The Do’s and Don’ts

for feeding layer hens



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Do’s and Don’ts for Feeding Layer Hens

Keeping a flock of layer hens can be a rewarding experience, quite literally with a steady supply of fresh, nutritious eggs. Whether you are a seasoned poultry keeper or embarking on a backyard chicken adventure for the first time, mastering the do’s and don’ts of layer hen feeding is crucial for the success of your flock and the joy of high-quality eggs.

Understanding the Nutritional Needs of Layer Hens

Layer hens have specific nutritional requirements above non-laying hens that must be met to support their overall health and egg-laying abilities. Laying eggs is hard work! Hens need a balanced diet rich in proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals:

a puffed-up, broody hen sitting on a clutch of eggs

Proteins: Adequate protein is essential for your hen’s health, and her ability to produce eggs. The protein content in layer feed is typically higher to support the strain of egg laying.

Carbohydrates: Carbs are a primary source of energy for hens. Corn, wheat, and barley are common sources of high-quality carbs in found in layer feed.

Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamins and minerals are essential for maintaining your hen’s overall health. Calcium is especially critical for proper eggshell formation.

Fats: Fats provide a concentrated source of energy for layer hens. Fat sources are especially important during colder seasons when hens need more energy to maintain their body temperature. High-quality fats such as vegetable oils are commonly included in layer feed.

Calcium Supplementation: Hens’ eggshells are primarily made up of calcium carbonate. Laying hens have high calcium requirements to produce strong eggshells while meeting their own nutritional needs. Providing calcium supplements, like oyster shells or even ground eggshells, is a common practice to ensure adequate calcium intake.

It’s essential to provide a complete and balanced layer feed that meets all of the hens’ nutritional requirements. High-quality layer feeds are formulated to provide all necessary nutrients in the correct proportions.

Try Kelley’s Hi Protein Lay Pellets or a variety of Lay feeds in crumble, mash, or pellet formulas or Ace Hi Big Feeder Lay Pellets, Crumbles, Mash, and Hi Protein Lay Pellets options for your laying hens.

The Do’s of Layer Hen Feeding

Provide a Balanced Diet: Choosing a high-quality layer feed that meets all the nutritional needs of your hens is the foundation of their health and additionally boosts their egg-producing abilities.

Supplement with Kitchen Scraps and Greens: Adding variety to your hens’ diet with chicken-safe kitchen scraps and fresh greens can be beneficial both for their well-being and for their health. Remember to offer scraps and greens in moderation and alongside the main feed rather than as a main source of nutrition.

Popular chicken-safe kitchen scraps include:

  • Fresh (not moldy) breads
  • Fruits: apples, berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons
  • Fresh greens: lettuce, chard, carrot tops, kale, spinach
  • Winter and summer squash: pumpkins, spaghetti squash, zucchini
egg laying chicken

Most cooked or raw vegetables are okay to feed to your chickens. Many chickens particularly love broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage.

Offer Adequate Water Supply: Water is essential for proper digestion, nutrient absorption, and egg formation. Ensuring your hens have unlimited access to clean, fresh water is a top priority.

Allow for Frequent Access to Feed: Opt for free-range feeding (known as ad libitum feeding). Providing feed to hens throughout the day allows them to eat as needed and reduces stress, promoting consistent egg production.

Provide Calcium Supplementation: Layer hens have high calcium requirements for eggshell formation. Offer calcium sources like crushed oyster shells or ground eggshells to ensure they have enough calcium.

Observe Your Hens’ Behavior: Regularly monitor your hens’ behavior to detect any signs of illness or distress. Healthy and contented hens are more likely to lay eggs consistently.

The Don’ts of Layer Hen Feeding

Knowing what not to do with your hens is just as important as knowing the fundamentals of chicken care. Here are a few helpful tips:

❌ Avoid Feeding Moldy Food: Feeding spoiled food to your hens is dangerous and can lead to severe health issues. For example, moldy bread contains fungal spores that cause a potentially fatal respiratory infection in birds called Aspergillosis.

❌ Don’t Use Medications as a Substitute for Proper Nutrition: Medications should be used as needed for illnesses and injuries but never as a replacement for a well-balanced diet.

❌ Don’t Neglect Egg Quality: Pay attention to your hens’ egg quality (the texture, color, shape, soundness, and cleanliness). Adjust your feed and care accordingly to ensure high-quality eggs.

❌ Don’t Stress the Hens: Minimize stressors in your hens’ environment. Chickens are prey animals; high stress levels can disrupt eating and egg-laying patterns. Protect your hens from parasites and predators, and provide a safe and calm coop for your hens to thrive.

Care and Feeding Tips for Layer Hens

Knowing the basic do’s and don’ts of layer hen feeding and care are essential for maintaining healthy and productive layer hens. By following these tips and learning about proper chicken care, you can maximize egg production and ensure your hens lead happy, healthy lives. Happy hens; healthy eggs!

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