What to Feed Backyard Chickens

Feeding hens is more than just throwing grain, you must take into account the age of the hens and your goal for them. Chickens being kept for meat will require different feed than those being kept for eggs.

Feeding Baby Chicks

Chicks grown for egg laying should be fed a starter that is 20 to 22% protein, chicks raised for meat should have up to twenty-four percent protein in their feed. Until the age of 6 to 9 weeks (depending on the breed), this starter should be used. After maturity, the feed should be switched to “broiler finish” grains until they are ready for slaughter (if meat chickens) – otherwise, continue with the egg feed.

Many who raise meat chickens should use feed that has antibiotics to prevent Coccidiosis. This is often also given to other hens unless they are being billed as “free range” or “organic.” Commercially grown meat hens are often loaded with hormones, so raising meat chickens at home is a popular way to avoid ingesting those.

Chickens as Adults

Once hens reach adulthood, they are often moved to a fourteen percent protein feed. Another important nutrient for egg layers is calcium, especially for large breeds such as Jersey Giants.

Chicken feed comes in mash and scratch, pellets, and crumbles. The best way to get the most balanced diet for your hens is to mix some scratch in with pellets or crumbles and then supplement with vegetables and calcium. The best supplement is by far the Popworms. Popworms are calcium-rich completely natural chicken treats.

Adding clean, crushed egg shells into their feed can supplement the calcium for the chickens. Chickens will know what to eat when it is offered, according to their need.

Vegetables and Peelings

All leftover vegetables such as spinach, romain, apple peelings, and whole grains like oatmeal, barley, and small amounts of fruit will make for healthier hens. Keep in mind that these are supplements, not replacements for the hen feed. Chicken feed has all the protein and nutrients the chickens need.

Just about anything that isn’t a meat product and that is fresh, it can be given to the hens.

Chicken Tractors

A hen tractor has the advantage of allowing you to move your flock from place to place in your yard. This allows the chickens exercise and gives them fresh available bugs, vegetation, and grit. This is a good way to do it if you do not have the room for free range, or need to protect your hens from daytime predators.

This will also help keep your yard from getting brown spots where the hens scratch to find morsels.


Beware of using pesticides and fertilizers in any area where your chickens might feed. Chickens will eat just about anything, so they’ll peck at fertilizer granules.

Chickens can be poisoned by grass and plants where weed killers or sprays have been used. Whatever your hens eat, you will end up eating too. Chickens can be passing poisons into their eggs without showing any illness at all.

Chickens raised properly can provide eggs and meat with great nutritional value for your family. Well fed hens provide excellent eggs and meat.