What Is In Chicken Feed: Understanding the Essential Components for Healthy Poultry

If you’re raising chickens, whether as a backyard hobbyist or a commercial farmer, understanding what goes into your feathered friends’ feed is crucial. Chicken feed is formulated to provide all the necessary nutrients to keep your chickens healthy, productive, and happy. So, What Is In Chicken Feed?

Let’s break down the typical ingredients found in chicken feed and why each component is essential for the wellbeing of your chickens.

You may also want to read about the best chicken feed.

Core Components of Chicken Feed

1. Grains and Cereals

  • Corn: A primary source of energy, corn is high in carbohydrates. It’s easily digestible and appealing to chickens.
  • Wheat and Barley: These grains provide essential energy and protein. They also contribute to the texture and consistency of the feed.
  • Oats: Often included for their fiber content, oats help in the digestive process.
what is in chicken feed
What Is In Chicken Feed?

2. Protein Sources

  • Soybean Meal: A key protein source, soybean meal supports growth, egg production, and overall health.
  • Fish Meal: Sometimes included for its high protein content and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Meat and Bone Meal: These are another source of protein and also supply calcium and phosphorus.

3. Vitamins and Minerals

  • Calcium: Crucial for bone development and eggshell formation. Often added in the form of limestone or oyster shell.
  • Phosphorus: Works in conjunction with calcium and is vital for bone health and egg production.
  • Vitamin Mix: A blend of vitamins such as A, D, E, and B-complex is added to support overall health and vitality.

4. Fats and Oils

  • Vegetable Oil or Animal Fat: Added in small amounts to increase the energy content of the feed and to help absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

5. Additives

  • Enzymes: Aid in breaking down nutrients for better digestion.
  • Probiotics: Contribute to gut health, aiding in digestion and nutrient absorption.

Specialty Feeds for Different Life Stages

1. Starter Feed

  • Designed for chicks from hatching until about 6 weeks of age.
  • Higher in protein (around 20-24%) to support rapid growth.

2. Grower Feed

  • For chickens from 6 weeks to about 20 weeks of age.
  • Protein content slightly lower than starter feed (around 16-18%).
What Is In Chicken Feed?
What Is In Chicken Feed?

3. Layer Feed

  • For laying hens, typically starting around 18-20 weeks of age.
  • Contains around 16% protein but has increased levels of calcium for eggshell production.

4. Finisher Feed or Broiler Feed

  • Used for chickens raised for meat.
  • High in protein and energy to support rapid growth in broiler chickens.

Understanding the Labels

When choosing chicken feed, it’s important to read the labels carefully. Look for the breakdown of ingredients, protein content, and added vitamins and minerals. Organic and non-GMO feeds are available for those who prefer them.

Homemade Chicken Feed: A Growing Trend

Some chicken keepers opt to mix their own feed. While this allows for more control over the ingredients, it’s crucial to ensure that the homemade feed is nutritionally balanced. Consulting with a poultry nutritionist can be beneficial.


What Is In Chicken Feed? The key to a healthy and productive flock lies in understanding what you’re feeding them. A balanced diet, tailored to the specific needs of your chickens based on their age, purpose (egg laying or meat production), and overall health, is essential. By choosing the right feed and understanding its components, you’re laying the foundation for your chickens’ health, happiness, and productivity. Remember, a well-fed chicken is a happy chicken, and a happy chicken is a productive member of your backyard farm or commercial operation!

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