Feed and Treats For Adult and Juvenile Chickens.

bestChickens are Omnivores.  They are opportunistic eaters.  They will eat foods of both plant and animal origins.  They love treats and are easy to spoil. What they are fed can make a huge difference in their egg production, reproduction ability and overall lifespan length. It is important that they are given foods that have good nutritional value and are natural for their behaviors as chickens.

When chicks are little they eat Chick Starter as their main source of food.  At around 10  weeks they can begin Grower Feed. This feed is around 16% protein and is designed to sustain growth all the way to maturity. Gamebirds will need a higher protein content such as a Gamebird Conditioner feed.  I feed my silkies Gamebird Conditioner which has a protein content of 20%. If you are raising meat birds they will need their own separate Meat Bird Grower Crumble for fast growing birds. They require a protein content of 20-24%.  The basis of any good chicken diet is a high quality poultry pellet or crumble. Most if not all of its nutritional needs should come from that feed. It is complete and balanced and does not need anything added to it for optimal development of the bird.

Layer feed can be given once the pullets have begun laying eggs. It should not be given before that time as the higher calcium content can cause damage to their kidneys as they are not using the calcium for eggshell development.  Layer feed should not be given to roosters as it can be detrimental to their kidneys as well. Layer feed is designed to provide optimum nutrition for birds laying eggs. It contains 16% protein and increased levels of calcium for proper shell creation. Average laying hens will consume 1/4 pound of feed per day depending on the size of the bird, weather conditions and level of productivity.

Another type of feed is All Flock.  It is designed for adult birds but does not contain the added calcium.  You can feed it to a mixed flock of ducks, geese, turkeys and chickens. When feeding this to laying hens, you will need to offer some Oyster Shell in order for them to get the needed calcium for shell development. Offer it in a separate bowl from regular feed and the hens will eat it as needed.

Scratch is a mix of cracked rolled or whole grains such as corn, barley, oats or wheat.  It is low in protein and does not provide balanced nutrition such as a commercial feed would. However, as the name implies, it is food that is thrown on the ground and the chickens get to scratch around in the dirt for it. Scratching for food is a very natural behavior for chickens and is a good form of exercise for them. Only feed them as much scratch as they can totally consume in 20 minutes.

Table scrapes are routinely given to chickens but should be thought of as a treat.  Most food scrapes are fine but some are better than others. Feed bread in moderation as it has little nutritional value. Cat and dog food are sometimes given during molting because of the high protein content. Citrus is usually frowned upon as it may interfere with calcium absorption and cause soft egg shells. Dairy products should be fed in moderation as chickens have a hard time processing large amounts of dairy. No dry beans or uncooked rice.  Watch out for too salty or fatty foods.

Allow your chickens to free range and forage for food when you can.  They love looking for bugs and green plants and the adventure of finding them. Do not feed your chickens grass clipping as this can cause impacted crop. Always provide commercial feed for them. They will not find enough food free ranging in a typical suburban yard.

One way to tame and bond your chicken to you is to occasionally give it some treats.  There are many commercial treats available. Grubblies and Dried Mealworms are natural insects that have been freeze dried or oven baked.  A poultry Flock Block can be placed in the coop and left for the birds to gradually peck away at it. A poultry Suet Block is made of insects and is a source of greens.  Happy Hens Treats, Kaytee mealworm and oat supplement, and Manna Pro Harvest Delight are all good commercial treats.  as a boredom buster us a treat ball to entertain and provide treats for your chickens.

Too much of a good thing can always be a problem.  Chickens can become obese and develop fatty liver disease. Keep treats down to 20%  or less of their regular diet. Make sure that their commercial feed is always available to them especially before evening. You want to make sure that the chickens go to bed with a full crop which not only keeps them warm but aids in the nightly development of the egg.

For more tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our weekly silkie blog at VJPPoultry.com.  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria Peterson

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Silkies For Sale – 9/4/18

Feed and Treats For Baby Chicks

20180123_140427-1The sooner you start your baby chicks with good nutritional habits the better off they will be their entire lives. Typically we are told that baby chicks don’t need anything to eat or drink for about 48 hours after they are hatched. They will be getting sustained by the yolk of the egg which they absorb into their bodies just before they break through the shell.  This is why they can be sent by post office from hatcheries with nothing to eat or drink in their boxes. Research is now showing that chicks that are given food and water immediately after hatching have a better chance of survival and better growth. Yes, they can survive without food or water for the first few days but it is much better if they are given the opportunity to eat and drink right away.

