Raising Chickens Part 2: A Beginner’s Guide to Providing 3 Basic Needs for Your Flock
So you want to raise chickens? Like human beings, it’s best to start with the basics: water, food and shelter. If you are just joining us, be sure to check out Part 1 of Raising Chickens: A Beginner’s Guide on the importance of fresh water. Now on to lunch!
If you let your chickens range free for any amount of time, they will find bugs and other tasty treats in the yard. In fact, they tend to eat ticks and other pests — a fact your skin (and your garden) will soon grow to love.
To make sure they never go hungry, though, we provide our flock easy access to plenty of chicken feed. Organic is best, but you may choose from the varieties available at your local feed store. There is special blends for young chicks, or “growers,” on up to layers. We prefer the crumbles for our younger flock but then switch to pellets for our laying hens. Besides the pellets, we supplement with oyster shells and their own egg shells (rinsed and crushed up) to provide extra calcium for stronger eggshells.
Keep the food in the coop protected from other critters. Food in or near the coop will train the flock to stay close — not only for the food, but for the safety of the shelter.
While the above would be more than enough to sustain most chickens, the occasional treat is nice. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a special treat? Most kitchen scraps that you might compost is like a delightful salad bar for your flock. Or try oatmeal, yogurt and fruit pieces you don’t eat, like apple cores and watermelon rinds.
Avoid feeding chickens the following: potato peels, really salty foods, citrus, dried or undercooked beans, avocado skin and pit, candy, chocolate, sugar and raw eggs.
Cooked eggs are okay (sometimes we dish out some scrambled eggs for a special brunch) but you want to avoid feeding them raw eggs (or even shells that are not crushed) because a smarter, hungrier chicken just might get a taste for eggs and recognize the shape. Suddenly recently laid eggs could turn into instant “treats.” Your fresh eggs might get consumed before you get a chance to collect them!