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What can I feed my chickens?

10 January 2012 One Comment

If you are a new owner of backyard chickens, it is possible you have wondered which kitchen scraps are safe to give your chickens and which are best kept for the compost heap. Surprisingly, even if you give chickens foods that are not safe for them to eat, it’s likely that they won’t eat them anyway. Chickens seem to be surprisingly cluey in deciding what to eat and what not to eat.

feeding-chickenCan I give my chickens meat?

Chickens are omnivores, which means that they naturally eat both meat and vegetables.. So giving chickens left over meat is quite alright. Even if you don’t give your chickens meat, they would likely be regularly eating meat anyway in the form of insects, worms or even a mouse. Protein from such meats as well as protein that is found in layer pellets is necessary in their diet.

Should I feed chickens citrus or banana peels?

Even if you feed citrus peel or banana peel to your chickens, you’ll find that they’ll eat the remaining fruit from the peel but leave the actual rind or peel on the floor of the chicken coop. Like us, chickens love the flesh of most fruits, but don’t tend to like the peels. Rather than give these peels to your chickens, place these in the compost heap.

Can my chickens eat potatoes?

Chickens will happily eat left over chips or mashed potato or even potato skins, although some chickens are found to be fussier than others. The part of the potato that should not be given to your chickens is the potato skin if it has gone green. The green indicates that the starch has begun to be broken down into a toxin. This green on a potato indicates the toxin ‘solanine’ (although the green itself is chlorophyll and is in itself harmless). This toxin is a glycoalkaloid poison found in species of the nightshade family, to which the potato as well as the tomato and others belong. While peeling the skin from the potato will remove most of the toxin, it’s best not to feel your chickens any green potatoes or their skins.

Can I  feed chickens eggshells?

Calcium is an important part of a chicken’s diet as it helps in producing eggs with a nice strong shell. The chickens can easily break eggs with a thin shell, which can then result in the chickens eating their own eggs. A cost effective source of calcium for your chickens is their own empty eggshells. Make sure these are crushed nice and small and easy for your chickens to eat. Shell-grit from your fodder store is another alternative which provides a sustained slow-release of calcium which is also beneficial to egg production.

Can I feed chickens weeds or lawn cuttings?

Definitely give your chickens green weeds from your garden as these are a source of vitamins and can contribute carotenoid pigments for yolk colour. Remember if you’ve sprayed your weeds or lawns obviously don’t give these to your chickens. It’s also worth noting that lawn clippings from the lawn mower have been known to cause problems in chickens known as an ‘impacted crop’. When a chicken eats throughout the day their ‘crop’ fills up and at night the crop empties into the gut. If chickens eat large lengths of grass clippings, these many form into a ball in their crop, preventing them from then eating properly. This problem doesn’t occur when chickens ‘free-range’ on lawns as they will eat small pieces of lawn at a time. So make sure your lawn clippings are nice and short if you are going to feed them to your chickens, otherwise add them to the compost heap instead.

Can I feed chickens layer or grain mix?

A balanced diet for your chickens is very important and can generally not be obtained from only kitchen scraps or garden weeds. For really healthy chickens, do not restrict the amount of layer pellets or grain mix that you chickens eat in a day. Interestingly, chickens cannot overeat and need a regular supply of feed to satisfy their nutritional requirements. A self-feeder with a regular supply of feed is commonly used for backyard chickens. Most laying chickens eat approximately 120g layer pellets or grain mix per day or around 850g per week, but depends on the quantity of other scraps or grasses that they are also supplied with.

How much water should I give my chickens?

Chickens drink from 1 to 2 cups water a day (from 250ml to 500ml), with more consumed in hot weather. It is important that you have a regular supply of fresh water in your chicken coop as too little water results in dehydration, excessive stress, and a decline in egg production. Chickens who have gone without water for 24 hours are said to take 24 more hours to get back to normal.


By Kerri Munddt

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