What Do Chickens Eat? What My Flock Likes

Let's start with the basics. Do chickens prefer pellets or crumbles? A typical chicken diet is a layer diet so this is the great debate when you're choosing the right feed for the ladies.

Our birds prefer pellets. This is perhaps due to the texture of the pellet feed we give them every morning and evening. The preference will likely dictate the brand of chicken layer feed you end up buying for your birds. There are tons of brands and we like to buy from a local feed company.

Both pellets and crumbles include the same 38 essential nutrients laying hens require like amino acids, calcium, and vitamins A, D and E.

Crumbles are simply pellets broken into smaller pieces as some birds like a smaller particle size.

Starter-grower vs. layer feed 

Chicken Feed

Here are two brands of chicken layer feed. You can see that both look a little different. One has pellets and the other doesn't.

With that in mind, what all chicken keepers need to know is when to feed starter-grower feed and when to start feeding layer. It all depends on the age of your youngest birds.


  • This is the east rule: for layer chicks from day 1 through the first egg you need to feed a starter-grower feed. That means IF your chicks are integrated into the coop at some point with older birds or if they're being raised by a mama hen then all the birds need to be on starter-grower feed.


  • Starting at week 18 your birds should be on a layer feed. Feeding a layer feed too early can cause kidney damage to the young ladies. Layer feed has more protein.

Transition the new layer feed slowly.

Prebiotic and probiotic supplements are a great addition to the layer feed.


In addition to prebiotics and probiotics, oyster shells provide calcium, and grit help hens digest anything outside of the commercial feed. That said, these are the two major supplements we give to our birds. We also grind up leftover eggshells with a mortar and pestle and use that as the calcium supplement!  

Sometimes treats 

The rule is to keep treats to 10 percent of their overall diet.

We use Flock Blocks made by Purina. These are the greatest 'treat' and encourage the birds to peck at the block vs. each other when they're bored! It's made with whole grains and fortified with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

This is the single best boredom buster I've used with my flock of 20 and two roosters.

We put out a lot of squash and pumpkins as these are veggies they absolutely love. We're also a big fan of herbs as treats for the ladies.

Chicken feed options are varied but remember the 90/10 rule. You should only feed 10 percent of chicken treats as backyard chickens need to eat their feed. If your bird's free-range they will enjoy protein like bugs and insects too so remember they're also getting food just by scratching and pecking. Table scraps aren't great for the ladies. Feeding chickens earthworms are great as a snack for birds that are molting as they're high protein for the flock but you want healthy chickens so everything should be given with that in mind.

Grass clippings can cause sour crops so be careful and don't add that as a 'snack' to the chicken run. Different chicken breeds also may get heavy quickly so if you have big birds like Wyandotte birds refrain from kitchen scraps.

If you want fresh eggs daily you must consider healthy snacks like sunflower seeds, leafy greens, mealworms, blueberries, and watermelon but do not give them raw potato!

The better the diet the better quality the eggs!

Know someone who would like to add chickens to their flock? Tell us in the comments below!

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