Nutrition is both mind-bogglingly complicated and stunningly simple, no matter what sort of animal you’re talking about. Animals, on the one hand, require food as a source of energy. On the more complicated side, there are problems concerning the ideal nutrient balance, which nutrients are important and which are not, how often and in what quantity the animal should consume, and even if bad nutrition might cause infertility or sickness. These are major issues for humans and birds alike.
You’re worried about what your hens eat if you’re raising chickens to have greater control over your family’s food source. You may even be making your own chicken feed or spending a lot of money on an organic combination. Chicken nutrition is a well-researched topic with a plethora of literature accessible on the subject. This page contains just rudimentary information and should only be used as a primer on the subject.
Getting Rid of a Few Myths
‘Hormones are abundant in the commercially manufactured diets’
Hormones are not included in the feed available at your local feed shop. It could have been fifty or sixty years ago, but not now. So you can put your worries about boosting early physical maturity in your children to the side if your hens eat store-bought feed.
‘Commercially manufactured feed contains chemicals and pharmaceuticals unless it is labelled as organic’
This is just not the case. You may buy medicated feed, but it will be plainly labelled as such. Medicated feed is sometimes the most appropriate and best option. If you don’t want to buy feed that has been treated, simply avoid the items marked “medicated.”
Other chemicals are not used in the production of chicken feed. Of course, the maize in the feed may have been treated with fertiliser or pesticides, but no more than grain sold in grocery shops and supermarkets for human use.
‘Chickens can self-feed through foraging, thus they don’t require any additional food’
That may be accurate if you have no more than two hens per acre of grassland during the summer months. Chickens require additional food if they are to survive. They will forage and eat only what they need of the supplement, but most of us simply don’t have the room for hens to be healthy with only forage available.
A Few Pointers
- Learn about the nutritional needs of chickens. You don’t need a PhD in animal husbandry to care for your birds, but understanding what they require and why is beneficial.
- Don’t buy the cheapest feed you can find. It’s typically not of high grade.
- Check the ingredients on any feed you purchase.
- Interact with others and ask a lot of questions. There are useful online forums, we are pleased to answer questions, the staff at your local feed shop will usually be delighted to talk, agricultural extension offices provide exchanges and courses, and there are lots of other places you can obtain answers.