What to Feed Laying Hens


The food you supply your laying hens has an impact on egg production and taste. Feed quality foods that meet the nutritional needs of your hens. Fortunately, finding and delivering quality feed is simple.

Commercial Feed Options

Chicken feed types are available for different age ranges and purposes. Chicks eat a starter feed designed to help growth and development in the early phases of life. They should switch to a pullet growth feed around 6 weeks of age and stay on this feed until they begin laying. The age at which they begin to lay depends on the species, but around 20 weeks is common. At that point, switch them to a layer feed. Look for a product with a label that specifies egg-laying hens. Laying feed is enriched with calcium to create strong shells and is around 15 percent protein. Add oyster shells to the feed if your hens produce eggs with shells that are thin and weak.

How Much Feed?

Use a large bucket-style feeder, and refill it daily. Chickens self-regulate when it comes to feeding; access to layer feed is the only requirement. They will eat when hungry and will not overeat when food is available.

Natural Forage

Chickens like to forage for insects and plants. Insects are high in protein and provide a healthy food source for layers. If you do not have forage space for your chickens, supplement the diet with mealworms from the pet store. Feed them worms several times each week to satisfy their needs for natural food. Although mealworms are available for purchase at pet stores, any garden-variety worm is acceptable.

Table Scraps

Add leftover table scraps to the coop as a supplement to the diet. Leftover vegetables are a good addition. Avoid onions, fish and garlic, as they affect the taste of your eggs. Also avoid adding meat to the coop, because it may turn some hens cannibalistic -- they become aggressive, increase pecking and cause stress for the entire flock.

Staying Hydrated

Chickens require a constant supply of water. Lack of access to fresh water will cause stress and impact egg production. Hang a waterer and use a system that prevents chickens from defecating in the water supply. A cone on top of the water will prevent roosting over it and defecating in it.

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