A Beginner’s Guide to Feeding Your Backyard Chickens

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Feeding ChickensBackyard chickens make great pets. They are surprisingly intelligent and sociable. They are easy to care for. They eat pesky insects and table scraps, and they are a great source of food themselves, whether you raise them for eggs or meat. However, these birds need more than just table scraps and insects to be healthy and productive. Learn what to feed backyard chickens at each age and stage.


Chick feed comes in two types: mash and crumbles. They are equally beneficial. Vaccinated chicks should be given non-medicated feed. For birds that have not been vaccinated, medicated feed can guard against illness.

If your chicks will be meat birds, they’ll need a high concentration of protein in their diet. Choose a feed that is 22-24 percent protein, called “meat bird starter” or “broiler starter.” Chicks destined for laying should be given a lower protein feed, no higher than 20 percent.

Laying Hens

Chicks can be given starter feed until they lay their first egg. After that, they need extra calcium to create eggs with strong, healthy shells. Switch to calcium-enriched layer feed or supplement all-flock feed with ground oyster shell, limestone or eggshells. Non-layers, including meat birds and broody hens, should not be given layer feed or added calcium, as it can cause gout, kidney damage and other health problems.


Broilers, also known as meat birds, need extra protein right from the start to grow to a satisfying size for eating. Chicks should be given unlimited starter feed for three to four weeks, then switched to adult meat-bird pellets. Once they’ve graduated to adult food, allow them free access to unlimited feed for 12 hours a day, and then remove the feed for 12 hours. Meat birds need to consume a lot and will eat more feed each week as they grow.

Grit, Grains and Garbage

Chickens are omnivores and enjoy a wide variety of foods, including grains, fruits, vegetables, insects, and even snakes and lizards. They have a natural instinct for scratching, and grains can be scattered in the yard for a fun activity that yields a special treat. They also enjoy table scraps, chicken scratch and mealworms, though these snacks should make up no more than 10 percent of their daily calories.

While it’s ok to share your food with your chicks, some foods are toxic to them, including

  • Avocados
  • White potatoes
  • Tomato leaves
  • Apple seeds
  • Rhubarb
  • Onions
  • Chocolate
  • Fried foods

Fortunately, most kitchen scraps are perfectly safe for chickens. Stale, wilted and overripe foods are all acceptable; moldy food is not. Citrus fruits, garlic and asparagus won’t hurt your chickens, but they may taint the flavor of the eggs and should be limited.

Chickens also need grit to help them digest their food. If they are allowed to roam and scratch in an area with dirt, gravel or sand, this can satisfy that need. Otherwise, you may need to add grit to their feed or sprinkle some with their scratch.

Backyard chickens are easy to feed and easy to care for. If you’re ready to start a flock of your own, we can help you get started. Download our free guide to building your first chicken coop, then select a plan that suits your needs. You’ll be amazed at just how rewarding backyard chickens can be!

Save Money on Feeding Your Chickens

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httpswww.flickr.comphotoscskk6895555615We all want to save money. Part of the reason some of us raise chickens is to have healthy eggs or meat for cheaper than we can buy at the store. But buying feed can cost a lot more than you expected. And honestly, some of the feed you get is just like buying junk food for your birds: it’s full of cheap stuff to fill them up, doesn’t provide a lot of vitamins and still costs a lot. Kind of like getting your kid that $4.00 box of breakfast cereal (hello, Cocoa Pebbles – I’m talking to you!).

First, let’s remember chickens are omnivores so they eat meat and vegetables. When you let them free range they’re eating bugs and grasses (and sometimes your strawberry patch but that’s another story…).

Just like with your kids you need to make sure treats come after a balanced meal and don’t fill their little bellies up enough to replace the protein and calcium they need in their diets to make eggs or meat and maintain their overall health. Ideally (and this is according to the “experts”) leftovers should never be more than 20% of their whole diet and should be portioned out so it’s only what they can finish within 20 minutes.

