Thursday, March 6, 2014

What Do Chickens Eat

What Do Chickens Eat | Raising Chickens What Do Chickens Eat | Raising Chickens

Most feed chickens subsist on a diet of a mixture of grains and corn based feeds. There are several types of feeds and you should understand your breed before you buy your feed. If your chickens are allowed to roam around your land then they will typically fend for themselves and eat a variety of things they can peck at around your yard.

Types of Chicken Feeds

There are a variety of feeds you can purchase for your chickens. Do some research about the types of chickens you are raising and inquire at your local farm store about which feed is right for your flock.

Organic Chicken Feed

Why would you choose organic poultry feed?

The simplest of answer is that you want organic eggs to eat. Hens that diet on organic feed are believed to produce organic eggs which are said to be healthier do to the fact that there are no chemicals, pesticides or other unnatural substances.

What Makes Organic Feed… Organic?

“Organic” as a general definition means that you use biodegradable, all natural, and sustainable materials that promote balance and long term life. For a poultry feed to be considered “organic” it has to be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Problems with NOT organic.

  • The toxic levels of pesticides has increased, literally 10x in the bast half century.

  • The more we use them the worse the problem gets. Pesticide use has increased by thousands of percent and during the increase in usage the crops that were ruined by pests has increased from 32% to 38%.

  • These unnatural fertilizers can lower the quality of the soil used to grow crops.

  • The pesticides can hang around for years after use.

  • Genetically “Improved” crops have led to an increase in pesticide use. 

Soy Free Chicken Feed

Soy free chicken feed is a blend of chicken food that does not contain any soy or any soy based product. The reason you would want a soy based feed is that it is listed as one of the most common allergens in the US with about .2% of the population having the allergy. They are rich in protein but contain a high amount of phytoestrogen and phytic acid. Also many soy products are genetically modified.

Corn-Free Chicken Feed

They can be a potential allergen however the main reason why you may want to steer your flock away from corn based chicken feeds is that they are like drive-thru and candy to your birds. Corn is made up of simple sugars that convert quickly to energy. There are times where this can be handy for your chickens, such as when there is a particularly harsh winter. These corn based feeds can give your birds the extra calories they need to tough out a cold front but when the weather is warm corn-free feeds will keep the extra weight off your chickens.

Free Range Chickens

It is said that free range chickens are much healthier than flocks that are fed store bought feed. Eggs from free range chickens are some of the best in the world. Also your flock will yield more benefits than just eggs, in situations where you need to cull the flock you can slaughter a chicken for a delicious chicken dinner.

Free Range Chicken Eggs contain 2x the amount of vitamin E, 6x the amount of vitamin A, they have lower saturated fat and have 4x the amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

What Do Chickens Eat if Free Range?

Free Range chickens eat a variety of things they find in the backyard or pasture. If you are curious about what a chicken will eat when they are left to their own devices then the answer is… Just about anything. Chickens need a mixture of proteins and vitamins in order to be healthy and happy. They are omnivorous, like humans, and eat many different greens and meats.

Chickens will be more than happy to eat.

  • Bugs & Insects

  • Grasses, clover & various greens

  • Small rodents

  • Lizards

  • Seeds

  • Table scraps

Chickens tend to avoid foods they don’t like so don’t be overly concerned that you are giving your chickens things they shouldn’t eat.

If feeding scraps from your table, here are a few tips:

  • Chickens will eat fruit, but don’t like the peels

  • They love potatoes of all kinds, even chips, but avoid giving them the skins

  • Egg shells provide calcium but should be ground down before feeding

  • They will eat any meat

  • Weeds and lawn clippings are a great source of chicken feed

  • Remember that you cannot over feed chickens, if they are eating what you give them, then they are hungry

In most cases chickens can fend for themselves if they are left top free range. However, there are cases where the land you allow your chickens to graze on simply do not have all the foods your flock may require. In these rare instances you may want to supplement your chickens diet.

You can supplement their diet in a variety of ways including:

  • Buying supplemental feed from the store

  • Planting more plants in your yard that your chickens love

  • If you have a compost heap, you can harvest the worms for your birds