Chicken Feed Essentials For Healthy Backyard Chickens

Backyard chicken lovers! Learn what your favorite Backyard Queens need to keep them healthy and happy. 

The other day a customer came into Jack’s to buy chicken feed, and he wondered whether it needed to include soy, or if he should avoid it. Everyone wants what’s best for their chickens, and with so many different feed types on the market it’s easy to get confused about what to give your flock. So, what essentials should you look for in the best chicken feed for your flock? 

When looking at chicken feeds, one of the primary nutritional components is the protein percentage. Chickens, just like us, need an array of vitamins and minerals such as Calcium to stay healthy. Amino acids are often overlooked ingredients in chicken feed which are vital building blocks of protein.  

Let’s take a closer look at important chicken feed essentials that we should consider when choosing the right chicken feed for our flock.

Protein 

Image by Andreas Göllner from Pixabay 

Protein is vital for young chicks and pullets as they grow and gain muscle, develop feathers and eventually become egg-producing hens. At each stage of their lives, they will require differing levels of protein, which is why you will find feeds labeled for chicks, growers, and layers.  Although protein is not the only difference among these feeds, it is an important distinction. 

There are different ingredients that can supply protein in chicken feed, such as corn, soybean, alfalfa, oats, wheat, or barley.  Feed companies combine these ingredients in a variety of ways to achieve a balanced protein for your growing and laying chickens.  There are definitely companies that provide soy-free feed mixes to accommodate chicken owners who have concerns around feeding soy to their flock.  Jack’s carries one such soy-free chicken feed option from Nature’s Grown Organics, which can also be purchased in-store or as part of our new subscription service.  

Amino Acids

You will also see Lysine and Methionine as common ingredients, which are actually amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that can be hard to get through grains.  Therefore, these amino acids are routinely added as supplements to create a balanced protein make-up for the chickens. 

Calcium

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

Calcium is another thing to consider when choosing your feed. Laying hens need calcium in abundance, but too much is toxic for young chicks. For an actively laying hen, calcium percentages should be in the 4% range, and setting out a self-feeding calcium option (like ground oyster shells) is always a good idea.  Chickens know what they need, and will seek additional calcium. 

Vitamins

Just like people, chickens also need their vitamins!  Vitamins A, D, E, & K are all important to varying degrees.  Many feeds add supplements or additional ingredients to provide these nutrients.  If chickens are free-ranging they get their vitamin A from eating leafy greens. And just like humans, chickens can produce vitamin D through sun exposure. You can also provide vitamins by adding fresh ingredients to your chickens’ diet. One popular way is through sprouting whole grains. Watch for a full blog post on this early next month.

Final Thoughts 

Chickens need a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. If you have a mix of young chicks and mature hens, separate feed types to ensure correct nutrients for each stage of their life to ensure their overall health and growth. 

Budgeting out feed costs is important.  On average a full-grown chicken will eat about 1.75 lbs of feed per week.  So, if you have three laying hens in your backyard flock, you can expect to go through a 50 lb bag of feed approximately every 9 weeks.  If you want to sign up for Jack’s new Chicken Feed Subscription Service, this number will help you calculate what frequency of subscription you will need based upon the number of chickens in your flock.

Hopefully, that gives all you backyard chicken lovers a sense of what your favorite Backyard Queens need to keep them healthy and happy. 

Cheers!

-Farmer Stefan

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Stefan Meyer

Stefan Meyer

From the Family Farm to the Urban Farm, to an Agroforestry Center in the Minnesota North Shore, Stefan has explored many facets of farming over the course of his life. A strong love of working with soils, plants and animals, mixed with an ethos of ecological balance and regenerative farming practices, continue to guide him on this journey.

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