How to feed your laying hens

How to feed your laying hens

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

Guide written by:

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

Your laying hens must have a varied and balanced diet. While grain will make up the bulk of their feed, it's important not to overlook various nutrients. A mixture of vegetation, small animals or insects and kitchen scraps will provide the rich and diverse diet your hens need to stay in great shape.

Important features

  • Feeding a laying hen
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Complete foods
  • Feeding chicks
Shop our chicken feeders

What to feed your laying hens

What to feed your laying hens

It's long been known that the quality of your hens' eggs is directly tied to their diet. Of course, we all know that chickens don't have teeth – but that doesn't stop them from being omnivores! In addition to wheat and other grains, chickens are perfectly capable of gobbling down insects, worms, snails, vegetation and grass. Chickens need a variety of foodstuffs to stay in good health and a good diet is particularly important for laying hens.

Each day, a chicken will consume about 150 g of food. Of course, this depends on the season, as well as the size and breed of your chickens as some eat less than others. Your hens' diet should be made up of around 70% energy-intensive foods (primarily grains) and about 30% protein. These foodstuffs must also provide all necessary vitamins and micronutrients.

Animal protein is essential for good health and chickens are able to digest this better than most plant-based proteins. Ideally, you should feed your chickens at set times each day. For example, you could feed in the morning when your hens leave the coop and in the evening to encourage them to return. You don't have to use a feeder to feed your hens.

Chickens love to peck so you can simply scatter grain over the ground, provided that the surface isn't too muddy or covered with droppings.

Explore the ManoMano catalog
Chicken feed

Different types of chicken feed

Complete foods

Complete foods

Complete chicken foods should be fed alone as they contain all the nutrients required by your hens. You can also find special mixes for different age groups or depending on what you are using your hens for (laying, meat, pets, etc.). These foods are made up of cereals, minerals, vitamins, micronutrients and various additives.

They can be used in chicken coops as the only food source and you'll need to provide around 130 g a day. A mix specially designed for laying hens can generally be given from 4 to 5 months of age.

Grains and oilseeds

Grains and oilseeds

Grains constitute the main food source for chickens. The majority of the energy required comes from grains such as wheat, corn, barley and oats and oilseeds, such as sunflower, flax and rapeseed. Plant-based protein comes from protein-rich grain legumes such as peas, broad beans and soybeans.

These foods can be given whole or podded. Be sure that your chickens have access to coarse sand or dirt, or small stones as these are used to break down food in the gizzard (as chickens don't have teeth).

Kitchen scraps

Kitchen scraps

Chickens are champions of recycling and will happily take care of most kitchen waste, including:

  • peelings;

  • salad leaves;

  • cooked meat and fish;

  • cured meat;

  • cheese rinds;

  • they also love seafood shells and tails (especially prawns) and crushed up egg shells;

  • they generally enjoy cooked foods such as vegetables, pasta, rice or potatoes;

  • red meat should be given in moderation, especially if your chickens have access to small animals in their run.

With a little practice and observation, you will find out what your hens like to eat and what kinds of kitchen scraps they tend to leave. Some foodstuffs should never be given to chickens, either because they simply won't eat them or because they are toxic.

Toxic foods for chickens

The following foods should be left out of your hens' diet:

  • foods that are too salty, sugary or spicy;

  • chocolate;

  • leek leaves;

  • onion, banana, citrus or kiwi peel;

  • raw potatoes;

  • avocados;

  • rhubarb.

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements

Crushed shells (particularly oyster shells) can provide a welcome dose of minerals and calcium, which is essential for forming egg shells. Some commercially sold chicken feed already contain crushed shells so it's important to read the ingredients carefully.

You probably won't have to feed supplements to chickens that are kept on grassy land. However, in the winter, you might want to add a few supplements or provide more generous portions as your hens will be burning more calories simply to battle the cold and moisture.

Quick tip: some chicken farmers like to prepare a basic soup for their chickens with potatoes or plain bread.

Explore the ManoMano catalog
Chicken coops

What do hens drink?

What do hens drink?

Hens drink... a lot! In fact, some can even get through a litre a day in the height of summer. But you should be aware that in warm weather, water can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria!

Change the water every day as chickens will not drink dirty water. The water must be fresh and placed in the shade in summer.

How to feed chicks

How to feed chicks

Chicks are pretty independent and will manage to find everything they need to eat right from birth. However, you should start to feed them at some point over their first week of life offering special chick pellets or crumb.

Place the food on the ground and switch to a feeder a bit later on. You can also make a paste from bread crumbs and milk.

You can also add a few blades of grass to their food from one week onwards. From around six weeks, you can gradually start switching to chicken feed. For the first two or three months, chicks will need a protein-rich diet to encourage growth. Clean water must always be provided. It must not be too cold (15 to 20°C will do) and it should be served in a specially designed water dispenser to prevent drowning.

 
Shop our chicken feeders

Guide written by:

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford

From a background in waste transportation, I became a farmer specialising in organic gardening. A graduate of Horticultural Production, I tried for several years as a young farmer to settle in the beautiful region of Oxfordshire.   After many disappointments, I finally started a small-business in home services, specifically in gardening, assisted by my loving, dear husband. Passionate about nature and wild edible plants, I am very attentive to ecological solutions and respectful of our environment in all aspects of my daily life.   From the vegetable garden to the flower beds, from seed to harvest, I have all kinds of advice up my sleeve. Do not hesitate to ask me your questions.

  • Millions of products

  • Delivery to your home or click & collect

  • Hundreds of dedicated experts online