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Know Your Feed

Chicken feed is chicken feed, right? Not quite. Commercial ration comes in four basic forms:

  • Whole grains: In this type of food, unprocessed grains are included in the feed. The chickens are able to select the tastier whole grains out of the mixture, resulting in an unbalanced diet. Confined hens that eat whole grains may need some grit to provide their gizzards with the tiny rocks to help it to grind up the whole grains.
  • Meal: This finely textured food contains grains that are ground and mixed into a complete diet. The powdery mix can be less costly than pelleted feed, but your birds may waste more of it, particularly if they’re fed outside.
  • Pellets: Like meal, pellets contain ground-up grains, but they’re compressed into lentil-sized pellets. It costs more than meal feed, but you’ll have less waste as the ladies can pick up the pieces that fall outside their feeders. As a bonus, the heat used when making the pellets also destroys bacteria, like salmonella, which may be in the feed.
  • Crumbles: This food is essentially broken-up pellet bits. It’s used for very young birds before they are big enough to gobble down the larger pellets or small birds, like bantams.

There are passionate advocates for each form of feed. It often boils down to personal preference on the part of the chicken owner.

When it comes to providing complete and balanced nutrition for your flock, some diet choices are mandatory, like feeding peeps a starter ration or your layers a calcium-fortified diet, while others are optional, like feeding organic versus conventional.

Whatever diet you choose, serve the best you can afford (along with some tasty kitchen leftovers), and make sure to include plenty of clean, fresh water. Your hens will thank you for it!

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