There are all kinds of theories on what to feed chickens, so this is a complex
question. You need to feed them different things during different phases of
life and also different things if you want to eat them or just raise them for
eggs. You can feed them pellets, mash (which is like a powder) or crumbles
(which is crumbled pellets). There are a million theories on which is better.
Pellets produce less waste... because chickens tend to throw their food all
over the place... but they will pick up pellets off the ground.
I fed mine Blue Seal "medicated" starter feed up until about 8 weeks old.
The medication is "Amprolium" which prevents coccidiosis (a parasitic
infection that can kills chicks quickly and spreads like lightening). That is
pretty much the only "chemical" I have ever given them. After 8 weeks old I
fed them Blue Seal "Grower" ration for egg layers. At 18 weeks I switched
them over to Blue Seal "Layer ration."
I have had good luck dispensing all this feed in commercially purchased
feeder (plenty of homemade designs available if you google). Here is a tip..
Get one that is about 3 times the size you think you need. I started with a 35
pound capacity feeder... but quickly moved up to 100 pound model. This
seems "about right" for my chickens. It is a fine balancing act between
getting one too small that you have to fill all the time, and getting one too
big so that the food spoils before they eat it (a particular problem in damp
That is what their "official" food. I also give them "Chicken Scratch" which
is mostly cracked corn. This is like "chicken candy" as it is high in calories
and low in nutrients. They love it, but they can't live on it or eat too much.
Now I feed them all kinds of table leftovers too. Alot of chicken experts say
not to do this because it slows their growth rate and all kinds of things like
this. However, I am not a professional chicken farmer.. so I am not too
concerned with that. My chickens are mainly for my amusement... so I like
to give them a varied diet. I quickly got over the embarrassment over asking
for a "Take home box" at every restaurant I visit and then loading it up
with pizza crusts and scraps from EVERYONE'S plate. Occasionally I get a
few strange looks from the waitresses. Oh well, is it better to throw this food
out? Anyone, this isn't the first time I have been accused of insanity and it
won't be the last.
This being said, chickens will eat nearly anything that they can fit in their
mouths. This includes:
1) Grass and weeds of all types (they love this).
3) Other creepy crawlies that will fit in their mouths (salamanders, slugs..
that kind of stuff)
4) Seeds of all types
5) Fruits and vegetables (They eat everything... including apple cores,
banana peels, orange rinds, everything)
7) Dirt: they need to eat sand and small pebbles (i.e. "grit") to grind up
their food, which they swallow whole.
8) Pretty much anything a human will eat, so will a chicken. They have no
teeth, so you cant give them hard,crunchy things that they can't pick
apart.... They won't eat a dog biscuit (if you crumbled it they would) but
they will eat a taco shell as they can pick it apart with their beaks
Chickens like to forage around for stuff to eat. Typically, the do the
"backwards feet scratch, see what I uncovered" for hours on end. Multiple
the videoon this page by about 8 hours and you have a typical chicken day.
Here are things chickens will eat, that you should discourage:
1) Paper plates (I left a paper plate in their pen full of spaghetti, and they
ate the plate because it was soaked in sauce). Chickens LOVE pasta.
2) Styrofoam leftover containers (Give them the leftovers, but take them out
of the clamshell first)
3) Human fingers (Chickens bite first, look second)
4) Each other (If one starts bleeding, the others will peck at the sore. This
has not happened to me personally, but I have been told this. It happens
more if they are overcrowded and stressed, so I give them plenty of room)