Chickens require the right chicken feed or they will stop laying eggs. If you do not provide them with the necessary essential nutrients their egg production will decrease tremendously, but if you feed them correctly they will keep laying eggs consistently for as long as they can. Learn the right way for feeding chickens and keep them laying eggs daily.
Chicken feeding is more than just throwing out a few grains to your hens. If you want to raise chickens that produce high-quality eggs consistently you need to know a few basics about feeding chickens.
Some top egg-laying breeds can produce an egg almost every day for many months but will require proper chicken feeding to do so. Laying birds require a diet that contains from 16% to 18% protein. The actual protein requirements vary depending on whether it is early or later in the laying cycle.
When hens first begin laying eggs, they are still growing and maturing during the early laying period. During this period they need an increased amount of protein. As egg production begins to decrease their protein requirements also decrease. It does not hurt to feed chickens 18% protein during the entire laying cycle, but protein is expensive and therefore can be decreased at certain times to save money.
High Amounts of Protein are Required for Top Egg Production
Commercial growers must observe their expenses when feeding chickens so they begin by giving their pullets (egg-laying chickens) 18% protein for the first 4 months of their egg-laying period and then decrease it to 16% at about 4 months. Protein is then decreased again to 15% when the laying birds drop to about 65% production from their peak.
Most small flock owners want to keep things as uncomplicated as possible when feeding chickens and therefore give their laying birds the same feed throughout the entire laying period. Chicken feeding in this manner is normally accomplished with an all-mash diet that contains about 16% to 17% protein. The easiest chicken feeding method for small flock owners is to supply their hens with an all-mash diet that is placed in front of the birds at all times. There should be plenty of feeder space per bird and the feeders should always be kept filled.
The Mash and Grain System
Mash is made from finely ground grains and can be formulated in two ways. It can either be mixed to provide all of the hen’s daily nutrient requirements or be fed in addition to other grains. Feeding chickens a large percentage of grains just before roost time can help them stay warmer and more comfortable during the night.
Do Not Forget the Grit
Grit usually comes in the form of small stones or granite material and must be fed to birds eating whole grains. Grit helps grind the grains and improves digestion. Some owners think they do not need to provide grit if they feed an all-mash diet to their birds, but this is not true. Birds will eat all types of things, including feathers, and grit should always be accessible to help hens digest these various items.
Whole grains can cause chickens to gain extra fat, which can cause a decrease in egg production, so it is important not to feed them too many grains. Additionally, scratch feeds (grains) are typically lower in protein, containing about 10%, so the mash should contain as much as 20% protein or more if grains are added to the diet. The entire diet of grains and mash should provide a total protein level of about 16%.
Too Much Grain Can Cause Low Egg Production
Feeding chickens using a mash and grain approach can easily lead to an overall decrease in protein which will lower egg production, so it is important to mix the amounts properly. Mash can contain as much as 40% protein levels which makes it possible to use less mash and more grains in a mash and grain diet. Feeding more grains and less mash can save money on feed, especially if you are growing your own grains.
Can Kitchen Scraps be Fed to Chickens?
To lower the feed costs, kitchen scraps and garden surplus can be added to a hen’s diet. These types of foods can be used as a replacement for a portion of the grains but should be fed in limited amounts as they can decrease the overall protein levels. Depending on the type of table scraps they can also lead to bad-tasting eggs. Offering vegetable peelings and green tops is good, but giving onions, fruit peelings, and other strong-flavored foods is not.
Calcium is Essential for Maximum Egg Production
Calcium is one of the most important requirements in a layer’s diet because it is needed to form strong egg shells. Feeding chickens an all-mash diet is usually sufficient because all-mash diets usually contain about 3% or more calcium. If egg shell quality ever seems to diminish extra calcium must be added to the diet and is usually provided in the form of oyster shells.
Provide Lots of Clean Water
Clean water is another essential item that must be available at all times. Egg production will suffer if pullets are deprived of water for even a short period of time. Keeping the water clean by changing it daily is also crucial because polluted water can discourage birds from drinking as much as they need. Dirty water can also cause the spread of disease. To maintain high egg production hens must have an adequate diet and plenty of clean water.