Maintaining optimal health and wellness in your chickens plays a huge part in how well your backyard flock will serve you.
The quality of the feed you provide for your hens is intrinsic to their well being.
- The right feed will:
- Enable your hens to grow healthily to adulthood
- Increase their natural lifespan
- Give them strong and healthy constitutions
- Handle hot and cold conditions
- Strengthen their immune systems
- Help prevent illness
- Promote optimal egg-laying
- Improve the quality of their eggs
- Lead to healthier chicks if you allow your hens to breed
What is in Chicken Feed?
- Cereals and seeds – wheat, barley, rye, sorghum, corn, flax seed meal.
- Protein – canola, sunflower, or soybean meal; bone, feather, or molasses fish meal; peas, lupins. Some even contain chicken meat by-products.
- Fat – rendered beef or pig fat; linseed, sunflower, sesame, soy, or palm oil.
- Vitamins/Minerals – including (but not limited to) sodium, phosphorus, calcium, amino acids, Lysine, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, niacin, and Riboflavin.
- Trace elements – selenium, copper sulfate, and others.
- Enzymes – added for gut health.
Chickens require proper, balanced, nutritional feed, as well as any treats you offer and foraging they are allowed to do so. They need starter/grower feed from birth, finisher feed from 12 weeks until they reach maturity (on average, age 18-20 weeks), and then layers Pellets for your egg laying hens.
The first question to consider is whether to opt for organic or non-organic feed.
What is Considered to be Organic Chicken Feed?
Organic chicken feed is produced through natural farming processes. It represents any chicken feed that has been grown without the use of any added herbicide, pesticide, antibiotic, hormone, GMO, or synthetic fertilizer.
By law, any chicken feed marketed as “organic” must contain grains and other ingredients that have been stringently grown without any kind of chemicals. This includes any animal parts – which incorporates what those animals themselves have been fed.
Seeds and grains must not be genetically modified, and non-organic micro-ingredients (e.g. salt, vitamins and minerals) but also be completely organic.
What is Considered to Be Non-Organic Chicken Feed?
Non-organic chicken feed is any commercial feed product that is not stringently marketed as being organic. It is easily sourced in local stores and may potentially contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Advantages and Disadvantages of Organic vs Non-Organic Feed
Environmental benefits – organically produced growing processes for chicken feed components are better for the environment.
- Health benefits – organic chicken feed benefits not only the chickens but also the humans and other animals who consume the meat and eggs.
- Safety – GMOs have been scientifically proven to potentially cause compromised immune function, organ damage, infertility, and faster ageing. They can also cause antibiotic resistance and allergic reactions. If GMOs are present in the feed, it may impact the chickens and those who consume their eggs and meat.
- Affordability – organic feed is considerably more expensive than regular commercial feed. This is due to supply limitations, picking and processing labor requirements, and government certifications. Conversely, non-organic feed is much more affordable.
In terms of the scientific evidence for organic over non-organic feed.
Thus far chickens fed commercial, non-organic feed seem to live lives that are just as happy and healthy as their organically fed counterparts.
Non-organic feed is more affordable, more readily available, and when combined with free-ranging to forage as well as healthy treats and supplementation with eggshell, oyster shell, and grit. Your chickens should enjoy a long, healthy lifespan and continue to provide quality fresh, nutritious eggs.
Organic compared to Non Organic Chicken Feed -Conclusion
The choice of how to feed your chickens is entirely yours. The higher quality the feed you provide, and preferably organic, it makes sense that your hens will be healthier. The eggs they produce will taste better and be more nutritious as well. But if you are not eating and living organically in all other respects, it makes little sense to focus on providing a fully organic diet for your hens.
The healthiest and happiest chickens, regardless of what type of feed they receive, are those hens who can free-range. This is because they can forage for insects, grubs, worms, grasses and naturally growing grains, and even small mice!
At the end of the day, what matters most is a balanced diet and overall care and attention. Choose what’s right for you and opt for the best quality feed you can afford.