What do Chickens Eat to Grow Big?


When you see a new chicken farmer making plans for his new venture, he’s mostly going to ask the usual familiar question “What do chickens eat?” 

And I can say categorically that the same question runs through your mind. 

What can I feed my chickens? 

Do chickens eat ants, worms or grasses? 

Is it okay to feed my flock with fermented chicken feeds?

If you’re lost at the best feed to feed your flock, then you have gotten to the end of the line.

In this article, we have outlined the foods a chicken can eat, what to avoid and how many times it’s ideal to feed your flock in a day. 

So, you will get to find out whether chickens eat tomatoes, popcorn or spinach.  

Let’s get you down to business!

Are chickens selective eaters?

When it comes to food, chickens are omnivores. 

They will eat or try to consume anything and everything in sight as long as their beaks perk on it.

Chickens like Australorps, Isa Browns and Rhode Island Reds are good free rangers.  

When ranging in the yards, they will find a cornucopia of protein- and vitamin-rich food on their own.

This will include the likes of insects, grubs, vegetation and seeds. Sometimes, they can even take down skinks, toads or small snakes.

They eat just about anything. So literally, it wouldn’t be out of place to say that chickens are not selective eaters. 

However, foods gotten from free-ranging is not enough for a backyard brood to enjoy a healthy, balanced diet.

Fermenting chicken feed

Why is it important to feed the chickens with the right feed?

Just like in humans, food is essential to the survival of chickens. And to that regard, considering the kind of feed to feed your flock is of utmost importance.

Although chickens are not selective eaters, feeding them just “any feed” wouldn’t be such a good idea if your intention is to get more eggs, robust birds and high productivity.

Knowing the kind of feed to feed your flock is ideal for farmers who want the best out of their flock.

Get it right, and you will have healthy and lively chickens. But if the reverse is the case, it can lead to reduced egg production, deformed eggs, feather picking, and other unwanted behaviour.

Also, it’s important you know so you can influence how many eggs a chicken will lay in a week. (If you need more eggs)

In addition, chickens that lay large eggs do not eat just about anything. 

Now that you know, what do you feed your chickens?

What should I feed chickens?

Anything will do. 

But to get the best out of our flock here’s some of the best food to feed them.

1. Formulated chicken pellets:

Pellets are one of the most nourishing foods chickens eat.

According to a study, the basis of any good chicken diet is a high-quality poultry pellet. 

Normally, pellets normally contain wheat, salt, maize, sunflower seed, and oats. 

A feed rich in pellets is a good source of vital vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that keep the birds healthy.

Pellets are highly recommended for hens. 

Layer pellets provide chickens with the right amount of protein and minerals to lay eggs. 


2. Grains:

Do chickens eat grains? Yes, they do.

In fact, they love it. 

In addition to their core diet of pellets, grains make good feed. 

What kind of grains? You ask.

Corn, beans or wheat are grains you can feed the flock. Giving them variety will be a nice idea because variety they say is the spice of life.

Just remember that they need whole grain, low salt, and low sugar foods. 

3. Fruits and vegetables:

When next you wonder what chickens eat, have it at the back of your mind that fruits and vegetables are good for them. 

And for the records, chickens eat bananas, apple cores, carrots, spinach, broccoli and vegetable peels. 

But hey, avoid any raw green peels. That includes; green potato peel, citric fruits such as oranges and lemons.

Does this mean you can’t feed the chickens with dinner scraps?

Find out below!

4. Kitchen Scraps:

Kitchen scraps are good add-ons to chicken foods. 

Table scraps are easy, affordable and easily sourced. 

It’s an amazing way to augment the diet of your flock and cut down on food waste. 

However, once you begin to set aside table scraps for the “girls,” avoid high-sugar treats, high-fat foods, or salty snacks and spoiled food.

5. Commercial feeds:

Now you thought we wouldn’t mention that. 

Chickens eat commercial feeds. Getting the grubs, kitchen scraps, fruits and vegetables might not be that easy. 

Therefore, many farmers go for the already processed feed. Commercial feeds also provide a range of vitamins and minerals essential to the health of a chicken.

6. Other feeds chickens eat include;

  • Scratch Feed
  • Mealworms
  • Cooked Oatmeal
  • Bread
  • Berries
  • Yogurt
  • Apples
  • Pumpkin
  • Leafy Greens
  • Cold Watermelon
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Eggs
  • Cooked spaghetti
  • Herbs

Feeding the flocks well will help the chickens start laying eggs regularly.

health benefits of fermented chicken feeds

How to feed your chickens

Now that you know what chickens eat, how do you feed them? 

Is it ideal to mix all the available options and serve the flock?

Do chickens require their foods to be rationed? 

A chicken food timetable may sound a little bit extreme but that wouldn’t be totally bad. 

1. Feed the chickens with high-quality protein feeds:

In warm weather or cold, the chicken’s primary food should be layer feed. The chickens will eat them whether in pellet or crumble form.

As earlier stated, the pellets should contain the nutritional requirements to keep the chickens healthy and consistently producing well-formed eggs. 

How do you figure that out? 

Check out the protein and calcium are key ingredients to look out for. 

