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What should you feed Chickens and Hens?

Posted by Rachel · Dine A Chook UK on

What should you Feed Chickens and Hens

Healthy chickens that lay nutritious eggs need a proper diet. But what is a healthy diet for chickens? So many backyard chicken keepers make common, costly mistakes that affect the health of their hens. Simple errors in dietary requirements can not only affect the health of your hen but also impact on egg production and quality.

What you should not feed Chickens

Scratch mix is a mixed-grain chicken feed. It might look appealing and healthy but is one of the worst feeds for chickens.

Scratch mix is poor choice because it encourages selective feeding. Chickens see seeds and grains they particularly like, so they eat these first, scratching other ingredients in the mix onto the floor. In other words, chickens are not getting a balanced diet. Also, the wasted feed costs money, creates a mess and attracts rats. As a balanced nutritional diet is essential for an egg-laying hen, scratch mix tops our list of what you should not feed chickens. Scraps can be a great treat for Chickens and other poultry, but it should not replace a complete diet. Hand feed scraps and to help avoid mice and rats only give your birds what they can eat in the space of 15-20 minutes. Any more will sit on the floor of the pen and attract vermin.

The best food for chickens and poultry

When answering what should you feed chickens, the short answer is a nutritious, balanced protein-rich diet. In the wild chickens get their food from between 25 - 40 different sources each day. In a pen or coop, they are limited to what you give them. Therefore for the healthiest Hens, you need to ensure the diet provides everything they need. The best feed for chickens is a complete feed in mash as well as pellet form. In the first place, a complete feed contains everything a chicken needs to thrive. Furthermore, because mash and pellets look uniform, they discourage selective feeding. A complete pellet feed = less mess + less cost + healthier chooks.

Don’t forget the grit!

In addition to a complete feed, chickens also need access to grit for calcium and to help them digest their food. They should have free access to a mixture of insoluble grit (ground rock) and soluble grit (crushed sea shells).

Can chickens have scraps?


In a balanced diet, scraps should be a treat, not the main course. A little roughage and variety do not harm your hens. , but it must be remembered their primary source of energy and nutrition should be a complete feed.

Chickens eat more in the mornings, so feed scraps in the afternoon if possible and never more than they can eat in about 20 minutes.

The best scraps for chickens are fruit and vegetable scraps, weeds from the garden and cooked grains. Chickens should not be fed avocado, mouldy/rotten food, or anything with too much fat, sugar or salt.

Good treats for chickens

As well as scraps, you might like to give your chickens some of these other healthy goodies. A point often overlooked is you can use treats to help tame your birds! Some of the best treats for chickens are:

  • Dried mealworms, insects and earthworms – high protein treats that chickens love!
  • Seeds or scratch mix – A scattered handful of seeds (e.g. sunflower) is a great way to encourage foraging
  • Fresh fruit – Chickens go nuts for watermelon, berries and other fresh fruits

Don't forget the Water

It must be stressed to all Backyard Chicken Keepers clean, fresh water is essential. Chickens not only use water for their hydration but also to soften the feed pellets as well as aid in their digestion. Try swallowing chalk, and you'll understand a pellet without water. Shop our Dine A Chook Drinkers here. Love your Hens, and they will show their appreciation with happy clucking and lovely fresh eggs.