chickens eating grassWhen raising chickens, it’s easy to just assume that everything they need is contained within some simple chicken feed. Sure, this helps supplement their diet pretty well, but can a chicken really survive off of that alone? Just what should a full diet contain? Let’s take a look at whether chickens need more, or if they can happily exist as vegetarians.

One aspect a lot of chicken owners wonder about involves eating grass. A lot of people just assume that all the pecking happening in grass is focused on finding bugs, but chickens do actually eat a fairly large amount of grass during a day if allowed to. When left to their own devices, chickens will consume about 30% of their total daily diet in grass, despite the thought that chickens can’t properly digest it (they can).

However, it’s just as easy to assume then that because chickens are so keen to eat grass that they don’t need anything else. While chickens eat enough grass that a small flock can essentially keep your yard nice and trimmed, they will become malnourished if that’s all they’re eating, particularly because grass doesn’t contain a lot of protein.

That’s where the bugs usually come in. A well-rounded chicken diet will allow said birds to peck and scratch over a large area of land, letting them eat grass, bugs, and various weeds and wildflowers as they see fit. This variety will cover most everything hens need to be able to produce the healthiest eggs and become nice and juicy for roasting, or just be healthy in general. Still, this alone isn’t the whole story.

As odd as it may sound, chickens need a handy amount of fish to really meet their protein needs. Don’t serve them any other meats, least of all poultry, but adding some fish meal now and then will boost their strength and overall health far above that of a purely feed or grass-fed chicken. Add in some grains to the mixture and you’re set with one, solid, complete diet for your happy poultry.

Failing to give your birds enough food will leave them lacking in certain areas, and all of that shows up in their eggs and their meat. A chicken suffering from malnutrition won’t be able to produce nearly as many eggs as one who has a healthy diet, and the eggs they do produce will be lower in overall quality than a standard chicken’s egg. The same goes for their meat as a fat, healthy hen makes for better eating than one who’s thin and sickly.

Remember to give your chicken plenty of space with grass and weeds, add some grain and fish meal to their daily feed, and naturally provide them with plenty of fresh water, and you’ll have a great flock for years to come!

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