If you want your hens to lead full, fulfilled lives, it’s important to pay special attention to what you feed them. On top of keeping them healthy, a balanced diet will help your big, beautiful birds stay stress-free, fostering a great environment for laying eggs.
The result? Happy chickens - and nutrient-packed eggs at your table, on the regular.
Start by making sure your feathered houseguests have access to layer feed at all times. Appearances aside, producing eggs is demanding work, which means that your hens have an incredibly efficient metabolism. To give you an idea of its speed, three chickens consume about one bag of feed every month.
Um - layer feed? What’s that?
Layer feed is a type of feed that’s made specifically for chickens and is perfectly suited to their nutritional needs. It’s made of a mix of grains (corn, wheat, barley) with added supplements like vitamins, minerals, vegetable oil, vegetable protein, digestive enzymes and amino acids. Layer feed is not entirely different from the dog or cat food sold at pet shops. To make sure your feed stays fresh and doesn’t go off, you’ll want to store it in large plastic containers.
Oyster shells and gravel
As you well know, hens are all cluck, no bite - that’s because they have no teeth. So how do they chew their food? In truth, chickens grind their food with the help of a special organ called a gizzard. Don’t worry, you’re not expected to know what that is - you and I don’t have one; it’s specific to poultry, a little like a second stomach that allows them to reduce their food down to a paste thanks to its interaction with gravel, an essential part of their diet. Although this may seem odd, gravel is vital to the digestive health of your hens. Without it, they’d be unable to properly digest their food, which would lead to obstructions in their digestive system. Learn more about chicken digestion here.
Oyster shells, for their part, give your chickens some much-needed calcium, helping them to lay eggs with nice, hard shells.
We can’t stress enough how key these two elements are to your chickens’ digestive health. Gravel and oyster shells can be added directly to the feed or served in a separate container. In both cases, your hens will self-serve, and don’t need to be monitored.
This may seem obvious, but it’s absolutely crucial that your hens have access to fresh water at all times. Don’t worry about monitoring their drinking habits - they’ll drink their fill when they need to.
POC POC hot tip: on a scorching summer day, drop a few ice cubes into their water source. It’ll help to keep the water fresh for longer, leaving you with some very grateful hens.Earthworms and other insects
If you’ve ever been told your handwriting “looks like chicken scratch,” you’ll know it’s because the spiky, scratchy letters mimic the behaviour of hens in a yard: chickens love to pick and scratch at the ground in search of earthworms and other insects. To help them feel at home, why not parse out a small corner of your garden where they can feast on worms and grubs to their heart's’ content? Nothing would make them happier! You should know, however, that chickens can’t tell the difference between your precious garden veg and the scraps from last night’s dinner - or even see the difference between grass and the manicured parts of your garden. To avoid any unwanted landscaping, we recommend that you keep an eye on your hens when they’re roaming your yard, and that you invest in a protective net, available here.
Besides a few ingredients, your hens can pretty much eat any of your leftovers. To get the entire list of the proper food for them, download our free guide here.
Where can you buy chicken feed?
*To make your life easier, we created a kit where everything you need is reunited. You can add chickens to your kit too, or not, it's up to you! Available here.
Montreal and surroundings
Pépinière Jasmin - Montreal
Épicerie Les Récoltes - Montreal
Ferme Générations Grains Nature - Roxton Falls
Ferme Bourgeois - Mirabel
Meunerie 2 Montagnes - St-Eustache
Quebec and surroundings
Jean-Guy Chabot - Saint-Isidore
Ron & Marie - Kamloops
Toronto and surroundings
Nobleton Feed Mill - Nobleton
Davis Feed - Mountainview