I’ve had several people ask me lately how much protein chickens need in their feed? There seems to be quite a difference of opinion. The amount of protein in commercial mashes varies a lot too. Well, I decided to do some research…
Baby chicks usually get started off on a starter mash that can have up to 20% protein for their fast growing little bodies. It is very important to feed them a quality feed and I even supplement my chicks with a mashed up egg yoke every day while they are small. When they are raised by a momma hen, she makes sure to find them as many bugs, worms, seeds, etc. as she can every day. You rarely find hen raised chicks with pasty butts or sickly looking.
Roosters also need a very high amount of protein if they’re servicing a number of hens every day, about 20%. They need less if they are just in the Roo pen waiting. The high protein will help the eggs their hens lay have a higher fertility rate. Fertile eggs mean lots of fuzzy little chicks.
Hens need lots of protein too, especially during the seasons when they are laying. Most layer mashes have 16% to 20% protein. My hens get every protein scrap I can find from my kitchen scraps and I even scramble eggs and make oatmeal for them occasionally. They love those treats even more in the winter when they can’t find much on their own. Hens also need extra calcium when they are laying lots of eggs. A good recyclable source is to grind up egg shells after drying them and mixing the shell in with their feed.
You will probably want to adjust your protein somewhere around the above ranges. Higher rather than lower might be a good rule of thumb. Extra protein is mostly used for energy rather than building tissues, so it won’t hurt the chickens to have a little extra, especially when it’s cold out or the hens are laying heavily.
The best way to provide extra protein is to let your chickens free-range. They will be outside looking for bugs, worms and seeds all day long and protein shortage won’t be a problem. You can even raise worms in a worm bed for your chickens or grow meal worms for them. This will especially help out in the cold months when bugs and seeds are harder to find and it’s not hard to do.
I’ve heard you can feed your chickens canned cat food before extra protein, but knowing what’s in those cans kind of makes me tend to stick to the traditional chicken proteins, like bugs and worms. Check out the video below to see some of our Easter Egger chickens enjoying some HUGE grub worms we found when splitting wood. It was like a steak dinner for them and some of those girls are greedy. Enjoy.