Chick Starter is the ideal food for baby chick’s first week and should be the sole ration. Feed companies spend lots of time and money researching and preparing mixtures that provide optimum nutrition for growing chicks. Chick starter has sufficient protein, carbohydrates and vitamins to support growth. Chick starter should be given for at least the first six to eight weeks and can actually be given to adult birds as well.  Do not try and mix your own feed at this point as it is crucial that baby newborn chicks  have the nutrients they need to grow.  If you get caught without chick starter when your chicks hatch, you can mash up hard boiled egg yolk with ground up oatmeal as a temporary substitute.  Don’t give treats until they are very familiar with what the chick starter looks like. smells like and tastes like.

There are two types of chick starter, medicated and nonmedicated.  Medicated chick starter comes with medication to prevent coccidiosis, an intestinal disease that interferes with nutrient absorption. If you keep your chicks in a clean brooder and do not let them have contact with adult birds or the ground, they do not need to have the medicated chick starter. If you brood a lot of chicks (over 50) and it is hot and humid outside, then you might consider getting the medicated chick starter.  Do not give them the same food that your adult chickens eat. They need a high protein food which has a protein level of 20%.

Start by sprinkling chick starter on top of a paper towel in order to encourage pecking at it.  You can then move to a chick feeder. I like to use red colored feeders as the color red stimulates the chick and encourages pecking.  If your chick does not seem to be eating and drinking, dip their beak into the water and then again into the food. If a chick is not eating or drinking it will feel lighter than the other birds.  I also like to grind up the chick starter into smaller particles using a coffee grinder. They seem to like it better when the pieces are smaller.

I also add vitamins, probiotics and electrolytes to the newborn chick’s water. Rooster Booster  is a great product for these additives.  I also had a little apple cider vinegar (with the mother) to their water for overall good health.

When you are ready to add treats to your chicks diet, make sure that they are healthy treats. Good examples would be foods like fruits and vegetables, high protein, whole grains, low sugar, and low salt products.  If chicks are given anything besides chick starter, they will need grit (sand) to aid in digestion.  Chick starter is digested by saliva but other foods require grit for grinding in the gizzard since the chicks do not have teeth.

At this age they should have chick grit, not adult grit which would be too large for them. Sprinkle the sand on top of their food as if you were sprinkling salt on something. Do not place it in a separate dish but put it right on the food to make sure that they are getting some.  Grit is not the same thing as Oyster Shell. They should not be given oyster shell at all as too much calcium will cause organ failure.

The first treats that I give are mashed hard boiled egg yolk and ground oatmeal. I grind the oatmeal in a coffee grinder.  It will almost look like powder.  After that I might move on to sweet corn. I grind that up in a food processor.  Whatever you give to them must be in small pieces. I also like to take  carrots and grind them up in the food processor. Leafy greens must be very processed and in tiny pieces. You do not want the chick to develop crop issues.

Some people like to give unflavored yogurt to chicks. I have found it to be very messy and being a dairy product, I would not give them too much of it. It can cause stomach upset. Probiotics are a good choice for gut health instead.

Older chicks can be given Chick Sticks or mealworms for a treat.  You can also begin giving scraps from your dinner table as long as the pieces are small and grit is sprinkled on top.

When chicks eat treats they are not eating commercial feed which should be their main source of nourishment. Treats should only be 5-10% of a chick’s diet. Anything that you add to their diets can dilute the nutrient balance of the commercial feed. Even healthy snacks should be given in moderation. A chick’s growth and immune system can be affected by too many treats which can create an imbalance in nutrients.

When chicks are around eight weeks old they can move on to Grower feed. Start by mixing the two together 50% chick starter and 50% grower feed. Don’t save your chick starter for the next time you have chicks. It will grow moldy and be harmful for the chicks. Use it all up. It is ok for them to be eating it at any stage of development.

For more tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our weekly silkie blog at VJPPoultry.com.  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria Peterson

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