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The 8 Best Chicken Feeds For Your Backyard Flock

There is nothing more rewarding than raising your own chickens, whether that be for eggs, meat, or just pets!  And you can do it in your own backyard.

Or, if you’re anything like me, in your basement…don’t judge, but we currently have about 100 3 week-old Cornish Crosses in a basement brooder box, just waiting for the weather to get warm enough for them to go outside! Whoops.

Anyway.

Depending on the goals you have for your chickens, and what stage of life they are in, there are certain feeds that are going to be more beneficial to them than others. 

Raising chickens is an exciting adventure, and feeding them the best foods is important to their health. It’s time to figure out the best chicken feed options for your backyard flock!

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Benefits of Storebought Chicken Feed

best chicken feeds

Store bought chicken feed is the go-to option for many chicken owners, and for good reasons.  Buying chicken feed from the store helps to ensure that your chickens are getting all of the essential nutrients that they need.

With store bought feed, you can choose feeds that are specialized for certain situations.  For example, if your primary goal for your chickens is to lay eggs, you should buy a feed specialized for laying hens to provide them with specialized nutrients that help them lay eggs efficiently.  

Usually, those nutrients will include things like calcium, which helps to produce strong eggshells. 

Convenience is one of the largest deciding factors when it comes to buying store bought chicken feed, it can help put your mind at ease knowing your chickens are getting the nutrients they need. 

You won’t have to worry about figuring out appropriate nutrient ratios or buying separate ingredients yourself – everything will be done for you.

Alternatives to Buying Chicken Feed

best chicken feeds

There are many alternatives to buying chicken feed, but it is important to monitor the different nutrient levels going into their feed.  Chickens need a healthy balance of protein, calcium, grains, greens, grit, vitamin A, vitamin D, salt, and of course, water, to live healthy lives.  The different amounts of these nutrients can be tweaked for different situations.  

Chickens can, and will, eat nearly anything given to them, which makes it easy to give them your leftovers as an easy treat, but this shouldn’t be their primary source of food.  

Some of the most common alternatives to store bought chicken feed are: mealworms, fly larvae, dry corns, grasses and hays, and fruits.  The list of what chickens can eat is long, so focusing on the best sources of nutrients is important.

As a base food, there are good options such as corn, wheat, cooked rice, and oatmeal.  These foods have a lot of the nutrients that are found in store bought chicken feed and are essential to a chicken’s diet.  Although these foods are a good start, there are other nutrients that they need in addition. 

For protein, there are a lot of options.  I would recommend either mealworms or fly larvae. These will be some of the easiest foods for your chickens to eat for protein. 

There are other options such as dried meats and eggs, that are sometimes easier to get your hands on. This might especially be true if your chickens lay more eggs than you know what to do with! Just make sure all meat and eggs are cooked. When it comes to eggs, it’s important to cook them first so your hens don’t start eating their own eggs.

Certain seeds are other good sources of nutrients that can be added into your homemade chicken feed.  The most popular include: Sunflower seeds, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds.

A healthy amount of fruit can also help in your chickens’ diet, and they also make great treats!  There are few fruits that your chickens cannot have, some options for what they can have include: berries, cantaloupe, watermelon, and bananas. 

Many people opt to use fruit as a treat for their chickens, and adding it into their daily diet can be beneficial for them.  

One way to ensure your chickens are getting enough calcium in their diet is to add crushed egg shells back into their feed. This is a simple trick to help encourage healthy eggs.

You can also mix your own grain mixture for chickens. This can be a bit tricky and many people turn to alternatives like sprouted grains or fermented feeds to make things a bit easier.

8 Best Chicken Feeds

best chicken feeds

1. Best Organic Feed: Manna Pro Organic Layer Pellets

This organic chicken feed is a great option for the health-conscious chicken owner who wants the best food for their chickens.  The Manna Pro Organic Layer Pellets are a great transition feed when your chicks reach 16 weeks.  The feed provides 16% protein, which is a great amount for supporting laying hens’ nutrient needs.  

