Hens that are responsible for laying eggs require a specific diet to keep them healthy. Food for egg layers is different from chickens raised for meat, and their diet changes as they get older.
As your hens mature, the food for egg layers will require less protein concentration in their feed. Chick starter feed typically contains over 20% protein whereas Layer feed contains around 15%.
Even though the percent of protein may decrease with age, the amount of feed your laying hens consume will most certainly increase with age. The following guidelines show you how much each hen is likely to eat:
- Chicks eat about ½ pound of feed per week for 6 weeks, or 3 pounds total
- Pullets eat about 1 pound of feed per week for 14 weeks, or 14 pounds total
- Mature egg-layers eat about 2 ½ pound per week
It is possible to make your own chicken feed; however, we find that commercial mills are able to produce in such large scale that they often deliver feed for less cost that if you made it yourself. The other benefit of purchasing commercial feed is that you don’t have to worry about managing the correct proportions and ensuring freshness of each ingredient.
Commercial feed comes in three primary forms:
- Mash: Feed that has been crushed, but its components are still identifiable by chickens
- Pellet: Reconstituted mash formed into small equally sized bites that chickens consume quickly
- Crumble: Broken up pellets that take longer to eat and keep chicken occupied
If you decide to take it upon yourself to make your own feed. We recommend visiting the animal science website at ucdavis.edu. They have a publication called Feeding Chickens that offers the following proportion recommendation for mature egg layers:
- 53.5% Coarsely ground grain (e.g., corn, milo, barley, oats, wheat, rice, etc.)
- 17% Wheat bran, mill feed, rice bran, etc.
- 15% Soybean meal, peanut meal, cottonseed meal, sesame meal, etc.
- 3% Meat meal, fish meal, etc.
- 4% Alfalfa meal
- 2% Yeast or milk powder
- 2% Bone meal
- 3% Ground limestone, marble or oyster shells
- 0.5% Salt with trace minerals
- Vitamin Supplements
The final consideration you have related to feed is deciding how you plan to deliver the feed to your egg laying hens. We offer the following feeders because they are easy to clean, easy to fill and prevent your hens from roosting (and pooping) above the feed: