Chicken Coops – What does a backyard chicken need to eat anyway?
When you buy a chicken coop, you also are going to get a feeder and a waterer. Which raises the question: What do chickens eat? I think that one of the best things about keeping chickens is that just about everything that we consider food “waste” they transform back into food. Chickens eat vegetables, meat and grains, just like we do. So that means that you can give them your left overs from all your meals and they will finish them off. We are talking vegetable trimmings, bread crusts, (just like feeding bread crumbs to birds in the park) rice or pasta, fruit, fish, beef, etc. (Personally I draw the line at left over chicken or foods that include processed chicken parts such as cat or dog food). However, you can even feed your chickens back their own egg shells. The reason is that they need calcium to make those egg shells. If they don’t get enough, they will crave it and may even start pecking at their own eggs once laid. You don’t want them to acquire a taste for egg shells, so if you choose tho feed them egg shells, you should grind them up in a blender so they won’t recognize them as their own eggs. Eggshells also happen to be very good to put around your roses. A simpler way to provide calcium is to give them oyster shell, which is also a useful soil amendment for your garden.
But getting back to chickens and the food cycle. Whatever you feed them, they give back to you as eggs every morning. So you may come to notice what you feed yourself. If you feed them organic vegetables, then you know that your eggs are going to be organic also. On the other hand, if you notice that you eat vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides, or genetically modified food products, well, you get the idea. In fact a 2007 study by Mother Earth News Magazine showed that eggs from pasture raised chickens one third less cholesterol and one quarter less saturated fat than factory farm eggs. Furthermore, what you feed them also comes out as manure, which makes for great compost, which makes for great soil for your vegetable garden, which makes for great vegetables for your family to eat and return the scraps to the chickens. Its amazing. I have a theory that when people started giving up keeping backyard chickens, there started to be a solid waste problem for cities which led to the development of the garbage disposal. There are a few cases where small towns use chickens to eat all their garbage, turn it into compost which the city sells at a profit. But more about that at another time.
Just to be sure your girls are getting the right amount of protean and nutrients such as calcium, it is common to buy chicken feed from your local feed store. The same thing applies for feed. Check to see if it is organic, or made with genetically modified corn or soy. There are three categories of feed for the three stages of a chickens life. Chick feed which often has antibiotics in it to protect chicks from diseases, a grower feed for pullets that need more protein and a layer feed with more calcium for egg production. You don’t need to place your feeder in the chicken coop but rather in the chicken yard because they want to eat on the ground. Left to free range your backyard chickens will find their protein grains and vegetables by eating bugs, spiders, ticks, lizards, worms, anything green like grass, and seeds.
Here is a useful link: