The first thing you need to know is exactly what chickens eat, since many believe that they feed exclusively on grain. Chickens are omnivores, they eat everything. They need a complete and varied diet composed of animals and vegetables to be healthy. And this is achieved by offering them a mixture of cereals, vegetables and small animals.
A hen’s diet varies a lot if we are talking about domestic hens, wild hens, laying hens or hens for human consumption. In this article we will emphasize what hens eat when they are in the wild and, especially, how they should be fed when they are kept as pets.
Feeding of hens
The hen is an opportunistic feeder, adapting to the food it finds where it lives. Like other birds, hens eat grit or small stones to help crush the food they eat since they have no teeth. This helps them digest it better.
The diet should contain an adequate balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.
What do domestic chickens eat?
Feeding your hen is quite simple as you can feed her a variety of different foods. However, it is important that you offer her a portion from each group so that she gets all the nutrients she needs:
- Vegetables: Grass, cabbage, cabbage, spinach, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cauliflower, etc.
- Mixture of cereals: wheat, corn, oats, barley, rye, etc.
- Sprouted legumes: peas, beans, lentils, soybean, alfalfa
- Dehydrated insects or a can of cat food (small amount)
- leftovers from our food: fruit and vegetable peels, tomatoes, crushed egg shells, etc.
- Special sand for grinding feed
- Supplements for extra calcium: crushed shells (clams or mussel shells, for example).
Another food that chickens eat is stale bread, but it must be wet so that they can eat it well. Ideally, chickens should be able to graze and feed on natural grass, while supplementing with cereals, fruits and vegetables. If you keep them in an earthen pen, they will also be able to find other foods such as insects or worms and they love it! If you pay attention while looking for their food, you can see how they sometimes run after a bug or fight over it.
Ready-made commercial feeds are available but are not advisable, as they are usually designed for production hens and not for pet hens.
What do free-range chickens eat?
The hens’ diet in the wild consists of:
- Vegetables: grass, leaves, nettles, sprouts, fruits and seeds
- Invertebrates: earthworms, worms, crickets, beetles, spiders, snails, slugs, etc.
- Vertebrates: lizards, mice, small snakes
Free-roaming hens have a preference for vegetables over seeds. They love to forage and peck for food and can spend hours doing so.
Foods that chickens do not eat
The list of foods that hens can eat is very extensive. However, there are some that are not recommended because, although in small quantities they are not dangerous, if given in excess they can be very harmful to your health. Therefore, we advise you to avoid them as much as possible.
- Potato skin
- Apple, pear and cherry seeds
- Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons
- Tomato and bell pepper plant and leaves
- Dried beans
- Rhubarb leaves
- Salty or sugary foods
How to feed your chickens?
- If you have the possibility, let your chickens roam freely and eat grass, plants, worms and small insects.
- Fill their feeder with the cereal mixture and scatter seeds on the floor to keep them busy searching and pecking.
- Offer them, in addition, different vegetables, fruits and legumes.
- Hens fed on feed eat about 100 g per day.