Chooks are rewarding animals to keep, not only providing fresh eggs but also cleaning up kitchen scraps and providing valuable manure for the garden. Can you feed your chooks kitchen scraps only? Do you have to use a commercial poultry feed? Is there anything chooks shouldn’t eat? If you’ve got questions about chicken nutrition, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will give you a simple overview of what to consider when feeding your small farm or backyard flock.
Chicken nutrition 101
- Protein. This is crucial for overall health and egg production. It’s particularly important to feed young chickens additional protein to support their growth. Besides a commercial feed, protein can also be found in insects, small lizards and worms.
- Carbohydrates. Wheat, barley, oats and corn (in moderation) are good options. Grains provide a range of vitamins and minerals but aren’t a complete food on their own.
- Fats. Found in seeds and quality, balanced poultry feed.
- Leafy greens. These are great for supporting your chooks’ immune systems. Greens provide Vitamin E, Riboflavin, Vitamin A, and Calcium.
- Water. Chickens drink a surprising amount of water. On average each chicken needs 500ml per day and 1L during our Western Australian summer. A poultry drinker is a good way to make sure that your chooks always have access to fresh water.
- Grit. This is essential for digestion and gut health. Because chickens don’t have teeth they use small stones or grit to help pulverise food in their gizzard. Shell grit is a good choice as it also adds calcium to the diet which helps prevent thin eggshells. When choosing a cracked shell grit, choose a local supplier like WA Consolidated Grain Product.
- Variety. As omnivores, chooks like and need variety. Enhance their diet with kitchen scraps, plenty of greens and a few treats. Not only will the variety boost their overall health, it’ll make happier chickens. Chooks will reward you with an abundance of happy gurgling and clucking when you arrive with the kitchen scraps bucket!
Thriving, healthy chooks need a balanced omnivore diet to ensure that they receive the right amounts of protein, carbs and fats, and the right vitamins and minerals. This can be achieved with a quality, balanced Australian made feed plus kitchen scraps and free-range foraging. It is extremely satisfying to hear a flock of hens happily clucking as they forage about your property.
Foods to avoid
Chickens will naturally avoid toxic plants and bugs when foraging but keep an eye on the kitchen scraps that they are fed. Some things that you should avoid are:
- Avocado: May cause respiratory distress and heart failure.
- Chocolate: May lead to heart problems and hyperactivity.
- Caffeine: May lead to heart problems and hyperactivity.
- Onions: Can cause anaemia and damage red blood cells if consumed in large quantities.
- Garlic: Similar to onions, can cause anaemia and damage red blood cells in chickens if consumed in large quantities.
- Raw or dried beans: Contain a compound called lectin, which is toxic to chickens and can cause digestive upset, paralysis, and even death.
- Green potatoes and tomatoes: Can cause digestive issues, weakness, and even paralysis.
- Rhubarb leaves: Can cause digestive problems, weakness, and kidney damage.
- Citrus fruits: Can cause digestive upset and lead to diarrhoea in chickens.
Choose an Australian made feed
Choosing high-quality feeds from reputable Australian manufacturers is the way to go. These feeds are designed to meet the nutritional needs of chooks of all ages and take the guesswork out of what to feed your chickens.
As a trusted rural supply store in WA, we proudly stock a range of quality bulk bag feed mixes from Australian manufacturers to suit the needs of chooks of all ages. These include Super Poultry Mix and Layer Blend from WA Consolidated Grain Products in Cunderdin as well as 20 kg bags of a variety of different quality mixes from Thompson and Redwood in the Swan Valley. Thompson and Redwood offer a range of options including Poultry Mix that incorporates a range of seeds and grains and Premium Laying Pellets.
Do you need a feeder?
Investing in quality poultry feeders and drinkers is a smart choice to prevent food and water wastage as they help stop the loss of food from scratching, flicking and spillage. As a bonus, they make life easier if you have to be away from the farm for a couple days; you can leave the farm knowing your chickens will have plenty of food and water for a few days.
We stock a range of poultry feeders and drinkers from, Australian company, Bainbridge. There are multiple sizes to suit your specific needs. For drinkers, consider upsizing – it’s better to have too much water rather than too little. For extra convenience, choose an automatic drinker. If you’re not sure which feeder or drinker is right for you, get in touch and we’ll talk through the options.
Whether or not you use a feeder and drinker, remember to always clear away uneaten food before it rots and always keep the water fresh and topped up.
If you want to learn more about caring for your chickens, we recommend Australian site Backyard Chicken Coops Learning Centre
If you’re thinking about selling your eggs visit our Making Money from Eggs article.
And if you just want to talk to someone about your chooks then please give us a call on 9651 1312 or drop in to our Moora or Yerecoin store. We are an independent local, family-owned Western Australian rural store and we love helping our customers.