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What To Feed Chickens?

What To Feed Chickens?

The Different Types of Chicken Feed

There is a range of options when it comes to providing your hens with their chicken feed. here is a brief description of the main forms of chicken feed that you are likely to hear about or use.

Scratch Mix

This type of chicken feed is comprised of “whole” grains that haven’t been combined with other ingredients. It is often called a “scratch mix” and may come in a crushed format as well.

It is simply a selection of grains such as corn (maise), wheat, barley, sunflower seeds etc that are thrown-out for chickens to peck and scratch at. This is certainly not a “complete” diet for chickens whether laying or not as it doesn’t contain the micronutrients needed such as amino acids, fats, trace elements and minerals for good health.


A mash feed is comprised of a selection of crushed grains that are mixed with animal or vegetable protein meal and then combined with supplements containing the micronutrients. Animal protein meal is very common in chicken feed and comes from all the leftover, unwanted parts of animals that us humans don’t want to eat. Vegetarian diets commonly contain soybean meal which is high in protein.

Mash feed is designed to be a “complete” chicken diet with all the needed vitamins, trace elements, minerals and vitamins contained in it. Mash is good for laying hens as it causes the gut to work harder and stay healthier relative to other feed formats. A potential constraint is that it can support “cherry-picking” behaviour in hens and messiness in the wrong type of feeder. Using a good feeder and allowing the feed to run-out entirely now and again is a useful way of reducing any potential cherry-picking behaviour.


Pellets are made from a mash which is then formed into a pelletised chicken feed using a heat and pressure process to bind it all together. Like mash, a pelletised feed contains a “complete” diet for chickens but tends to cause the hen‘s gut to work less efficiently relative to a mash feed. Pelletised feed also tends to be quite bland for chickens due to all of the various components being fused together into a single “tablet”.


A crumble form of feed is often fed to young pullets (a hen not yet in lay), and is made from pellets which are then broken down into smaller particle sizes. The smaller particle sizes of a crumble make it easier for young hens such as chicks to eat the feed. It does retain the same “bland” nature of pelletised feed.

The main thing to keep in mind is that for good health and good eggs, you need to be feeding your hens a “complete” feed that contains the right combination of amino acids, fats, trace elements and minerals. A better feed will contain higher levels of good quality ingredients irrespective of it being in a mash, pellet or crumble format. It will also support good gut health, feather growth and egg-laying over the long term.

4 thoughts on “What To Feed Chickens?

  1. Being new to chickens I have many questions. I have lined the nesting boxes with hay and was told to completely cover the inside floor of the roosting area with hay as well. The inside area is approx 12′ x 12′ and the outside area 3 times as big. We only have 9 chooks but want to look after them properly. Should the roosting area be covered in hay or just the nesting boxes? I would appreciate any comments you may have.

    1. Hi Jan,

      I would remove the hay as soon as possible as it does a poor job of absorbing chook droppings and goes mouldy when damp! A deep layer (100mm), of untreated wood shavings in all dry areas of the coop is a much better option and they can also be used in the nest boxes. Hemp fibre is the “gold standard” when it comes to nesting/bedding materials though and we always recommend it for nesting boxes due to its absorbency and natural anti-bacterial properties.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.


      1. Hello, How often should you clean out the nesting boxes, roosting area and run? What type of scraps are better for them to eat? Thanks Chelsea

        1. Hi Chelsea,

          If you use wood shavings to a depth of 100mm in all dry areas of your coop and run, it should last up-to 24 months with ease. If using straw, hay, mulch etc, you may need to clean weekly. Nesting box bedding will last a similar time as long as the hens don’t sleep in their nests which they are inclined to do with the wrong coop layout.

          We don’t recommend any scraps as none will add to a high-grade diet but green scraps are okay if given in moderation. Purebred hens will be more accustomed to eating a wide variety of scraps but will lay far fewer eggs than the hybrid hens like our Hy-Line Browns which require a top-grade feed.



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