Skip to main content

Feeding Backyard Chickens Through Their Various Lifestages

Feeding Chickens Through Life’s Stages: From Tiny Beak to Wise Wattles!

Hey there, fellow feather-friend aficionados! đŸ„

When I first embarked on my chicken-keeping journey, I found myself neck-deep in a maze of feeding guides, charts, and advice. Baby chick to broody hen to the grand dame of the flock—each stage brought its own dietary challenges. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by it all, don’t fret; I’ve been there, done that, and now I’m here to help you navigate!

Let’s embark on this feathery voyage through the life stages of our lovely backyard hens, discussing their nutritional needs and dietary changes.

1. The Cute & Fluffy Stage: Baby Chicks (0-8 weeks)

What They Need:
Just hatched and full of beans, these tiny fluff balls need a diet rich in protein. Think of it like the chicken version of baby formula.

What to Feed:
Starter Crumb: This is a fine, easily digestible feed, high in protein (around 18-20%), which helps with their rapid growth.

My Experience:
I can’t stress enough how important clean, fresh water is during this phase. I learned this the slightly panicked way when one of my chicks, Goldie, became lethargic due to dehydration.

2. The Teenage Phase: Growers (8-20 weeks)

What They Need:
Just like human teenagers, grower chickens are awkward, growing fast, and finding their place in the pecking order. They need slightly less protein now but more energy to fuel their growth.

What to Feed:
Grower Feed: This feed usually has a protein content of around 15-16%.

Fun Tip:
This is a great time to introduce them to the joys of treats. Veggies, fruits, and mealworms in moderation, of course!

3. The ‘I’m All Grown Up’ Phase: Layers (20 weeks onwards)

What They Need:
Here’s where egg production begins. Your ladies need calcium for strong eggshells and sufficient protein to keep laying regularly.

What to Feed:
Layer Pellets or Mash: Containing about 16% protein and enriched with calcium.

Always provide extra calcium on the side, like oyster shell. Daisy, my feisty Rhode Island Red, once started laying soft-shelled eggs, and supplemental calcium did the trick!

4. The Fabulous Broody Hen

What They Need:
When a hen goes broody, she’s focused on hatching eggs. Her nutritional needs change a bit, and she eats less often.

What to Feed:
Stick to the Layer Feed, but you can offer her some additional protein, like mealworms or seeds. Make sure she’s drinking water and occasionally leaving the nest to eat.

Heartfelt Moment:
When my hen, Pippa, went broody, I’d often find her nestled deep in the nesting box, her determination touching my heart.

5. The Dignified Elders: Senior Hens

What They Need:
Though past their prime laying years, these ladies still deserve love and care. They’ll need less protein and calcium but more fiber.

What to Feed:
You can transition them to a Poultry Maintenance or All-Flock Feed. Also, feed them softer foods—cooked rice, oatmeal, or mashed pumpkin.

Personal Reflection:
Older hens like my beloved Lulu bring a kind of grace to the coop. Watching her potter about, I often find myself reflecting on the beauty of life’s different stages.

6. Extras & Treats Throughout Life

Regardless of their age, chickens LOVE treats. But moderation is key. Offer greens, fruits, mealworms, and even yogurt. It’s fun watching them play tug-of-war with a cabbage leaf!

7. Water, Water, Everywhere!

Hydration is crucial. Ensure they have continuous access to fresh water. In summer, adding ice cubes can keep it cool, and in winter, consider heated waterers.

In Conclusion

Feeding chickens through their life stages isn’t just about nutrition—it’s about love, care, and understanding. As we provide for them, they give back in so many ways: eggs, companionship, and endless entertainment.