What Do Chickens Eat – A Complete Guide

chicken diet

A chicken will eat practically anything that looks like food and fits in its beak. The good thing is that they’re not picky But you must  see to it that they eat the right chicken feed. Its better to build a coop and then feed them.

You eat what they eat. If your chickens get fed with only barley or corn, you’ll get a taste of it too in their eggs and meat.

Needless to say that variation in their diet improves the egg quality and keeps your fowl healthier in general.


Chicken diet is also season bound. In winter, when small bugs and insects are rare, I usually feed them a bit more corn and wheat and fish meal to compensate the protein levels .

In summer I try to give them as much green as I can. They can forage the garden for insects and worms themselves. They particularly love salad leaves, dandelion leaves and left over vegetables. Potato and carrot skins are also very popular among the flock.

You can mix your feed yourself or buy it at the animal store. But before you buy pre-mixed pellets, mash or grain mix for your chickens you must check what kind it is and what’s in it. If you’re still not sure, taste it. If it has a neutral taste, it’s probably all right.

In general, pre-ground mash or pellets will do, but if you’re keeping larger quantities of chicken, mixing your own feed might come a lot cheaper.

Note: Do not give  baby chicks the adult feed! They need a starter mash, of which there are several. Switch  to adult feed after 4 to 7 weeks.


Chickens are omnivores, they need proteins a much as we do. That is why fish meal is a common supplement in a chicken diet.

A real treat are worms and small insects. These are full of protein too. If you free-range your flock they will peck them out the earth themselves, but if you keep them in their run it’s nice to give them a treat from time to time.


Grit is crushed rock that chickens use as “teeth”. Basically, it helps chickens digest their feed. For run-kept fowl it’s good to sprinkle some over the run surface every couple of days. Free range chickens will find their own grit in the pasture. No need to feed them extra grit.

If you don’t want to waste your time on pondering on what to feed your chickens, it’s time to go to the store! Don’t buy the cheapest feed, it is usually full of milling byproducts and not very nutritious. Better to pay a bit more for good quality feed.

Your chickens will be just fine when fed only this. Just remember that giving them your food scraps and gardening waste is a small effort to keep happy chickens!