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What do Chickens Eat

Puja Lalwani
The feed that is given to chickens depends on whether they are going to be raised for their eggs or for their meat. Here, we tell you what the right food is for each purpose. A proper balanced diet will ensure that the birds remain healthy, and give good results.
Chickens are animals that reproduce, which is why their diet should be rich with the essential nutrients that are required for themselves, and the eggs they lay.
The most important factor to consider while feeding these farm animals, is to keep in mind that they are not fussy eaters, which means that they are going to eat most of whatever comes their way.
This can be more harmful than nutritious, because they may end up eating foods that are not meant for them. Though store-bought feed is great to provide all the essential nutrients, there are certain foods that are necessary that can be provided by other foodstuff.

Essential Nutrients

As mentioned earlier, the nutritional requirements of a chicken that is being raised for eggs slightly differs from the nutritional requirements of one that is being raised for its meat. Simply put, raising chickens for eggs means their calcium requirements are high, as it is this nutrient that goes into the formation of the egg shell.
That means, after an egg is laid, even the body's basic calcium requirement is affected. On the other hand, when you are raising chickens for meat, larger amounts of protein, and lesser calcium are required. Thus, the essential nutrients required are as follows.


Proteins are available from earthworms, alfalfa, duckweed, soybeans (soaked in water overnight and then boiled), and comfrey. Along with protein, comfrey is also a rich source of calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and selenium. Whole grains also provide the necessary nutrition, apart from protein.


The best source of calcium is crushed oyster shells sprinkled on other feeds. Another great source is dried egg shells, with the albumen removed, crushed, and sprinkled over other meals. Finally, there are several vegetables that will give your laying chickens a lot of calcium.
These include, milk, kelp, cooked beans and peas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, oats, and brewer's yeast. Moreover, vegetables and herbs such as mustard greens, kale, cabbage, fresh watercress (also provides vitamins and essential minerals), plantain, raspberry leaves, horsetail, chickweed, red clover, dandelion, and chamomile are rich sources of calcium.


Carbohydrates are nutrients that are the prime source of energy to all animals. For carbohydrates, the best sources are vegetable seeds, rice, oats, barley, and wheat. In cooler climates, chickens require more carbohydrates so that their body temperatures are maintained and so that they are well-energized.


Vegetables such as carrots are a good source of vitamin A. This nutrient is also available in some of the vegetables mentioned for calcium such as cabbage and kale. Any greens will give them the necessary amount of vitamins. Also include melons, berries, and other fruits that will give them the right amount of vitamins.
Do remember, that all these vegetables and fruits should be flaked, and not given in their whole forms. Chickens are not able to eat large-sized foods, and will give up on whole foods that are presented to them to feast on.


Minerals are made available from all the mentioned foods, that makes it unnecessary to give them an additional mineral supplement.


Water is a very important requirement. A little known fact is that more than half of a chicken's body comprises water. This means a good amount of water, that is easily accessible, must be included in the daily diet.
Apart from all these necessary requirements, there are several other foods that chickens enjoy. Grass is one of them. While they graze for their grain, grass naturally becomes a staple part of their diet. You can also give them regular treats such as corn kernels, which they relish, and even kitchen scraps.
However, refrain from giving them leftover food that is more than 2 days old. Bread with mold growing on it is also a big no-no. They feast on live crickets and other bugs while they are grazing. Grit and soil also make up for part of the diet. In fact, they are essential and are a small source of the minerals that are needed.
If you have a yard or a farm, you don't specifically need to give them grit. They will consume it on their own while they are grazing. Finally, ensure that the food you give your chicken is clean and preferably organic. This ensures their good health, and affects the quality of the eggs that it lays.
No matter what the breed is, these are some of the basic essential nutritional requirements of all chickens. Give them the best of all these foods, so that your poultry is healthy and gives you the best of eggs, as well as meat.