Now…let’s go back to us real life poor folks. I will pay for a decent feed for my egg layers – I don’t want junk in there so I look for something that doesn’t have by-products or anything I can’t identify near the top of the ingredient list. However, I can’t afford to pay for organic feed either. So, I’m looking for a reasonable compromise.

httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa2.0Kids Won’t Eat It? Try the Chickens

To start with, you can obviously feed them your family’s leftovers. Pretty much anything goes here as long as it’s not spoiled food. You shouldn’t give them things high in fat, sugar or salt because (again, just like your kids) it’s gonna fill them up without providing nutrition. And their bodies are a lot smaller than ours so a little can have a big impact. That said, I’m guilty of giving my birds leftover birthday cake (it was going to get thrown away!). So we don’t have to be the food police but do use common sense: obviously, I’m not giving them cake every day.

Any scraps you don’t eat, are perfectly fine to give them, including chicken. You should also include any of the scraps you create from preparing fruits and vegetable. They can have the peels and the bad spots (as long as there’s no mold). Keep a bowl, small bucket, disposable foil pan – whatever works for you – in your kitchen and make a habit of throwing all your scraps and plate scrapings into it. Stick it in the refrigerator and feed them some every day.

If you have more eggs than you can use, cook them up and feed them back, shell and all. Just crush them up so they don’t recognize them and end up becoming egg eaters. If you can get yogurt or any other fermented dairy product cheap, I’m a big believer in the benefits this brings to chickens. I’m not talking about the Yoplait stuff with the sugar and flavors added but the plain yogurt that contains live active cultures. I start my chicks on it and swear by the benefits. 

chickens-874507_640What They Can (and Can’t) Eat  

The only things you have to completely avoid are banana peels, avocado peels, coffee grinds (use those in the garden instead), green tomatoes, uncooked beans and chocolate. Yes, it is okay to feed them cooked poultry although some people find it a bit creepy. In fact, any cooked meat, even on the bone is fine; just throw away the bones when they’re done so you don’t risk attracting rodents.

If you’re a hunter, you can feed your birds anything your family doesn’t eat. I’d say the same if you fish but just watch because “they say” that eggs and meat can take on the taste of what they’ve eaten. I’ve always fed my birds a LOT of garlic and no one’s ever said, “These eggs/meat taste garlicky”. But maybe it hasn’t been enough to affect that. I don’t know how much is “too much” but if you have extra fish (or fish scraps) go ahead and feed them as a good source of protein and minerals, especially omega 3.

If you have a good sized flock, you may want to look into getting scraps from a local restaurant, deli, grocery, co-op or farmer’s market. One great idea I’ve heard is asking for the leftover pulp from juice bars (think of the nutrition there!). The trick though, is to be able to use these up before they go bad. Some businesses can be too overeager and end up giving you what should have gone in the garbage – spoiled, rotten, moldy food which, same as if you ate it, will make your chickens sick. So the responsibility falls on you to go through those scraps and make sure they’re safe. If you do make a partnership with a business, you have to keep up your end of the agreement to pick up the food on the set day and time. This can be beneficial but can also end up making more work for you as well. Weigh it out carefully or maybe see if a friend will split it with you if there’s too much for you to use.

DSC03397Add in Vitamins – Cheaply

Another trick is stretching your feed by adding other vitamin-rich things to it, like sunflower seeds, whole or rolled oats, whole wheat, or millet. Check with your local feed store or co-op and then figure if it saves you money to supplement with these. You can also feed them as “scratch” – toss them on the floor of the coop or run or outside and they’ll have a good old time pecking for them. And by the way, make sure your feed is pellets rather than crumbles; they’ll waste a lot less.

