1. Home
  2.  ›
  3. What do chickens eat?

What do chickens eat?  

From chick to adult, what food should you give a chicken at different stages of its life? Which treats are healthy and which are asking for trouble? And can you home-make chicken feed? Find out here!

The foods you should be feeding to your backyard flock - and some you should steer clear of.

Confused about which foods your chickens should and shouldn't eat at what age, and at different times of year?

You're not alone!

I remember being completely at a loss about their nutritional needs when I was first starting out with my backyard flock.

I wrote these articles to help prevent you from being as confused as I was, and to keep you abreast of any developments in research and experience. 

They're all based on properly researched evidence, both scientific, peer-reviewed papers and advice from renowned chicken experts such as Gail Damerow.

So you can rest assured that you're truly getting the best possible guidance for your flock.

From newly hatched to adult breeding hens and beyond, these articles will take you through the best nutrition for your chickens at all the key points in their life and across all seasons.

Use these links to find what you're looking for more quickly.

Just click on either the headline or the pic for each different subject to go straight to that page. 

Section 1: Basic foods and how to feed them.

Which basic foods should chickens eat?

What should chickens eat to keep fit and healthy? Find out by clicking on this link.

Confused about what your chickens should eat and at what age?  

Hens and roosters need different nutrients at different times in their life, and feeding the wrong balance can seriously affect their health.

This article describes what a chick should eat from point of hatch right through to adulthood.

What do baby chicks eat?

What do baby chicks eat? Link.

A detailed article about what baby chicks should be given to eat, from hatch to 8 weeks old.

Properly balanced starter feed, when they can safely be given treats, what part grit plays in a baby chick's life, which feeders work best with babies...

It also covers what's a good food for chicks who need that extra bit of help.

Feeding chickens on a budget

How to feed chickens on a budget - link.

Ideally, chickens should be fed on a mix of a balanced commercial feed, with other food used as occasional treats.

But when times are hard, or at a point where you realise chickens cost more to feed than you thought it might, it helps to know what other food chickens can eat which can sustain them and are still nutritious.

This article details six ways of providing your flock with a good range of inexpensive, non-commercial food.

What do egg-laying chickens eat?

Raising chickens for eggs - link.

So you want to raise some chickens in your own backyard to keep your family happy with some delicious, nutritious eggs?

It's important to know what feed works best for hens who have started to lay. Food that's not high enough in calcium can cause serious problems for your chickens' health.

This article recommends the right food, offers a wealth of advice for choosing and caring for egg-laying hens,  and shows you how to know when they're going to start laying.

Grit and oyster shell.

Grit and oyster shell - link.

Did you know that grit and oyster shell are both critical to your chickens' health? 

If you give one do you still need to give the other? What happens if your chickens don't eat therm? Do roosters need them? And chicks?

This section is written to answer those questions for you as simply as possible so that you have a clear idea of what supplements should be given, when.

Best automatic chicken feeder - a review.

Best automatic chicken feeder review - link.

Working out what chickens eat is your first step. Working out how to feed it is next.

Grain is a sure way to invite unwanted guests into the coop. Wild birds and rodents will come wherever there is available food. Both will bring disease to your coop and your home.

The answer is a feeder which is rodent-proof and not open to the elements. Grandpa's feeder is the best to fit the bill.

Section 2: Healthy Treats.

Gourmet treats for baby chicks!

What treats can chicks eat? - link

Everyone always wants to feed baby chicks treats as soon as they're hatched! It's so tempting to spoil those cute little balls of fluff!

But is it wise? Can a baby chick's digestive system deal with the same type of treats as an adult, or should they be completely different?

This article explains when it's safe to give treats to chicks, what's the best type of treat and how it's best to offer them.

Identifying weeds as chicken treats

Choosing weeds as chicken treats - link.

Chickens can be expensive to keep. But there's a healthy food source you may not have thought about. Until now.

This article identifies six weeds which are probably growing on your land right now. And if they're not, I show you how to grow the most nutritious from scratch.

With detailed descriptions and photos to guide you, you'll soon be foraging along with your flock!

Five healthy treats your flock will love to eat!

Ten healthy treats your chickens will love - click here.

