What is the best food for chickens?

chicken food

Choosing the right feed for your chickens is essential for ensuring their health. Firstly, you need to consider the age of your chickens and what chicken food is appropriate for their life stage: 

Chick Starter Feed / Chick Crumb:

This should be given from day one up to around 6-8 weeks of age. It is high in protein (18-20%) to support rapid growth. Chick crumb is as it sounds, a crumble like texture to make it easy for small beaks to peck. At this stage, typical pellets would be too large for them to consume.  If your chicks are just eating chick crumb they will not need any grit at this stage as the feed is easy to digest. 

    Grower Feed:

    After the initial 6-8 weeks, you can transition to grower feed, which has slightly less protein (around 15-18%) but is still balanced for growing birds. This is usually fed until they are about 18 weeks old. Growers pellets tend to be slightly smaller than typical layers pellets. When your growers start foraging this is the time to introduce grit to help them break down grasses, seeds and herbage etc. It is important to offer only insoluble grit, sometimes called ‘chick grit’ as it is in small granules to suit their size. At this age they should not have mixed grit products as they do not need the extra calcium from oyster shell, and too much calcium could actually harm them. 

      Layer Feed:

      Once the chicks reach around 18-20 weeks of age and are close to laying age, you can transition them to layer feed. Layers feed has higher levels of minerals, including calcium for egg laying, and slightly less protein – usually 16 – 18%. Layers feed can be in the form of pellets, crumb or mash and the choice is your personal preference. Pellets tend to be less messy to feed, with less waste.  From 18 – 24 weeks your hens will be ‘point of lay’ and at this stage they will benefit from a mixed grit product such as Gastro Grit. Gastro Grit provides insoluble grit to aid digestion, along with oyster shells for calcium. There are also lots of other ingredients included to support the health of laying hens. 

        Providing the right feed at each stage of development is crucial for the health and well-being of your chickens. As your chicks transition from one stage to the next, make changes to to their diet gradually. As you move from chick crumb to growers pellets for example, allow about a week to gradually mix in the growers pellets to the chick crumb so they can adjust to their new feed. 

          Always ensure they have access to fresh water and feed appropriate for their age.

          Can Chicks have layers feed? What is the best feed for chicks?

          what feed is best for chicks.

          Chicks should not be fed layers pellets because these pellets are formulated specifically for laying hens and contain high levels of calcium, which can be harmful to young chicks. Instead, chicks require a specially formulated chick starter feed that has the appropriate balance of nutrients necessary for their growth and development.

          Key reasons why chicks should not eat layer pellets:

          1. Calcium Levels: Layers pellets have high calcium levels to support eggshell production in laying hens. Excessive calcium can cause kidney damage and other health issues in chicks.
          2. Protein Content: Chicks need a higher protein content for growth compared to what is found in layers pellets. Chick starter feed (Chick Crumb) typically contains around 18-20% protein, while layer pellets usually have around 16-18%.
          3. Nutritional Balance: Chick starter feed is specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of growing chicks, providing the right balance of vitamins and minerals.

          Recommended Feed Types for Chicks:

          1. Chick Starter Feed / Chick Crumb: This should be given from day one up to around 6-8 weeks of age. It is high in protein (18-20%) to support rapid growth.
          2. Grower Feed: After the initial 6-8 weeks, you can transition to grower feed, which has slightly less protein (around 15-18%) but is still balanced for growing birds. This is usually fed until they are about 18 weeks old.
          3. Layers Feed: Once the chicks reach around 18-20 weeks of age and are close to laying age, you can transition them to layers pellets or mash.

          Providing the right feed at each stage of development is crucial for the health and well-being of your chickens. Always ensure they have access to fresh water and feed appropriate for their age.

          New Defra Chicken Registration

          defra chicken registration

          You must register your flock by the Autumn!

          Have you seen the new Defra legislation requiring all chicken keepers to register their flocks? The new laws come into force on the 1st September for Scotland, and the 1st October for England.

          We have filled out the form for our flock, and here are a few things we have learnt:

          1 – It is confusing at first because there are two options – Compulsory for those who keep more than 50 birds, and Voluntary for those who keep less than 50. If you register your garden flock before 1st October, you need to choose the ‘voluntary’ option – even though it will soon be compulsory! This threw me at first.

          2 – If you just have a few hens that you keep at home in your own garden as pets the form is pretty quick and simple to fill out. It starts to get complicated if you don’t own the land, if you keep chickens in more than one place, and if you look after the chickens but don’t actually own them… Names and addresses of all the owners and locations need to be completed. Also, if you keep some birds for meat or breeding to sell there are more boxes to tick. But if it is just you, at home with a few hens kept as pets it is pretty simple.

          3 – Once you have completed the form, you have to either print it and post it to Defra, or scan it in and email it. This is a bit of a nuisance as it would be so much quicker if it could be submitted direct!

