How do you feed chickens

What do chickens eat? How to feed laying hens appropriately

To ensure that your chickens are happy with you and that you can enjoy plenty of fresh breakfast eggs, you must feed the hens correctly. Read here how the perfect chicken feed should be mixed and how important vegetables and brewer's yeast are on the poultry menu.

What do chickens eat? How to feed laying hens appropriately
What do chickens eat? How to feed laying hens appropriately

Bees, rabbits, chickens: more and more people who have a bit of space left in their garden no longer only keep dogs or cats at home, but also so-called farm animals in addition to classic pets. While bees fly out, look for their own food in bee pastures and rabbits sometimes grind a dandelion or two in the open-air enclosure, the needs of chickens are more specific and require a comparatively large amount of attention from the chicken keeper. Because it depends not only on what the animals eat, but also on the frequency. Laying hens like to snack their way through the day.

What do chickens eat?

Similar to other feathered animals, chickens in the wild prefer to eat small insects, berries, worms, green fodder and seeds. If they are kept in the barn as farm animals, the hens often do not have the opportunity to look for and eat all these delicacies themselves. Even if they have a large outdoor enclosure and the barn or modern chicken house can be moved around, in most cases this does not cover the average daily need of 120 grams of feed and 250 grams of drinking water that a chicken has. If you want to keep chickens, you have to offer the animals species-appropriate feed that comes closest to the natural nutrition plan so that the digestive tract of the hens can process it and the poultry does not get sick. Specifically, this means: nutrient-rich feed, a lot of calcium and, ideally, a lot of variety on the menu in the chicken coop. Because deficiency symptoms in the animals not only lead to diseases, but also to the fact that the hens no longer lay eggs.

Which feed is suitable for laying hens?

Everything the chicken likes and needs can be found in the so-called complete feed. This is a perfectly optimized mix of seeds, grains and dried vegetables plus dietary supplements in the form of shell lime and brewer's yeast. For the sake of you and your animals, when buying ready-mixed complete feed, make sure that it does not contain grains, seeds or parts of plants that have been genetically modified. It is also best to avoid complete feed to which soybeans have been added. Because the cultivation of soy ensures that forests are cleared all over the world.

Mill shops are a regional alternative to buying on the Internet. There you can not only buy local, granular complete feed from the farmer for your chickens - this is usually also sorted by type and often even available in organic quality. So you can mix the perfect feed for your hens yourself and vary it from time to time.

Make feed for chickens yourself

Chickens like local superfoods: rye, barley, flaxseed, oats and also wheat should therefore be the basis for the hens' feeding schedule. Regularly mix laying flour into the grain and upgrade everything with fresh food. Maize in particular is very popular with poultry. With a corn gin, you can break up a corn cob into its individual kernels in seconds and offer the animals a healthy treat with little effort. By the way, hens also like to nibble on carrots (raw or cooked), herbs, especially oregano, dried peas, dried corn, anise seeds, sprouted sprouts, caraway seeds, clover, fruit, nettles and grass.

The feeding of soft feed is important for the gastrointestinal tract of the chickens: potatoes, rice and noodles, always cooked, always go down well. Potato peels are also popular. If you offer the hens cooked food, it should of course have been little salted, under no circumstances should it be spicy and the bowls have to be cleaned of the leftovers on the same day, otherwise you will attract uninvited guests such as mice or rats. In winter you should also make sure that the delicacies and the drinking water do not freeze. Always put small portions in the hen house so that the hens can eat everything before it can freeze. And put the drinking water in the warmest corner of the stable.

What are hens not allowed to eat?

Even if it appears that chickens are small living organic waste bins, they are by no means allowed to eat everything. The following foods should not be fed to the hens under any circumstances:

  • moldy food
  • spicy food
  • Cat and dog food
  • Poultry meat (raw and cooked)
  • Meat meal
  • Citrus fruits
  • Avocado (fruit and peel)
  • sugar
  • Sweets
  • Cabbage
  • long blades of grass
  • muddy clippings


The following plants must not end up in the chickens' feed bowl:

  • Boxwood
  • yew
  • broom
  • delphinium
  • Milkweed
  • Autumn crocus
  • hellebore
  • Christmas rose
  • bracken
  • begonia
  • Broad bean
  • Henbane
  • Dog parsley
  • Adonis
  • Henbane
  • Flax
  • Corn wheel

Calcium is vital for hens

Calcium is an essential mineral for hens. If the feed for the chickens is not correctly composed, deficiency symptoms can occur in the animals, which have dire consequences. If your body does not get enough calcium, it gets it from the stores in the bones. As a result, the hens' bones become more fragile and the risk of injury increases. In addition, the eggshell is getting thinner and more fragile. If the calcium deficiency becomes acute, egg production ceases, because the small body switches to survival mode - it is not intended that a chicken wastes two grams of calcium on producing an egg.

The lack of calcium also has a major impact on the social behavior of the animals: chickens, which have actually already clarified their ranking and live together peacefully, suddenly start attacking each other again, chopping and pecking feathers. The latter is the precursor to cannibalism attacks.

It is therefore advisable to regularly add shell lime, also known as shell grit, to the chicken feed you mix yourself. This is lime from ground mussel shells. This in turn consists of aragonite, calcite, quartz and clay. Depending on the age of the animals, you should pay attention to the grain size of the mussel lime. Chicks need a finer grain size to be able to ingest and digest them better. Larger, older hens can eat shell limestone up to four millimeters in size.

According to the manufacturer, this product is suitable for both chicks and hens:

Even if you have decided to feed it complete feed, a handful of shell limestone every now and then won't do any harm. There are also food supplements for chickens in liquid form on the market, as vitamin drinks, so to speak. They are simply dissolved in water and poured into the drinker.

Strengthen the chicken's immune system with brewer's yeast

To give your chickens a wellness cure from the inside and to strengthen their immune system, you should feed the animals brewer's yeast. Those who brew their own beer or have a brewery on site can use the fresh brewer's yeast for their feathered friends. The dried version is also good for the hens. The substances contained in the brewer's yeast reduce the stress level of the animals, strengthen the liver function, increase the body's defenses, make the feathers grow stronger and shinier, remove heavy metals from the body and prevent a vitamin B deficiency and fungal infestation of the intestines.

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Feed chickens properly when they are moulting

Since the hens moult in autumn - this means that their plumage is renewed, old and broken feathers fall out and new, stable feathers grow back - you should support the animals with the change with the most important vitamins and feed tailored to the moult . Because changing the feathers is an enormous feat for the animals.

During this time you have to add laying flour, linseed, brewer's yeast and calcium to your self-mixed basic feed. Muschelkalk should also be offered pure in a separate vessel in the chicken coop during the moult. In addition, the animals need fresh variety on the menu: Serve seasonal fruit, carrots, peas, herbs and germinating sprouts. Dried mealworms provide that extra kick. Of course, chicken farmers can also use ready-made products to support them during the moult.

Tip: Even if hens always fight each other first and have to determine the order of precedence among themselves, the feeding time will always cause trouble even in a group that is well-rehearsed and harmoniously coexisted. As a chicken farmer, it is your job to design the chicken coop and the feeding station in such a way that all animals receive the amount of food and water they need on a daily basis. Experts therefore recommend setting up several feed troughs or bowls at a certain distance from each other to ensure that all hens can eat at the same time. The vessels should be easy to clean and easy to fill but not easy to knock over. An alternative to bowls and bowls would be several automatic feeders that you set up in the stable. Or hang it up.