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Digital Subscriptions > Chickens > Chickens 101 > Chow FOR CHICKENS

Chow FOR CHICKENS

Starters, growers, layers, breeders and finishers all need something different. Learn the secrets to flock nutrition.
Chickens guzzle two to three times as much water as they eat in food, depending on their size.
ANNA HOYCHUK/SHUTTERSTOCK

While your chickens’ nutritional needs vary depending on age, sex, breed and use, their diets must always include water, protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fats in adequate quantities and proper balance. All chicken keepers are in agreement on this point. But when it comes to the question of how best to supply all those dietary elements, it’s a different story. Ask any group of fanciers how each feeds his or her chickens, and you’ll find two distinct camps: those who never feed their birds anything except commercial mixes, and those who never feed their birds commercial mixes without supplementing them. Opinion runs high on both sides about which approach is better.

Which one you should take really depends on your primary reason for keeping chickens.

If you raise birds strictly for their meat or eggs, commercial feed is the way to go. Commercial bagged rations are formulated to serve up optimal nutrition, thus creating optimal production. Supplementing commercial feed with treats, table scraps, scratch — a wholeor cracked-grain mixture chickens adore — or anything else will upset that delicate nutritional balance.

However, if like us, you see your chickens as friends and you don’t mind if their growth is slightly slower or if they produce fewer eggs, then you may want to consider supplementing their diets. They’ll appreciate the variety, and you’ll appreciate the lower cost of a supplemented diet.

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Chickens 101, The Essential Guide to Raising Chicks, 15 best breeds for Beginners, Nutrition for all Life Stages, And More......