Feed, by Kim Stoddart
Kim Stoddart takes a look at some of the most popular feed options for egg laying chickens
If you have ever spent time watching your hens, you will see that in addition to eating the layers pellets or grain you provide them with each day, they enjoy actively foraging for food. Whether it is pecking at grass or scratching the ground looking for bugs and goodness knows what else, they also love any spare produce from the veg patch that you can pass their way.
A favourite of mine would be the courgette or three that got (grew) away, transforming in marrow-esque proportions on the patch as I struggled to keep up with picking them. Chickens will happily munch away on these – using their beaks on the tougher exterior to get to the soft summer squash beneath. It is arguably entertainment as much as food. Likewise, any spare (bolted) salad leaves or spoiled fruit also go down extremely well, as do cabbages, herbs, tomatoes and much more besides.
Chickens will also often jump up in the air to catch flies and can take on (namely eat) creatures you might not have thought possible - small rodents for one. A friend told me that she saw one of her chickens eat a bird the other day, and it doesn’t surprise me. I adore keeping poultry, but I am under no illusion that if they were bigger than me they probably would bite the hand that feeds them (literally), given half the chance.
Instead, they also get to eat any slugs or cabbage white caterpillars that I have picked off the veg patch, which I tip into their enclosure before walking away to let them get on with it. I’m too squeamish to watch, but it is an eat-and-beeaten world, after all. And at least it is making some practical use of these nuisancemaking creatures on the veg patch. I should mention, however, that any black slugs go on the compost pile instead, as they are less of a threat than the others and they actually undertake a valuable role in helping to transform plant waste into gardener’s black gold.
Of course, alongside this bounty of natural smallholding fare, your feathered friends will need bought-in edibles as well. Here is a look at a few of the varieties that are widely available to buy…
FORAGERS: On the look-out for a bite to eat. Poultry enjoy actively foraging for food