Water, Food, and Treats for Your Free-Range Chickens

Your local feed store is the best source for your chicken feed.

Chickens are continual feeders, and they live to eat. They eat to meet their energy needs. These energy needs are variable over the course of their lives, depending on their egg production, the climate they live in, and their general health.

Start your pullets on a laying mash about a month before they’re expected to begin laying or at approximately 20 weeks of age.

Laying formula can come in different textures of mash (fine), crumble, and pellets. Laying feed is a balanced complete formula with about 16 percent protein, calcium, and grit. Laying hens need a calcium supplement in their feed for strong eggshells. All chickens need some grit in their diets to grind up their food. Because chickens have no teeth, they rely on grit to grind up their food in their gizzards.

Another plus for free-ranging your chickens is that they naturally pick up grit in their diet throughout the day. If you are feeding your chickens a whole-grain diet or pasturing them on a heavy grass diet, you will want to provide supplemental mineral grit and a source of calcium carbonate, such as crushed oyster shells.

Another source of calcium is recycling eggshells from your hens. You can bake them in an oven at a low heat until they are thoroughly dried and with a baking pen crush them into very small pieces. At this point you can feed them back to your hens.

Give your chickens access to their feed bucket all day. The feed bucket stays in the chicken coop or outside pen. If chickens are free-ranging, they can return to the coop for feed if they choose, but they’re usually satisfied foraging for their food in the garden. At night, take the feed bucket out of the coop and store it in a safe place, such as a storage shed.

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