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Nutritional Needs of Chickens

An ongoing series of informational entries

Our Latest Blog Entry

January 18th, 2023

We are seeing it everywhere online. "The feed is causing the egg shortage.", "Big government conspiracy", and many other comments regarding why egg production has slacked off so much in the past few months. Many people are resorting to homemade feeds in fear of these comments and we are going to get to the bottom of it. Many of the "homemade" feeds that I've seen through out social media hold no nutritional value for your birds. In this blog, I'm going to cover what your birds need and a homemade feed recipe. 

If you're new to chicken keeping, this information can get very confusing, very quickly. I am going to try and break it down here in an easy to understand format. 


The most important part of your bird's nutritional intake is going to be uninhibited access to fresh and clean water. Younger birds who do not get this very important resource can experience stunted growth and mature birds who do not get the water intake that they need will suffer from low egg production and early molting. 


Protein is a necessity if you plan on making homemade feed or even just checking your local feed labels. Grains over some protein but not nearly enough to where your birds can function well on just grain alone. There are many places that protein derives from and that you can add it in. Some examples include milk, liver, fish meal, meat, Black fly larvae, meal worms, and many others. Protein helps your birds grow correctly and to lay their breeds normal amount of eggs. Keep in mind that too much of a good thing can also be a bad thing also. To much protein in chickens can lead to a chicken's kidney failure. During molt season, it is best to bump your flocks protein up from 1%-3% to help with those new feathers coming in.

 The recommended protein levels for chickens are as follows. 

Mature Hens- 16%

Laying Hens- 16%-18%

Pullets- 16%-18%

Chicks- 20%-24%

Also keep in mind that some breeds like more protein than others. 


Carbohydrates are another essential material you need to keep your flock functioning and happy. Carbohydrates are the driving force behind your bird's energy and make up the biggest portion of what your birds will eat. They come from many sources. Corn, sorghum, wheat, barley, Rye, and millet are all carbohydrate portions of feed. 


Fats can come from everything you feed your birds. Your birds need so many calories a day to function just like you as a human do. To help with caloric intake, a bird needs some type of fat. Not really the fat is important but what is contained in those fats. Fatty acids are essential for birds health and science has shown that a bird with a healthy amount of fatty acids, actually influences the fatty acids in the yolk of the egg. If you need to introduce more fats to your birds diet, flaxseed, camelina, and fishmeal are very healthy options considering they are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.  


Vitamins are another very important piece of the puzzle. Chickens need these vitamins to sustain life and if they are deficient in these, you very well will see signs of them being deficient. 

Vitamin E- This vitamin is a biological antioxidant. With birds who have enough Vitamin E, they have better hatch rates, Improved laying, strengthened immune responses, and heat stress resistance. If they're deficient in Vitamin E you're going to see many symptoms: encephalomalacia (crazy chick disease), poor egg laying performance, poor hatch rates, wry neck, muscular dysfunction, inability to walk, poor growth, enlarged hocks, infertility, greenish-blue skin, and general lethargy and malaise. The next time you see a post in a chicken group and everyone is saying it's Mareks or another disease, in could be something as simple as a Vitamin E deficiency. (This is why I tell everyone repeatedly to stay out of the social media groups.) 

Vitamin A- This vitamin is essential for egg laying and reproductive health. Without Vitamin A, you're flock can suffer vision loss, mortality, bone abnormalities, and a seriously stunted growth rate. Your flock also has an increase of getting sick. This vitamin also helps with feed conversion.  Signs of vitamin A deficiency include: watery discharge from the eyes, cheesy accumulation in the eyes, Emaciation accompanied by weakness and ruffled feathers, egg production declines, and hatchability rates drop tremendously. 

Vitamin D- Vitamin D is used in bone formation and calcium metabolism. Without Vit. D, your birds are going to have a hard time absorbing and putting calcium to use. Signs of a Vitamin D deficiency include bowed legs in chicks, weird bone formations, and egg shell quality. Stunted growth, loss of equilibrium, and sever leg weakness is going to be a sign of this as well. 

Vitamin K- Vitamin K is the vitamin that's responsible for helping your bird's blood coagulate. If your flock has a Vitamin K deficiency, Coccidiosis can become very lethal, very quickly. Even a small fight between birds can have dire consequences. It can also impact your bird's bone marrow. 

Vitamin B12- This is one of the most important vitamins. Your birds need this vitamin in order to metabolize their diet. They can't absorb the nutrients they need well if they are deficient in B12. A vitamin B12 deficiency presents like nervous disorders with poor feathering and decreased weight. Your laying hens will also lay smaller than normal eggs because they don't absorb enough nutrients to make a normal size egg. (Not to be confused at all with fairy or fart eggs just smaller than normal)

There are tons of other deficiencies that can occur but for the sake of this not being an entire book, I am stopping here. 


Your carbohydrates (Grains) don't have high amounts of minerals. Your flock needs mineral as well to stay healthy. Calcium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium are essential for egg laying, Sodium, Potassium, and Salt are needed for electrolyte balance. Zinc, manganese, iron, copper, selenium, and iodine are needed to round all these processes out. 

What affects egg laying?

Your flock needs 12-14 hours of daylight in order to lay eggs. If your flock is getting this amount of sunlight each day and they still aren't laying, you need to take a hard look at their diet and anything else that maybe impacting them. 

Stress- Stressed birds will not lay eggs. Make sure you don't have predators poking around and disturbing your birds while your asleep. 

Illness- Sick hens may lay eggs but will have a large decrease in production if they even lay at all. 

Injury- Chickens hide pain very well. Ensure that your birds are not hurt. Their body will focus on healing. Not laying eggs. 

Home feed recipe for mature grown birds

Your carbohydrates

8 lbs corn

8 lbs peas

8 lbs wheat

1lb alfalfa meal- (helps with protein to.)

1lb oats

Your minerals and Vitamins

1oz salt

1oz seaweed

2 cups sunflower seeds

handful of crushed oyster OR 1 cup crushed eggshells (your choice)

Your fat

1oz fishmeal

1oz Flaxseed

Your Protein

2 cups coohgrubs OR 2 cups grubterra (Your choice- we love both and do a 1cup/ 1 cup mixture) 

Your extras that support good health

1 cup oregano (supports immune system)

1/2 cup cayenne (Supports circulation)

1 cup grit (supports digestion)

1 cup spearmint (Helps with egg laying)

1/2 cup garlic (helps immunity)

Supplement your flocks with treats and free range time if possible. (Just don't go overboard with the treats). 

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