Plant a little extra in your garden (or start a garden if you don’t have one) of the high producing things like squash and give the leftovers or the ones that are too big to the chickens. If you have anything with a hard outer rind, make sure you cut it in half for them to get at the inside. Hit up your friends who garden as well – everyone is sick of zucchini after a while and they might be happy to find someone to unload a few to! Greens and turnips are also good choices to plant. Kale will winter over plus you can cut it and it will grow back as will a lot of other greens. You can’t go wrong though with greens, melons and squashes. As an added benefit, during the hot weather, the melons will help cool them down and the greens provide them with entertainment, year-round. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are good cheap fillers, too.

9303178020_531542966e_nTake Them Out to Eat

Let your birds free range, if they can do it safely, even if it’s just for a short time every day while you supervise (and laugh at them. I promise, you’ll enjoy it!). If not, toss them your weeds and grass clippings (as long as they’re not sprayed with pesticides, of course) or consider a movable coop.

And think of your chicken run as a way to help, too. A lot of the “chicken experts” point out a dirt chicken run is bad: it ends up completely covered with droppings and becomes a breeding area for disease. Instead, cover it in a thick mulch (leaves, hay, straw, grass clippings, wood chips) and the area stays cleaner, the droppings turn into compost which then give you worms and other insects for your chickens to eat. Plus they’ll be much happier with an area to scratch in.

A lot of people I know feed their flocks cat or dog food because it’s high in protein and you can get it cheaper than chicken feed. Chances are you’re trading off more junk for the lower price. Something very important to consider is that pet food is not made for animals we’re going to eat – it’s got meat in it, usually in the form of “animal by-products” (could be bones, feathers – who knows?). And this could carry disease. If anyone remembers “mad cow disease” that’s how it began. Better safe than sorry.

And don’t forget to always feed oyster shell separately for the calcium laying hens’ need. Otherwise, they’ll tend to overeat their feed to make up for the calcium loss and cost you more in the long run.

And For Those Who Want to Experiment… silkworm-931555_640

I’ve read a lot of stuff about how you can completely do away with store bought feed. So for those of you with more ambition, here are some interesting resources you may want to check out:

Harvey Ussery has been around for years advocating the “grow your own feed” idea. He’s pretty scientific in his research: http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Feeding.html

Justin Rhoades is more of a newcomer to the chicken movement but he’s got plenty of ideas you may not have thought of (like growing your own maggots): http://theprepperproject.com/feeding-chickens-without-buying-feed/

Good information from a farmer who’s been doing it for years: http://www.sustainablechicken.com/2009/04/30/an-interview-with-bob-cannard/

Fermenting your chicken feed: http://countrysidenetwork.com/daily/poultry/feed-health/how-fermenting-chicken-feed-can-benefit-your-flock/

Using Sea Buckthorn: http://countrysidenetwork.com/daily/poultry/eggs-meat/what-to-feed-chickens-more-healthier-eggs-seabuck/

Using Comfrey for chickens: http://www.coescomfrey.com/use.html

Sprouting grains for chickens: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2014/02/sprouting-grains-for-chickens-fodder.html

Growing fodder for your chickens: http://www.fresheggsdaily.com/2014/02/growing-sprouted-fodder-for-your.html

And some of our older posts on feeding:


There’s a lot of ways you can use to save some money when feeding your flock. Let us know what’s worked for your flock.



Busting Chicken Myths

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I’d like to bust some of the chicken myths I’ve heard folks tell me before. On the left are the things I’ve heard and then on the right I bust the myth with modern fact and explain why the myth isn’t the best for this particular case.


‘My grandpappy used to just dunk those chickens in turpentine or gasoline when they had mites and lice. That fixed ‘em right up!’

Yeah, I’ll bet it fixed the chicken right up. I’m sure it did also kill the mites or lice involved. Aside from being a literal walking fire hazard for a few minutes to an hour, dunking chickens in gas or turpentine is toxic to all involved. What you put on your skin gets absorbed so eggs wouldn’t be safe to eat for days. If you’re keen to use petroleum products, try Vasoline instead!