          Like it or loath it, this is something that ALL poultry and bird keepers are required to do – in fact, all birds that have access to the outside, including birds of prey, ostriches, peacocks, ducks, etc…

          Learn More:

          To find the registration form and learn more, here is a link to Defra

          New Keepers Poultry Pack

          If you are new to keeping chickens, the Poultry Pack is just what you need! Full of information, samples and discount codes. 12 British companies have got together to form a ‘poultry alliance’. We all share the same values, helping to keep small flocks and pet chickens happy and healthy. The Poultry Pack is available to order via the Nestera website and features the following fabulous companies and products:

          Order your Poultry Pack here

          click on the company names to be taken directly to their websites to learn more.

          Bury Green Poultry is run by Claudia Audley who specialises in chicken keeping consultancy; advising chicken keepers on how to keep their flocks happy and healthy. Claudia has over 25 years’ experience in chicken keeping and offers lots of tips and advice online, please see her website for more info.

          The Little Feed Company: We’ve included a sample of Super Seeds our delicious blend of seeds and cereals to promote condition, good health and glossy feathers. These seeds are really tasty so it is great for taming new chickens too!

          ECOnourish Live Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Calci Worms)
          Pamper & protect your flock whilst stimulating their natural instincts. Scientifically proven to support overall health and wellbeing, reduce stress, improve plumage, and boost gut health and immunity.

          BEC Poultry have included one of the recycled cate cups. These are suited to a wide range of purposes including holding feed, grit and water. Very easy to use and clean. Suitable for Poultry, Game Birds and most small pets.

          Westgate Labs is a family business founded in 1999. The laboratory offers a quick, easy to use, great value postal worm count service that enables poultry keepers to use wormers reponsibly for their flock by minimising worm resistance. Their leaflet includes fascinating photos plus a 20% off code.

          Pet Remedy natural calming, use the wipe when travelling and settling into a new home. Gently wipe on the chicken’s chest or hang nearby.
          Clinically proven blend of valerian, vetiver, basil and clary sage essential oils. 

          Verm X Protect your hen’s intestinal hygiene without using pharmaceuticals. Verm-X® Daily Plus formula uses a blend of herbs and spices to support poultry health naturally, including Astragalus for antiviral properties PLUS Dandelion for improved digestion.

          Nestera is the largest sustainable coop company in the world as all our coops are made from 100% recycled plastic. We have included a hard rubber egg which when placed in your hen’s nestbox, will encourage them to lay in the desired place. All our coops are packed with poultry science with birds welfare first and foremost.

          Libby Syddall is a poultry consultant who specialises in back garden poultry. She supports companies to provide the right products and information for this sector. Libby is a qualified poultry medications advisor as well as a member of the British Veterinary Welfare Association. She has almost 20 years experience with chickens, ducks and turkeys and uses her knowledge to support keepers all over the world.

          Aqueos is a UK Manufacturer of Eco Friendly Disinfectants and a range of First Aid Products

          Allen and Page Smallholder Range: Using only the very finest ingredients, the Smallholder Range provides well-balanced feeds designed for animals being raised more naturally. We pride ourselves on making natural feed without, artificial growth promoters or artificial yolk pigmenters. Our mill is totally drug free – no antibiotics, cocciostats or growth promoters.

          Collins Nets is a family owned and run company and has been for over 35 years. Collins Nets specialise in the manufacture and supply of nets for the Game Rearing, Poultry Keeping, Fisheries & Leisure Sports industries. The polythylene bird netting can be used for a wide range of applications including avian influenza protection, anti predator, laying pens and much more. A full range of associated products are also kept in stock including feeders, drinkers, electric fencing, plastic sheeting and wire netting. 

          Chicken Coops – Plastic vs Wooden

          If you are planning on adding some chickens to your family this Spring, you may be feeling totally overwhelmed about how to house them. There are so many options to go for – purpose built coop, a shed or even a converted wendyhouse or caravan! In this blog we discuss the pros and cons of plastic coops vs wooden.

          Plastic coops are definitely growing in popularity and they make great poultry houses.  But, the wooden are more traditional and arguable nicer to look at in your garden.  

          Here are some points to consider when making your choice:

          Ease of Cleaning – 

          The plastic coop has to be the winner here. You can set the pressure washer on it and it will dry quickly and easily. The wooden coops are much harder to deep clean and may take a couple of days to dry out. For day to day cleaning, it really depends on the design of the coop. Some wooden ones may have better access than plastic versions. 

          Durability – 

          Plastic coops are pretty much maintenance free and will last for many, many years. Your wooden version will need regular care.

          Customisation – 

          Wooden coops are much easier to customize. If you want to move a door, add an egg box, fix on a run etc, this will be way easier to do to a wooden coop rather than plastic. 

           Comfort – 

          In my experience, chickens show no preference to wood or plastic.  With both options it is good to give the choice of a perch or warm bed to sleep on. With both options it is important to consider air flow and ventilation. Plastic coops could get condensation inside if not ventilated.  A good quality wooden coop may be slightly warmer in winter, and watch your plastic coop doesn’t blow over in gale force winds! 

