum of 1.5%. Again, the other various minerals are pretty standard.
Chicks: These fast-growing little critters need a minimum protein of 18% and the maximum of 21%; a minimum calcium of 1% and a maximum of 1.45%.
Scratch feeds usually have protein and fat, but aren’t considered balanced. Most keepers of backyard chickens only use them as a supplement to a nutritionally balanced feed.
Commercial organic chicken feed makes it easier for keepers of backyard chickens to ensure the nutritional needs of their poultry in a way they’re comfortable. This is especially true for hobby farmers who don’t have the space to grow their own feed or to free range their birds. It may even be against the law to free range where they live.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack
Originally published in 2015 and regularly vetted for accuracy.