‘My grandma said that you have to have a rooster with the hens to get them to lay.’

Nope. Hens will lay all on their own. No rooster needed unless you want baby chicks. Even I used to think that roosters stimulated hens to lay more often, but I recently read that it is a myth. After doing some numbers on my own coops and compared rooster to rooster-free ones, I discovered it really is a myth. Which is a good thing for folks considering urban coops where roosters are usually forbidden.

‘Granny fed ‘em dog food. It always worked for her. We ate those eggs and we were fine! Don’t need no stuck up, city-folk… mumble-mumble…’

Dog food is not something chickens should eat on a regular basis as it is not formulated for a chicken’s nutritional needs and can make them ill after a while. I wouldn’t worry if the chickens get a few bites of your dog’s kibbles, but don’t actively feed it to your chickens. Aside from that, processed pet food is awful for just about anyone’s health. Would you really want to eat eggs from chickens who eat dog food? Most of it is made in China, where health standards are very low and a lot of profit is made by greased palms who look the other way. Anyone remember the scandal where melamine was found in dog food and baby formula?

‘We’ll just use the chicken poop straight from the chicken. Worked great for my PawPaw.’

I doubt it. I think PawPaw probably aged his chicken poop on a compost heap first before using it in the garden. Otherwise, it would burn all the plants up and he’d have a brown veggie patch.

‘We always used a light to keep chickens laying all year long. Never had any problems when I was growing up so we still do it now. The chickens are just fine.’

This one is kind of a personal bone with me. Again, I don’t believe that tradition is always right, but nature usually is (not all the time, but that’s Natural Fallacy and we can talk about that later). This is sort of a reverse example of Granny’s wisdom because if Granny had been around 120 years ago she wouldn’t have even had lights. Whereas most Grannies were born in the 40’s or 50’s and post-post-industrialization. Using lights goes way against nature. With chickens I believe the hens involved will have a shorter life, but I don’t have hard evidence on that one yet. I do know that most factory farms run through a hen as hard as they can, don’t let them molt sometimes, and perhaps this is why using lights bothers me so much. Just like keeping bees awake 24/7 with lights so they can keep producing, it’s plain wrong. Humans should be the keepers and caretakers of animals. Forcing production is not caring for our animal brethren. Every farmer has to make a personal decision about this. I strongly recommend a lot of research if you choose to use lights with your hens.

‘My granny always bought the brown eggs from the store. Said they were healthier. So I reckon I should get a brown egg layer!’

Nope, sorry. No difference between brown and white or any other color eggs.

‘Eggs are bad for you. Everyone knows they’re full of cholesterol!’

Even our own wonderful USDA has finally twigged to the fact that food sources of cholesterol do not raise blood cholesterol levels. Like much of dear Granny’s wisdom, it’s 1950’s science for a 21st century world. Even most doctors are estimated to be 17 years behind on current science discoveries.



Winter Feed Alternatives II

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I thought this was a wonderful video that demonstrates a very simple way to fresh greens for your flock over the winter. They get fresh growing plants for very inexpensive and you get happy chickens and some very tasty eggs.

Just be careful of what seeds you use. I’d ensure that they’re not chemically treated or GMO.

Winter Feed Alternatives Part I

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In the winter time, folks are always looking for ways to cut the feed bill down. You can make your own feed and that helps significantly. But then you know chickens really want at some fresh stuff, too.

I’m going to spend the next couple of posts talking about this subject and I invite you all to add in your own ideas for winter feeding.

How to Winterize Your Chicken Waterer

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Hey folks, came across this cool little video. I’ve been fielding questions via email for a few weeks about this so I thought I’d post a video since this seems to be a popular topic.

Do you have anything you’d like to know? Email me or comment below and I’ll try to find an answer if I don’t know from experience.

Homemade Chicken Feed (You Can Do It. Yes YOU!)

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Those of us who are extra picky about what goes into our bodies (especially via our chickens) have probably played around with the idea of making our own chicken feed.

