What should I feed my chickens?
Chickens spend a majority of their time looking for food, and will eat just about anything! It's important to provide them with prepared pellets and mixed corn, which contain all the nutrients they need. Mixed corn is good to scatter across the ground of their run so they can forage for the food themselves.
Prepared foot pellets are made up of nutrients as well as natural yolk colourants and grit. Grit is essential as chickens do not have teeth, so they will break up their food in their gizzard with the help of the grit. Some grit consists of broken down oyster shells which provides your chicken with calcium for their bones and strong egg shells, so it's ideal for your hens. Your local pet store should have the right mixtures of food for chickens, just be sure to check which pellets and corns are best for your breed. Top your chicken's feeders up with pellets twice a day, and introduce other bits of food such as leftovers as an exciting alternative.
If you are getting your chickens from a young age then you may need to alter what you feed them. They require different types of food at their different stages of development, so a chick that is six weeks old or younger needs to be fed on chick crumbs. If your chicken is between six and 20 weeks then they will need to be fed on growers, and then once they've layed their first egg you can move them onto layers.
Remember, chickens love to forage and are a great natural fertiliser for your garden. When they have access to grass, they will happily scratch, peck away and eat up any slugs, worms, bugs and other insects. So they're great at keeping the pests at bay!
Can I feed my chickens 'human' foods?
You should keep your chicken's diet interesting, and most human foods are fine for them to eat, however they can stick their noses up at some things so you might not get away with just feeding them anything! Keeping their diet exciting also helps to keep them happy and prevent any aggressive behaviour or feather plucking. Try hanging some treats from the top of the run so that they have to reach for it — this makes feeding more of a challenge and keeps them busy. They will eat most fresh fruit and vegetables (especially the peels), stale bread, rice, pasta and other cooked foods. Make sure anything you give them is soft enough and small enough for them to digest.
Avoid foods such as onions, avocado, candy, chocolate, sugary foods, salty foods and citrus.
Always keep your chickens topped up with fresh water, and keep their food and water bowls clean and free from build up of mould. Any food that gets damp should be removed and replaced straight away. During the winter months you will need to make sure that their water doesn't freeze over.
How should I store my chickens' food?
When storing the pellets and corn mixtures, it is best to keep them in a metal bin rather than anything plastic, as this will attract mice and rats. Metal is much stronger and mice definitely won't be able to chew through it. Always keep the lids closed securely, and add some extra weight on the top to avoid it being lifted off and the food getting damp.