If you are a new owner of backyard chickens, it is likely you have wondered which kitchen scraps are OK to give your chickens and which are best kept for the compost heap. Surprisingly, even if you give chickens foods that are toxic, it's likely that they won't eat them anyway. Chickens seem to be fairly intelligent in deciding what to eat and what foods are not good for their health.
Chickens are omnivores, meaning that naturally they eat both meat and vegetable material. So giving chickens meat is quite alright. Even if you don't give your chickens meat, they would be regularly eating meat anyway in the form of insects, worms or perhaps a mouse. Protein from such meats as well as quantities found in layer pellets is necessary in their diet.
Most chicken owners would say that chickens simply avoid these. Like us, chickens love the flesh of most fruits, but don't tend to like the peels. These peels can be better used in the compost heap than in the chicken coop.
If you've given potato to your chickens, don't panic. Some people believe that chickens should not be given potatoes, but in fact it's only the potato skins that are of concern. The part of the potato that should not be given to your chickens is the potato skin if it has gone green. The green is the visible sign of the starch being broken down into a toxin. This green on a potato indicates the toxin 'solanine' (although the green itself is chlorophyll and is in itself harmless). This toxin is a glycoalkaloid poison found in species of the nightshade family, to which potatoes as well as tomatoes belong. Removing the skin from the potato will remove most of the toxin but remember to not feed these to your chickens.
Calcium is an important part of a chicken's diet as it helps in producing eggs with a tough shell. If your chickens' eggs are thin, they can easily be broken. Chickens are then tempted to eat the inside of their eggs if lying broken in their laying box. Giving your chickens well-crushed eggshells is a good, cost effective way of supplying your chickens with a source of calcium. An alternative is shell-grit which provides a slow-release source of calcium for your chickens.
Definitely give your chickens green weeds from your garden as these are a source of vitamins and help to make your egg yolks a nice healthy colour. Obviously if you have recently sprayed your weeds with a poison don't give these to your chickens. It's also worth noting that lawn clippings from the lawn mower can cause problems in chickens known as an 'impacted crop'. When a chicken eats throughout the day their 'crop' fills up and at night the crop empties into the gut. If chickens eat large lengths of grass clippings, these many form into a ball in their crop, preventing them from then eating properly. This problem doesn't occur if chickens are left to peck at the uncut lawn themselves as they will eat small pieces of lawn at a time. So make sure your grass cuttings are nice and short if you are going to feed them to your chickens, otherwise add them to the compost heap instead.
A balanced diet for your backyard flock is very important and can generally not be obtained from only kitchen scraps or garden weeds. For maximum health do not restrict the feed intake of layer pellets. Chickens do not overeat and need a regular supply of feed to satisfy their nutritional requirements. A self-feeder with a regular supply of feed is recommended and used by most owners of backyard chickens. Most laying chickens eat approximately 120g layer pellets or grain mix per day or around 850g per week, but depends on the quantity of other scraps or grasses that they are also supplied with.
Chickens drink from 1 to 2 cups water a day (from 250ml to 500ml), with more consumed in hot weather. A regular supply of fresh water is important as too little water results in dehydration, excessive stress, and a decline in egg production. Chickens who have gone without water for 24 hours are said to take 24 more hours to recover completely.
If you are looking for a backyard chicken coop, be sure to look at Royal Rooster's range of mobile chicken coops as well as their innovative drinker and feeders perfect for the backyard coop.