Raising Chickens #2 “Dietary Needs ”

dietary needs

Dietary Needs

So yesterday I talked about the chicken house, today I will continue with the next thing on the list, dietary needs.

A healthy balanced diet, can be a bit more challenging depending on how much time you have, but it doesn’t have to be. I try to stay away from commercial laying mash or crumbles as I believe it is not best thing for my chickens. My dad was a veterinarian and advised me against using it if it could be avoided, but sometimes I do supplement with it, especially if I am short on time. Keep in mind these posts, this information is just from my experiences and preferences, and should be viewed as such.

Ok back to a healthy diet, if I am mixing food from scratch I start with finding fish meal. This I usually get in a 20 or 25 lb. bag. Most of the time I have a feed store to order it for me and at times it can be hard to find. This provides for the protein that the chickens need. Next I mix this, (about a ½ cup fish meal, per 12 to 15 chickens) with few cups of ground barley and a cracked corn and wheat with a bit of water. The barley is mostly used to help spread out the fish meal, to mix it in enough, so that all the chickens can get their share. Then I make sure that they have all they want of wheat and cracked corn.

If you have more time, one of the best things for the chickens is spouted grains, wheat, barley or corn. For me wheat was the easiest to find and grow. They love it and it makes the food go so much farther. One bag of wheat can go a long ways when spouted, and it is so much healthier for them. Ideally I would like to get where I farm earthworms or mealworms for my chickens, to provide the protein that they need, and everything else would be spouted grain and scraps from the kitchen.

Scraps from my kitchen are a staple for my chicken. All those leftovers that would get thrown out or ends and pieces from making salad or other things, are all gobbled up. These supplement their food but it also gives the chickens something to look forward to and helps them to not be as bored, they love pecking and scratching through scraps. There are a few things that you want to stay away from feeding them, and this varies depending on who you talk to. Most of which on fairly common sense things.  I did a quick search and came up with this list.

Chocolate

Sugar

Salt

White flour

All those things that aren’t good for us either, then there are some others that are good to know about.

Avocado, skin and pit~ toxic

Rhubarb~ poisonous~ leaves in particular, not just to chickens either.

Onions in large quantities can cause anemia

Uncooked Beans~ Contains hemaglutin~ and raw potato Skins ~ contains Solanine~ poisonous to birds. Cooked is fine, from my experience if you feed them these, raw they just don’t eat them. Same with Citrus, it is on some of the lists of things not to feed, but I have never had chicken be bother by it. They just don’t eat it.

One other thing that I see on a lot of lists “of what not to feed, is anything rotten. In my experience this is not something you have to worry about. I suppose it depends on how rotten or spoiled it is, if it is completely covered in mold, you might not want to give it to them, and depending on what type of food we are talking about.  Raw spoiled meat, I probably wouldn’t throw into the chicken scraps but spoiled veggies and fruit doesn’t hurt them in the least. Left overs that are spoiled I have fed to our chickens for years and always had healthy chickens.

In summer I try let them run loose all afternoon to catch bugs and eat greens. I also take them all the weeds that I pull out of my garden and let them pick through those. In the winter time I feed them alfalfa hay to get them some greens, they love to scratch around in a flake of hay a couple times a week.

Two more things that are a must, are, grit and shells. You can buy oyster shells for them, I also feed their egg shells back to them. I do this by leaving the eggshells out until they are dry and then crushing them up and either mixing it in with the scraps that I give them or just throwing them in with the oyster shells. You want to make sure that you break up the shells so that they are unrecognizable as eggs, otherwise your chickens will learn to eat their eggs.

Grit is very important for them as well. As a kid I remember getting sent out to the creek to dig up sand for the chickens, or finding chunks of granite rock that was at the crumbling point and smashing it with a hammer to break it up for them. If they run loose every day, then they find a lot of what they need that way, but never hurts to have some in the chicken house for them as well.

Tomorrow I will talk about how much room that chickens need.

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Photo From Flickr Commons Thank you : Nictitating Membrane