          Red Mites – 

          Here, the plastic coop is a clear winner. If red mite take hold in your wooden coop they can be almost impossible to eliminate. They can work their way into every tiny crevice in the wood, making any sprays & chemicals almost useless. Although mites will find a home in the joints of a plastic coop, they can’t work their way into the plastic itself, so they are much easier to eliminate. Plus, you can can take your plastic coop apart to treat a lot more easily than dismantling a wooden version!

          Price – 

          Plastic chicken coops are not cheap, where as wooden coops are available at all budgets. As with most things you get what you pay for, and investing in a plastic coop rather than a cheap and cheerful wooden version will pay for itself in the end. 

          Avian Flu –

          What ever coop you choose, you also need to consider a run, and how you will protect your chickens during an avian flu housing order. Sadly, these seem to be annual events so it is imperative that you have a spacious, fully enclosed run which can withstand winter rain and maintain a comfortable environment.

          Charcoal for Chickens

          Charcoal for Chickens

          If you have ever had a bonfire in your garden, you may have noticed your hens enjoying scratching, pecking & even dust-bathing at the site the next day. Like many animals, hens are naturally drawn to charcoal for the many benefits it provides.

          Scientific research has proven the benefits of feeding charcoal for chickens to meat and laying birds. Feeding charcoal can increase growth rate, improve survival rate, increase egg weight and improve shell quality. 

          We may not interested in how quickly our birds are ready for the table, or how many eggs they lay, but improving the health of our chickens is definitely is a priority! 

          Why does Charcoal benefit chickens? 

          Charcoal can help support a healthy digestion system. It helps to flush out toxins, reduce acidity, maintain the healthy microflora and possibly even help the fight against internal parasites. All these benefits allow your hens to get the most nutritional benefit from their feed and support their natural defences against infections. Maintaining a healthy gut is key to maintaining a healthy hen. 

          Charcoal is more than just a food!

          Charcoal is also great for dust baths. Try adding a couple of scoops to your girl’s favourite dust bath and it will adsorb excess preen oil and help to deter lice and bugs.

          Another useful benefit of charcoal is its ability to reduce ammonia in the manure. This is beneficial for birds that are deep-littered because ammonia can affect their lungs and breathing. Also, reducing ammonia creates a better quality fertilizer for your garden. The added charcoal helps to encourage the natural microbes on your compost heap and in the soil. 

          Charcoal is good for your hens’ health, their environment and your garden, so it’s a win -win! Try feeding a separate bowl of charcoal so your hens can self-select, as and when they want it. 

          Our Pure Devon Charcoal is top quality, locally made and sustainable.

          What is Sour Crop?

          sour crop, hens, chickens, poultry, free range, bhwt

          If you keep chickens, you are bound to have come across the term ‘sour crop’. It is one of the most common chicken ailments. Here is what you need to know:

          What is the Crop?

          The crop is part of the bird’s digestive system. It is a small pouch in the chest, sitting to the right of the breast bone. The food is stored in the crop before moving on to the gizzard where it is ground down ready for absorption. In the mornings your birds’ crops will be empty, but after a day eating you can feel that it is full up again.

          Sour Crop

          Sour Crop is caused by a Candida yeast infection. It can cause thickening of the crop wall that makes a blockage more likely. One of the indicators of the disease is foul smelling breath, like sour milk, hence its name.  Sour crop causes weight loss and even death as the bird cannot eat or digest its food properly.

          What causes Sour Crop?

          The candida yeast are naturally part of the microflora, it is only when they take over the healthy bacteria that they cause a problem. This could be due to poor diet, damage to the crop, impaction of foods and worm infestation. Conditions that damage the healthy bacteria allow the candida to grow. Dirty conditions increase the risk, as does a course of antibiotics, which also kill the good bacteria and therefore upset the natural balance of microflora.

          The Symptoms:

          As well as looking generally unwell, your chicken may be reluctant to eat. It’s crop could be full in the morning, suggesting that yesterday’s food is still blocked in the crop. If a sour white liquid is secreted from its mouth the condition has reached an advanced stage.


          There are several online recommendations for massaging the crop and withdrawing food, but you should always contact your Vet first. Fungicidal medication may be required (anti-biotics are not effective).


          • Always ensure your hens have access to fresh drinking water
          • Keep their living conditions clean and free from faeces
          • Only feed fresh food
          • Limit starchy foods like bread or pasta as these can block the crop (especially as hens tend to love them and eat too much at once! High starch foods are also poor nutritionally)
          • Feed grit for a healthy digestive system. (see Gastro Grit)
          • Feeding cider vinegar is good for promoting the healthy bacteria and maintaining the correct acidity in the gut. (See Pure Devon Cider Vinegar, which is unfiltered and full of all the good stuff)