A healthy balance of Poultry Mix and sensible left overs
There are some who say chicken food should have XX% of this and XX% of that, but only on a Friday in August etc., but I tend to go down the route of a 'base' proper feed and anything else they would like, because if they don't want it - they won't eat it!
I also recall the days in childhood during the early 50's when my parents kept chickens down the garden and many more around us did.
It was a left over of WW2 where 'self sufficiency' was just a way of life and not an alternative like it is today.
Rationing was still going and the open market amongst neighbours was a terrific 'local economy' in it's own right.
My parents and their's wouldn't have a clue about XX% of vitamin X. They fed the chickens with what they had and that was usually a mixture of corn and left overs - potato and other peels boiled up and thrown in the Pen.
They were happy and they laid eggs!
That's the thing really, which I know from my own experience of getting my first hens, putting them in an Ark and then wondering what the heck I do next? Will they starve?, will they die?, are they too hot, cold etc.,etc. The list goes on.
But after a while you realise they are pretty good about anything you do and you'll soon know from lack of eggs or general health that it maybe (maybe) something to do with you.
There are basically two types of feed; 1. Mixed Corn, probably the most essential and 2. Layers Pellets.
Before we continue - Layers Mash is the same as Pellets but crushed up into a powder and especially easier for very young chickens. There are also Layers 'Crumbles' which is a kind of halfway houes, but my local Farm Supply Merchants don't sell it, so I assume there isn't much of a market for them.
So it's a bit the same as a baby growing up Mash to Crumble to Pellets.
Left = Layers Pellets Centre= Mixed Corn Right = Mixing 2 x 20kg bags and storing in a large plastic 'bucket' which I cover with a large piece of wood.
Here's what I give mine; 50% Mixed Corn 50% Pellets which I pre-mix in a giant tub.
In the mornings I give them what amounts to about a handful each and in the afternoons, about another half a handfull.
You should bear in mind though that mine are in a fairly large Pen in which they can scratch around and find their own bit and pieces.
I would suggest a 'suck-it and see' scenario, but that can be misleading, because they'll probably eat everything you put in!!
During the summer I have the benefit of the Kitchen left overs at Cricket and they are spoilt on almost a daily basis with jacket potato's, bread, sandwiches (not meat) etc.
In the winter we boil up all our left overs and peels and this goes in as well.
Cost wise for me with 10 hens it's, very approximately, £8 per month on purchased feed, which works out to 80p per bird. One 20k bag of mixed corn and one bag of 20k pellets is about £11.
The only other thing is grit. This can be purchased in Farm Suppliers, maybe good garden centres.
The alternative is to 'do the green circle'. Put the shells of the eggs you've used in the Oven and roast them til they're nice and crunchy brown, then crunch them up into a grit like condition.
This is a common and known method and is not scorned upon.
I said earlier I have a giant tub. Well, I have that with a heavy piece of wood over the top. Rats are very clever and if they find a way in - they're in!.
With chickens in Arks, try piercing and tying a cabbage from the roof. Not only will this give them something to peck at during the day, but keep them occupied a bit as well .
One final note is that Battery Hens are fed with anti-biotic fortified food and this is simply not necessary for your home flock.
Chickens are hardy creatures and in 8 years I've only had about 6 die and that has been mainly because of them being ex-battery hens who simply couldn't survive the change from a bad life to a good one.
Don't worry about the food. As long as they have the basic diet, other things are a bonus and I haven't heard any screams of stomach agony coming from mine!
2007 (price now reflecting 2010) -
I brought one bag of Mixed Corn and one bag of Layers Pellets on 31st.March and let it run down to zero before replenishing on 18th. May.
This means that the 40kg at £14.80 total lasted me 47 days, for 9 chickens. Thus a total of 31p per day / 3.4p per hen per day.
Naturally this may vary and I feed mine quite a lot of leftovers etc. But it will give you some idea'.