One of the most frequently asked questions new homesteaders ask is what and how much to feed your barnyard birds. However, there isn’t a universal answer. That is because how to feed chickens and other barnyard birds depends on the type of bird and purpose. Will it be a meat bird or an egg-laying hen? Each type requires a certain level of protein.
Also, you have to consider where they are in their development. But, it isn’t as complicated as most people think. So read on to learn lots more about feeding chickens the right way.
Newly hatched chicks between zero and 10 weeks should get a chick starter diet. Make sure it has a protein ratio between 10 and 20 percent. They formulate these rations to provide proper nutrition for growing baby chickens.
Feed the higher protein starter rations of 22 to 24 percent to meat birds such as quail, turkey and pheasant. This higher protein level maximizes growth for broilers and roasters. However, it is not necessary or even desirable for egg-laying hens.
From 10 Weeks and Beyond
Replace the starter feed with a grower feed at 10 weeks of age. Grower feeds contain 15 to 16 percent protein. They develop this formula to ensure steady growth up to maturity. The higher protein content or 20 percent in starter/grower feeds, is recommended for growing game barnyard birds.
For Egg-Laying Hens
Egg-layer feeds can provide the best nutrition for hens that lay eggs for human consumption. Layer feeds come with at least 16 percent protein. Also, it should have the optimum levels of calcium for improved shell development. Provide layer feeds at around 18 weeks of a hen’s age, or when they lay their first egg, whichever comes first.
What About Water?
You should always offer lots of clean, fresh water for your barnyard birds at all times. Chickens will drink approximately three times the amount of water by weight as they eat in chicken feed. One good rule of thumb is to put down one quart of water for every four chickens. Water intake levels will also increase significantly when the weather gets hot.
Newly-Hatched Chicks and Water
Offer baby chicks only water and not feed during the first hour of life. The first water your offer to your newly-hatched chicks should include a quarter cup of sugar and a teaspoon of Terramycin per gallon of water. This formula will help boost their immunity and reduce the stress of shipping.
On the second day, offer one teaspoon of Terramycin and omit the sugar. After that, just provide clean, fresh water.
Feeding your chickens the right way is important, but it’s not complicated. Just follow these rules and learn as much as you can about feeding. One thing to remember is to avoid overfeeding your barnyard birds. It can be tempting to offer them food scraps throughout the day, but what you really want are chickens at a healthy weight. Chickens and homesteading go hand in hand, so knowing how to care for your birds is a great homesteader’s skill to have.