There are a number of different “forms” of feed available on the market these days for feeding chickens with two the most popular to feed to egg-laying hens. The most common forms of feed are “mash” and “pellets” but not all are suited to every chicken breed or age See: Chicken Food
Feeding chickens a “mash” The “mash” form of chicken feed is most popular with egg farmers while pellets are most often used by backyard chook keepers. Egg farmers find that feeding chickens a mash feed enables hens to convert the feed most efficiently into eggs when they look closely at their production figures and the reason why most use it.
A mash feed is created using a roller or hammer mill to reduce the size of the larger ingredients such as corn and soybean meal, to a more uniform particle size. The smaller particle size tends to help the feed can be more efficiently digested in the chicken’s gut.
With feeding chickens a mash feed, you can see what’s in the feed and so can your chickens who are quite adept at selecting the ingredients that they most need when they most need them. This makes sense as back in their natural habitat, the Jungle Fowl (the original chicken), was a good forager and would seldom find all of its nutrition in one location. On the other hand, chicken pellets are the most widely available form of nutrition for feeding chickens and sold through pet shops and feed supply companies for backyard poultry owners. Whenever I ask customers if they have proper chicken feed for feeding to their chickens they inevitably reply that it is pellets.
Pellets are made using a heat and pressure process that infuses all of the feed ingredients together. By using heat in the process which normally exceeds 55 degrees Celsius, any slight chance of any ingredients in the feed being contaminated with Salmonella or Campylobacter can be eliminated.
Why are pellets popular?
Palletisation is often favoured by large chicken feed suppliers as it reduces their legal exposure in the off-chance that bacteria in the feed is transferred to chickens and in-turn to egg consumers. It is also difficult to see what ingredients are contained in pellets which means that pellets can easily be bulked-up with inferior quality ingredients that cost less.
Through our own experience and listening to what our customers have to say, we have found that different feed varieties and their ingredients greatly impact the flavour and quality of the eggs. We’ve also noticed a change in the hens’ behaviour, health and wellbeing when being fed on different feed rations.
The “modern” poultry diet
As most modern poultry diets are driven strongly by price, we choose not to follow suit by using a “least cost” formulation philosophy. Instead, we stay with the original recipe of my father-in-law from the 1980’s which uses ingredients driven strongly by both hen nutrition and egg flavour. The difference is quite clear after comparing with supermarket eggs.
Of course, hens will also benefit when their chicken feed is supplemented with high-quality green scraps or grass (which will be the topic for another blog article in the future!). True free range hens will also tend to produce eggs with lower cholesterol and higher vitamin D among other benefits.
Feeding chickens a healthy combination of high-quality green scraps and a high-quality laying feed is your surest path to delicious and regular eggs. It costs a bit more but the results will be more than worthwhile when reflected in the food you eat.