Chickens should be fed treats only as part of a well-balanced diet. But how to know what's good for your flock and what's not?

My guide to ten of the healthiest treats for your poultry starts here, with the first five.

It describes what's good and why and gives advice about when treats can be given, when they should be given and when they should be avoided.

Five more healthy treats for happy hens.

More healthy treats - link.

This page looks at the benefits of five more healthy treats.

The benefits and the potential problems of flowers, lettuce, melon, pumpkins and tomatoes are all dealt with in detail.

You'll always be sure you're giving your flock only the best of all possible treats.

How to make a frozen chicken treat.

Frozen treats for summer heat - link.

Kids love to do this!

And frozen treats can literally be a life-saver, avoiding dehydration and heat stress.

Filled with goodies they love, these iced delights thaw gently as they melt in the heat.

Inexpensive and easy - a real summer boon.

Sprouting seeds for chicken treats!

How to sprout seeds for chickens - link.

Proteins, vitamins, anti oxidants - take some seeds and add water to grow little powerhouses of goodness for your flock.

So simple to do, such a great benefit for your chickens' health.

And here's another benefit - they're just as good for humans, and delicious in salads.

Try them and see!

Chicken health benefits of pumpkins.

Pumpkins for chickens - link.

Vitamin A, Vitamin E, potassium, zinc - pumpkins and their seeds are a healthy source of vitamins and minerals for chickens - and they're low in fat.

Stored for all-year feeding, they're particularly good for laying hens in Spring and for a healthy winter treat.

Includes a recipe for a poultry pumpkin cake!

The benefits of feeding garlic to chickens

Garlic benefits for chickens - link.

Garlic has been proven to have amazing health benefits for humans, but did you know it's also a super-food as far as chickens are concerned?

This article discusses why, when and how you should add garlic to your flock's diet, from tiny chick to adults. 

If you're looking for a good all-round boost for your ladies (and boys!) at any time of year, or a deterrent for mites and worms, you're in the right place.

Section 3: High Protein Treats.

Ten high protein treats.

High protein foods for your chickens - link.

When should your flock eat high protein foods? 

Which are good for your hens and why is it possible to "kill them with kindness"?

My list of ten high protein treats comes from proven research about the most effective ways of helping chickens through the hard times in life.

Sunflower seeds.

Sunflower seeds for chicken treats.

The happy flower: fields of yellow in the summer, and in the autumn, healthy, high protein treats for your flock. Sunflowers.

This article looks at the nutrition in sunflower seeds, and which type is the best for your flock.

It considers the best varieties to grow for the highest yield of seeds, how to plant and when to harvest to make sure of the highest levels of oil.

Homemade Protein Platter.

A high protein platter recipe - link.

It's good fun to put some high protein foods together to help chickens through moulting or to give them a boost during the winter months.

This recipe will help give you an idea of the kinds of quantities you'll need for your own flock, big or small, and explains why the ingredients are there.

Take this as a base and then - experiment until you find the perfect recipe your hens will love to eat!

Fermented food: what it is and why it's good for chickens.

Why ferment food for chickens? - Link.

If you're not sure what fermented food is or why it's good for your hens, this article will help.

It discusses whether introducing bacteria into food can be healthy, how it helps increase resistance to illness and disease, and whether there are any drawbacks.

If you've never tried fermenting chicken food before, you'll want to after this!

Section 4: Foods to avoid.

Can chickens drink milk?

Can chickens drink milk? Link.

What should chickens drink? Should milk form part of their everyday diet?

This article examines the available evidence: are chickens able to digest dairy products? Is one type of milk any better for them than another?

Reviewing the consequences of dairy fed chickens from an Italian farmer and the pastures of France, it comes to a conclusion for the rest of us about what chickens should drink.

5 foods your chickens should never eat.

Make sure you know which foods that can kill chickens. Click here!

So you know which foods your hens should eat - but do you have any idea about those which could prove fatal?

These five could - and they are commonly available. It would be very easy for you to give these foods without realising the harm you're doing.

Don't risk letting your hens eat anything poisonous. Find out what you should be avoiding at all costs.

Link to Raising Happy Chickens home page.