Ideally, chickens deserve pasture and plenty of it. Rooting around for bugs, worms, and the spare blade of grass makes them happy and healthy, which in turn makes us the same. But when the sunlight goes dim and the nights lengthen, the blades of grass usually shrivel and turn brown. Those lovely little insects and worms get more difficult to find since they’re further underground, which makes our chickens sad.

Or perhaps you don’t even HAVE pasture land for your chickens! That’s a common problem for urban farmers. The ¼ acre per hen goal isn’t always possible.

Then there’s costs to consider. Trying to purchase organic, non-GMO feed without corn or soy can be a nightmare. If you aren’t lucky enough to be able to purchase it from your local buying club via Azure Standard, then you have to mail order it. The shipping often costs as much as the feed itself.

A frugal person with a DYI attitude will turn to making their own feed. The benefits are numerous. Cheaper, better for your chickens, and you can even add supplemental herbs to the feed to increase nutrition and prevent parasites.

First things first, keep your weeds.

Do you have nettles overgrowing patches of your yard? Dandelions? Alfalfa grass (avoid the GMO variety of this). What about that pest to all farmers, pigweed (or lambsquarters as they’re also called)? A great solution is to let them grow tall, harvest them, and feed them to your chickens. With lambsquarters, the chickens don’t have much of a chance in the early spring because I beat them to the punch and eat at least half of them myself. They are a darned tasty substitute for creamed spinach!

Later in the fall months of course, weeds don’t taste as good for human consumption. This is prime time for letting the chickens at them, as well as storing them up for the winter months. After you harvest, simply hang them up to dry and grind them for a supplement. These are all ‘weeds’ that happen to be very nutrient dense. The seeds of lambsquarters are even called ‘fat hen’ in some places, and for good reason. Even the Romans would make cakes from those nutritious seeds to eat on their long marches.

SOME of the wonderful weeds that may grow in your yard near the flock:

  • lambsquarters

  • nettles

  • dandelions

  • comfrey

  • plantain

  • cleavers

  • mint

  • mullein

  • catnip

  • wormwood (great for worms, who’d have thought!)

Until you can harvest your weeds, you can purchase bags of nettle and dandelion from places like Mountain Rose Herbs. They’re fairly cheap and you can get huge bags for not that much. A one pound bag is enormous and will last you all winter for most smaller flocks.

Recipe for homemade chicken feed:

6 cups oat groats
4 cups hard red wheat
4 cups rye
2 cups black oil sunflower seeds
2 cups soft white wheat
2 cups split peas
2 cups flax seeds
1 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup kelp granules
3 TB sucanat (molasses granules)
2 TB garlic powder
1/2 TB cayenne pepper powder
½ cup fennel seeds
1 cup dried nettle leaves
1 cup dried dandelion leaves

I generally give the grit and such separately, but throw in as much as you like if you add it directly to the feed.

The garlic and cayenne in this will help prevent internal and external parasites, including worms. The nettle and dandelion leaves will add extra nutrients, as will the kelp. Not only that, but the fennel seeds are enjoyable for the chickens AND they boost egg production.

You may have to tweak this recipe for your own flock. Some flocks aren’t partial to peas, for example! Maybe they want something else and you need to find another protein source. But this is a good standard layer feed. If you want to add some hot water and cook it up for them as a mash, they’d probably love it even more. Especially in the winter months.

If you’re looking for resources, try Azure Standard for grains. Mountain Rose Herbs tends to carry all the other things at very reasonable prices and great quality. I’ve even ordered bulk from Whole Foods of all places and it was quite reasonable. Generally WF gives you 10% off if you purchase a ‘case’. They usually just charged me what it cost them to purchase the bags of grains or whatever else I purchased.

