When raising backyard chickens, your first thought should be a secure home for them. Where will they live, what kind of coop will best fit my needs? After you have a secure home, making sure your flock has plenty of water is a must. Waterers can be simple, or complex, depending on what you want. You can use a simple dog dish for a water container, or purchase a more elaborate one for your flock. Check out this automatic waterers for chickens from my affiliate partner here.
Next on the list is what to feed your flock. To get high quality eggs, your flock will need the proper nourishment. This includes the right feed, or rations, sunshine, water and plenty of bugs and worms they can scratch around for.
What To Feed Chickens
Learning what to feed chickens in your flock isn’t complicated. Obviously, you can purchase feed from your local farm supply store. Depending on whether you have laying hens, or meat birds, your flock’s feed needs will change.
For egg laying pullets younger than 16 weeks old, you want them to grow slowly enough to develop good, strong bones and to reach a good body weight before they begin to produce eggs. Higher protein diets tend to hurry the birds into production before their bodies are quite ready. Therefore, the ration for growing pullets, from leaving the brooder at 6 weeks to about 14 weeks, should be about 18 percent protein. A medium weight hen at full size can consume approximately 1/4 pound of feed per day.
At 15 weeks, it is ideal to lower the ration to 16 percent protein., also known as “developer or finishing” feed. From 15 weeks to 22 weeks old or until they begin laying eggs, whichever is first, protein levels should be about 16 percent. The object is to get them well grown without too much fat. Also, if they get too much calcium and phosphorus at an early age, it can damage their kidneys. It’s best to not feed layer rations until your flock is at last 18 weeks of age.
Once they reach about 18- 22 weeks, your hens should begin laying their eggs.
Hens lay an average of 5 eggs a week, depending on breed. Making sure your flock has plenty of fresh, clean water and feed will ensure they stay healthy and give the highest output of egg production.
Throughout their laying life, they will need a feed ration of 16-18%. Calcium and minerals should be added as a supplement as well. You can do this by adding crushed oyster shell or giving the hens back their own crushed egg shells. These should be given as a free choice supplement and will help with soft shelled, or thin shelled eggs.
You want to avoid giving layer rations to other types of chickens, such as meat birds due to the higher mineral content. If you are housing a rooster with your flock, however, he will be fine with the layer rations.
Scratch/cracked corn should just be a treat, not their main source of food. Also, be sure not to feed your flock moldy food. Store your feed away from rats, raccoons, and other pests in a closed container if at all possible. You may also want to close the feed up at night completely if mice are an issue on your homestead.
Feeding your flock medicated feed is a personal choice. You can choose either way, and still have a healthy flock. Allow for plenty of fresh water, sunshine and your flock time and space to collect bugs is the best way to get a healthy flock and high quality eggs.
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