2. Supplement their diet:

Whether kitchen scraps or commercial feed, it’s not enough for the chickens. Therefore, it’s ideal to supplement their feed. 

How do you do that? 

Select fruits, vegetables and grains and add them to the feed the chickens eat. Other options include leafy greens, cooked beans, corn, non-sugary cereals, berries, apples etc.

This will help to ensure they are receiving a nutritionally balanced diet. 

3. Avoid these foods:

As much as the chickens can eat just about anything, you don’t have to feed them anything. 

If you want your chickens to grow healthy and be more productive avoid these foods;

  • Onions 
  • Garlics
  • Rhubarb
  • Avocado
  • High-fat foods
  • Salty snacks
  • Hgh-sugar treats
  • Uncooked beans
  • Green potato skins 
  • Chicken scraps (can spread disease through cannibalism)
  • Chocolate (can make them hyperactive)
  • Coffee or coffee grinds
  • Processed foods
  • Salt (pure)
  • Soft drinks

These foods are unhealthy and sometimes can poison the chickens. 

Also, strong flavours that come from garlic can affect the flavour of eggs.

Trust me you wouldn’t want to taste that!!

But on the flip side, chickens do not eat feed that contains too many pellets. And also, do not leave any pellets or feed them overnight.

This will attract pests such as mice.

What can happen if your chicken diet isn’t right?

Having understood the kind of feed chickens eat, feeding them the direct opposite will lead to real problems around the farm. 

If the chicken diet is not right, here’s what it could cause;

1. Reduced egg production:

When the chicken feed is not right, the egg will not come outright. Remember, garbage in, garbage out.

2. General unrest and feather picking:

If you discover a trace of cannibalism from the chickens, this could mean their diet isn’t correct.

And continuous feather picking can lead to death on the farm. 

Aggressive chickens such as the Rhode Island Red will take advantage of this moment to perk non-aggressive birds like the Cochins and Australorp.

3. Release of abnormal chicken eggs:

Once you find out that the eggs are too small (the Serama chickens naturally lay small eggs) or consistently contain double yolks, this would indicate their diet isn’t right.

Frequently Asked Questions About what to feed your chickens

Do chickens eat grasses? 

Well, yes chickens do eat grass. 

Some chickens eat tips and seeds of weeds and grasses. Such grasses include; 

  • Clover
  • Buckwheat
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Broad-leaved weeds, such as dandelions.

What should be the content of the chicken feed?

Chicken feeds should contain;

  • Low salt.
  • High protein.
  • Very organic.
  • Low sugar foods.

What do I feed my chickens when I run out of feed?

When you run out of feed, you feed your chickens emergency feed.

What’s an emergency feed? What are they made from?

Emergency feed is a substitute chickens eat when the feed is no longer available. 

You make an emergency feed from hard-boiled eggs. After boiling the eggs, you can chop or scramble them.

Then you can feed them to the chickens. 

Another option you can take is to feed the chickens eggshells.



All you have to do is wash, dry, and grind the calcium-rich eggshells before feeding to your chickens and hens.

How many times do I feed my chickens in a day?

Truth is, there’s no overdoing it. 

Let’s just do a little analysis here, if you are employing the free-range system, can you be able to control what the chickens eat?

Absolutely not!

So, since chickens do not overeat as they are free-range, they can eat as many times as possible while in the pen.

However, what you can do is control what they eat and not how many times the chickens eat in a day. 

Do chickens drink water?

Yes, they do. 

Chicken food without water causes indigestion. So it’s literally very important to provide water for the chickens.

Ensure they have access to clean, fresh water at all times.

You can place the water in any plastic container, but the easiest way is to buy a drinker.

During cold climates, the water might freeze. Therefore, you have to break the ice or supply them with fresh water. 

What is the best feed method to adopt when feeding the chickens?

We highly recommend feeding the chickens off the ground. 

I know this does not tally with what you see in movies but it’s the ideal method for feeding chickens. 

Tossing feed on the ground amidst the droppings is totally unhygienic.

It can lead to parasitic infections, the spread of chicken diseases such as fowl pox, coccidiosis and many more.

Therefore, using a tray, feeder, or your dish will keep their feed out of their own faeces.

Is it illegal to feed chickens chicken? 

Yes, it is.

Although this depends on the area. In some states in the USA, it’s totally illegal. 

This is because it is illegal to feed an animal any meat that is from the same animal.

Also, this law tends to reduce the risk of spreading diseases that only affect certain species. 

Do I need to feed my chickens if they are free-range?

Yes, even if your chickens are free-range, you should feed them.

As earlier stated, the feed chickens eat from free-ranging is not enough to keep them hale and hearty. 

Therefore, it’s best to supplement their diet. 

Is it illegal in some states for chickens to eat mealworms?

It is. 

The same law binding feeding chickens with chickens binds this law as well.

The reason is that most mealworms and other insects tend to be raised eating animal protein and waste.

But if the mealworms are naturally raised, then that wouldn’t be much of a problem.

Conclusion: What do chickens eat?

A steady diet of commercial layer feed is just about enough to give chickens the basic nutrition they need. 

However, small amounts of “a la carte” treats can keep birds happy and active.


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