This feed is 100% USDA certified organic, uses non-GMO ingredients, contains no artificial colors or flavors, and has all US sourced ingredients. 

Pros:  

  • Pellet form is easy for the chickens to eat
  • USDA organic certified
  • High in protein

Cons:

  • Higher in price

2. Best Chick Starter: Healthy Harvest Non-GMO 22% Chick Starter Crumbles

You may not realize that your chicks are going to need a feed that is higher in protein to support growth.  To give your chicks a great start, try the Healthy Harvest Non-GMO 22% Chick Starter Crumbles.  

The 22% mentioned in the title is the percentage of protein that the feed provides.  It is recommended that chicks have a minimum of 20% protein in their diet, so the extra protein in this food will provide plenty of support for your growing chicks. 

In addition to the extra protein, this feed also contains essential amino acids that support healthy growth in chicks.  

Pros: 

  • Supports healthy growth for chicks
  • Easy for chicks to digest
  • Supports a healthy immune system

Cons:

  • Non-medicated

3. Best Layer Feed: Kaytee Laying Hen Diet

Here’s another great feed option for your laying hens.  The Kaytee Laying Hen Diet is designed specifically for supporting healthy weight and healthy eggs.  The feed provides 16% protein and is balanced with amino acids that help to support egg production.

This feed features added calcium that is going to help keep your eggshells strong, and not brittle.  Many chicken owners have to supplement their chicken feed with calcium, but you won’t have to worry about that with this feed. 

Pros:

  • Added calcium for strong shells
  • Contains marigold extract for rick colored egg yolk
  • Contains flaxseed for eggs high in Omega-3

Cons:

  • Contains some by-products

4. Best Meat Bird Feed: Purina Animal Nutrition Purina Flock Raiser Pellets 50 lb

If you are raising meat birds, growth is essential, and added nutrients can help your birds reach the desired weights.  This feed provides essential nutrients for every bird in your flock, and helps to support quick, but healthy, weight gain on your birds.    

This feed features prebiotics, probiotics, and yeast, which help to support immune systems and digestive health for all of your birds.  The smaller pellet shape of the feed is also easy for any bird to eat and digest.  

Pros:

  • Can be fed to all adult poultry
  • Contains essential amino acids
  • Supports immune system and digestive health

Cons:

  • Sold in bulk

5. Best Scratch Grain: Manna Pro Mixed Grain Scratch

Here is another feed that is great for mixed flocks.  The Manna Pro Mixed Grain Scratch provides a great source of energy for your birds and is perfect for adding a boost of energy on cold winter days. This scratch is a good option if you want to add some diversity into your flock’s daily feeding regimen.

Scratch is not designed to be the only food source for your birds, and should only be supplemented with other feeds that have the essential nutrients that poultry need for proper growth and health. This is a good scratch option for you to consider – but remember, everything in moderation!

Pros:

  • Great source for energy
  • Good for all poultry types
  • Adds diversity into feeding

Cons:

  • Not a complete source for nutrients

6. Best Grit: Manna Pro Poultry Grit

The manna Pro Poultry Grit is another great additive to your regular chicken feed.  This grit is made from crushed granite, and helps to support digestion.  This grit is safe to use with all classes of poultry, and can be fed regularly to maintain a healthy digestive system.  

Why grit? You’ll need grit if your chickens don’t have access to free range, either in a yard or in a chicken tractor , and need more grit for their digestion. If you’re letting your chickens roam freely, you probably don’t need grit – but for any chickens housed in any sort of confinement, it’s vital.

Regardless of what regular feed your chickens eat, adding a good poultry grit can be beneficial to your whole flock.  

Pros:

  • Helps with digestion
  • Safe for all poultry types, including other species of birds
  • No added colors or flavors

Cons:

  • Not a complete source for nutrients

7. Best for Sick Birds: Manna Pro Layer Probiotic Crumble

If your birds become sick, it is important to make sure you provide them with a feed that is high in probiotics to help them recover and remain healthy.  The Manna Pro Layer Probiotic Crumble is a good option, because it not only contains probiotics, but is also a complete source for nutrients.  