For a good starter blend, take the recipe above and remove the cayenne and reduce the garlic by half. Take out the nettle leaves as well since chicks don’t need that much calcium. Add 2 cups of lentils to the batch. Grind it all up so it’s a fairly homogeneous crumble that can be eaten by chicks. For grower, do the above but also remove half the split peas and make it a bit more chunky so they can have fun with it. Simple enough to do.

The protein in the first formula is about 18%, the starter formula is 19.8% approximately, and the grower feed version is about 17% give or take. If you want to lower the protein content you can. It depends on your flock’s needs. I found a really great calculator tool here.

And if you’re not quite sure how to figure out the percentages of protein to overall calories, there’s an easy formula for it. Find your grams of protein and times it by 4. Then divide protein by total calories, then times that all by 100. So it would look something like this:

731 grams of protein * 4 = 2,924

2,924 / 14,771 total calories = .197955 * 100 = 19.79% protein

With luck, you can not only use the above homemade formula for your chickens, but you now have the confidence to do this on your own!

Why Is Soy And Corn Not Good For Chickens (Or Humans)?

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First it was butter. It started ‘the health war’ as I like to think of it.

Butter is bad!

No wait, butter’s fine but margarine is bad!

No, we retract that. Today margarine is all right but butter is the root of all evil.

Technically, butter and margarine are both bad and you should only eat olive oil.

Butter’s okay now, but you should really eat more olive oil!

Wait! Olive oil is fine as long as you don’t heat it! Try coconut oil if you want to heat it up! 

Does any of this sound familiar to ya’ll?

I figured out some time ago that there will never be ‘perfect’ foods for the human body. Paleo eating comes close, but I also think micro-evolution in humans moves quicker than people realize and some people can eat more modern food like grains with no ill effects. Or perhaps only some grains.

There are a couple of foods that unfortunately I’d say 80% of the population just shouldn’t eat even if they’re organic. If they’re NOT organic then that goes to 100%.

Corn and soy.

Two foods that are in 90% of all processed foods and almost all chicken feed. It is worth your time to make a corn-free/soy-free chicken feed or purchase this from a reputable company.

I can go on at length as to why GMO foods and corn and soy are not foods that most humans should eat, but I’d prefer to save my breath and let you see the neat charts and hear from the experts. When watching this I’d like for you to keep four things in mind:

    – I don’t believe in scaring people into doing things, but at the same time this is scary and people need to be aware!

    – What your chickens eat is what YOU eat

    – I don’t have a political agenda and I try to stay neutral here. Mostly because I think they’re all pretty darn corrupt so please don’t view this as a political statement

    – 50 years ago, doctors were promoting cigarettes as healthy and safe


Abridged Version of Genetic Roulette


A Guide to Feeding Chickens

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In order for them to live up to their full potential, your backyard chickens must eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet.  Layers need the right kind and amount of feed to lay quality eggs. Broilers need the right kind and amount of feed to gain weight in a healthy way.  This is slightly more complicated than merely picking up a bag of feed at your local farm supply store.  Chickens can benefit greatly from foraging as well as from some table scraps. Other table scraps are toxic to chickens and if your birds are given these common items with their daily meal, it’ll ruin your day. How can you know just what to feed your flock?

Type and Amount of Feed Changes Over Time

Chick starter feed, with a protein level of 20 to 22%, is required for chicks from hatching until they are 6 weeks old. After that, pullet grower feed is the way to go. This has 14-16% protein and you feed this to your layers until they are about 20 weeks old. After 20 weeks and for the duration of your chicken’s life, feed them layer feed. Grains like corn or barley can be substituted for part of your layer feed.

How much should you feed your birds? Resist the urge to feed too much. While some backyard farmers prefer to leave out a constant supply of food, this is really not the healthiest choice for your birds. Feed several times a day and not in between. This will also reduce the risk of attracting pests like rats and mice. Young chicks will eat about 2 to 2.9 lbs of chick starter feed for their first six weeks. For the entire pullet phase, your growing chicks will eat a total of 12-13 lbs of feed. Layers then consume 1.8 to 2.4 lbs of feed each week for the remainder of their lives. Like people, there will naturally be periods when your birds want to eat a bit more or a bit less.

