What to Feed a Chicken

what to feed a chicken

Chickens rely on forage, vegetables and insects as their primary nutrition source, and commercial chicken feed provides a solid basis for their nutrition needs.

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Do not feed chickens avocado (poisonous pit and peel), raw green potatoes, uncooked beans, chocolate or any rotten scraps as these items dilute the complete nutrition provided in layer feed and may lead to health problems including reduced egg production.


Complete Feeds

Commercial chicken feed is developed by feed experts who understand what chickens require for long, healthy lives and maximum productivity. They know exactly which nutrients your flock requires daily as well as in what amounts.

Carbs are the primary energy source and source of fiber in commercial chicken feed, while protein comes from legumes, oilseeds or animal sources such as meatmeal and fishmeal.

Fat is frequently added to commercial chicken feeds in small amounts to increase digestion retention time and create internal heat production, both of which provide advantages in cold weather conditions. Supplementing well-formulated complete feed with nutritious treats and greens daily will be the ideal combination for your backyard flock.

Layer Feeds

Layer feed has been carefully tailored to meet the nutritional requirements of egg-laying birds in your flock, with a balanced combination of protein, calcium and other vitamins and minerals to encourage top egg production. Hens require higher protein levels than grower or starter feed and additional calcium for strong eggshell formation.

Veterinarians generally recommend transitioning your chicks to high-quality layer feed once they start laying eggs at 18 weeks of age. Hens should continue on this feed until winter has ended and they go through their natural process of molting, whereby their feathers shed while new ones regrow – this allows hens a break from egg laying to shed old feathers and regrow new ones naturally.

Feasting on snacks and treats like vegetables, fruit, mealworms, scratch grains or table scraps dilutes the benefits provided by a complete layer feed formula. Limiting them to only a few tablespoons daily per chicken should help ensure their full nutritional needs are met.

Scratch Grains

Scratch grains can add variety to the diet of your flock while supplementing their normal chicken feed with essential proteins and nutrients. Be careful when feeding scratch grains though as too much may create an imbalance between their nutritional requirements and what the flock actually needs, leading to health issues or poor egg production.

Scratch typically consists of cracked corn, wheat and other seeds; you can either make your own at home or purchase from a feed store.

Grit should always be included with scratch to aid chickens in breaking down and digesting their food, especially during their first ten weeks when their digestive systems are still developing.

Scratch can help keep your flock active and engaged during winter when foraging opportunities are limited, helping reduce squabbling among chickens and prevent boredom which could otherwise lead to disease and cannibalism.


Chickens should only receive treats sparingly as part of a balanced, high-protein feed that’s rich in vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. Most table scraps or leftovers are fine to feed to the girls but some foods such as onions are toxic or poisonous and should never be fed to your girls.

Bananas make an excellent treat for your flock, but be sure to offer only fresh, unripened ones – old or green ones contain too much sugar, which could pose health concerns. Banana peels and stems contain valuable Vitamin C-rich compounds. Incorporating green beans cooked and not raw into their diet as a treat; potato skins with green tops should only be given occasionally; while Kiwis are delicious but should be offered only occasionally due to their high sugar content.