This feed features 16% protein to support laying hens and healthy egg production, and is easy for the chickens to digest.  

Pros:

  • Good for sick birds
  • Complete source of nutrients
  • Supports laying hens

Cons:

  • On the more expensive side

8. Best Value: Nutrena Country Feed Layer Pellets 50 lbs

If you have a large flock, and go through large amounts of feed quickly, you may be more interested in a feed that provides the best value for your dollar.  The Nutrena Country Feed Layer Pellets provide all of the essential nutrients that your chickens need, at an affordable price.  

With this feed, there is no need to add any supplements unless your flock has specific needs.  The feed contains 16% protein to support laying hens, and has vitamins and minerals added for strong egg production and healthy eggs.

Pros:

  • Affordable price
  • No supplements needed
  • Added vitamins and minerals

Cons:

  • No probiotics

Buying Guide

best chicken feeds

There are some specifics to consider when buying feed for your backyard flock to ensure you are providing the necessary nutrients for your chickens.

Laying vs. Meat Birds 

The first thing to consider when looking at chicken feed are the goals you have for your chickens.  Are you raising them to lay eggs, or as meat birds?  Laying hens and meat birds have different needs when it comes to feeds.  

Chickens that are laying eggs are going to need a feed that is high in protein, but not so high that they become overweight. Hens will also need feeds that have added calcium to help support healthy eggs and strong egg shells.  You may also want to consider feeds with flax seed for added omega-3s in your eggs.  

Meat birds grow quickly in a short amount of time, so making sure that they get the required nutrients is essential in their growth support.  Feed that is especially high in protein and nutrients will help your meat birds with their needed growth support.  

Supplements 

Some birds may need added support for their digestive system, or you may just want to provide them with some diversity in their feed.  Either way, there are supplemental feeds that you can add into their regular feed diet for desired outcomes.  

Some chicken owners like to add scratch into their chickens’ diet.  Chicken scratch helps with caloric intake and will increase the energy levels of your flock.  Scratch is generally something that your chickens enjoy eating, and makes a great treat.

For chickens that need some added support with their digestive system, a poultry grit may need to be added as a supplement to their regular diet.  Poultry grit is made from crushed rocks, it is insoluble, but helps to grind their food.  

There are other supplements that chicken owners may look for, and many of the feeds mentioned above include those supplements, such as calcium and probiotics.  Once you know which supplements are needed for your flock, you can make an informed decision of feed types.

Pellets vs. Crumbles

Although the shape of your chicken feed may not seem like an important decision, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.  

Pellets are generally the popular choice among chicken owners.  Pellets are an easy way to feed your chickens without making much of a mess.  Due to the compact nature of pellets, the food stays together until it is eaten by the chicken, keeping the feeding area clean.  Some chickens struggle to eat larger pellets, but some feeds have a micro-pellet option where the pellets are much smaller and easier to eat.  

Crumbled chicken feed can be a little messier, but is very easy for chickens to eat and digest.  Your chickens may even have more fun eating the crumbles, as this is a more natural way for them to eat. 

Some chicken owners who struggle to get their chickens to eat pellets may opt for the crumbles feeds.  Crumbled feeds may also be easier for chicks to eat starting off.  

A final option is mash. Mash is even messier than crumbles but again, is easier to digest. You’ll want a high-quality feeder if you plan on feeding mash. Don’t forget a good waterer, too!

Conclusion

best chicken feeds

Having your own backyard flock can be a fun and rewarding endeavor, but making sure your chickens are getting the proper nutrients is an important responsibility that should not be taken lightly.  

Lucky for you, there are a number of great options when it comes to feeding your chickens that contain the proper nutrients.  Now that you know about the necessary nutrients for chickens, you can make an informed decision on the best chicken feed for your backyard flock.  

What kind of food do you feed your chickens? Be sure to let me know in the comments – and while you’re at it, be sure to check out this post about the foods you should NEVER feed your chickens.

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Rebekah Pierce

I'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

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