Broilers are different. From hatching to six weeks, a growing broiler can be expected to consumer 30-50 lbs of broiler starter feed. Then, from six weeks until slaughter, they’ll consume another 16-20 lbs of broiler finish feed. Talk to knowledgeable staff at your local farm supply store to find just the right feed for your flock and for advice on feeding should you have any questions.

Scraps—To Feed or Not to Feed

Table scraps alone are not a well balanced diet for your chickens, but they can be a wonderful treat if fed in moderation. Many sources suggest waiting until your birds are 3-4 months old before you begin feeding them table scraps because before that they desperately need the high protein levels found in chicken feed in order to grow and develop properly. Most vegetables, both cooked or raw, are perfectly safe to feed your chickens and offer some great nutritional value too. Bread, grains, oatmeal, cooked meats, and most fruits are safe too. Chickens love table scraps!

Don’t throw your flock every single kitchen scrap you have, though. Raw potato skins are toxic to chickens. Avocado skins and pits can be fatal too, as can chocolate.  Garlic and onions won’t hurt your birds but can seriously affect the taste of your eggs. As a rule avoid giving your chickens processed foods, greasy foods, spoiled or rotten foods, or raw meat. Got it?

Foraging for Healthier Eggs and Meat

One great benefit that free-range chickens reap is the ability to forage for plants, insects, and worms. This means added nutrients. Birds allowed to forage are believed to produce healthier, better quality eggs and meat. Still, these birds require a healthy diet of chicken feed and can also benefit from scraps.  Foraging will probably have more benefits for your backyard than for your chickens, but it is still highly beneficial.

You’re Raising Broilers— But Do You Know the Finer Points of Chicken Meat?

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Photo by: U.S. Department of Agriculture

If you have the space available, raising chickens for meat is an inexpensive and easy way to provide your family with the healthiest possible poultry. A healthy diet, exercise, and sunlight does a bird good. Not only are the birds healthier, but organically raised chickens are fed organic feed, free from the pesticides and chemical fertilizers their factory counterparts dine on. Your backyard birds won’t be on a constant diet of antibiotics either. Your poultry will be less likely to be infected with food-borne-illness causing pathogens, your birds will grow to be leaner and meatier due to exercise and free movement, and your meat will taste better too. What isn’t there to love?

Roasted, broiled, grilled, or fried, chicken is an amazingly versatile meat. Dark meat or light? It’s a matter of preference. One is not truly superior to the other, although there are some nutritional differences. While they have nearly the same amount of calories and protein, light meat is slightly less caloric (21 calories less, according to the US Department of Agriculture Database). Dark meat has twice the amount of saturated fat but they both contain vitamins  B and A and 4% of the recommended daily allowance of thiamin.  Dark meat has double the riboflavin as light meat while light meat contains more niacin. As you can see, both have their benefits. While white meat may be the healthiest choice for the cholesterol conscious, neither is bad for you. It’s really a matter of what one prefers. Americans tend to prefer white meat, while in some Asian countries it is dark meat that is desired.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast is an excellent part of a low-fat, healthy diet. Why? Low in saturated fat, high in protein, and vitamin rich, there aren’t many other meats out there that have so much to offer. A serving of chicken has fewer calories than a serving of beef as well as fewer grams of saturated fat and cholesterol. There’s a reason that nutritionists say to avoid red meat and choose chicken instead. It’s better for you. Raising your own chickens will provide you with the healthiest possible chicken meat. Remember, quality food, space to roam, and sunshine create a great chicken. The healthier the environment, the healthier the resulting meat.

Whether you’re simply considering raising broilers (meat chickens) or whether you already have a flock, backyard farming is an enjoyable and hugely rewarding hobby. Do your research, find the breed that’s right for you, and enjoy.