Poultry will eat most things but like all animals they require a balanced diet for good health and best performance. The best way to achieve this is by feeding ready mixed compound feeds. These are available from commercial manufacturers and are designed to meet the chicken's dietary requirements at every stage in its life. Such feeds are now generally produced in the form of small pellets to reduce waste. Typically a laying hen will require about 130 gm of feed per day containing about 16% protein. This should be supplemented with 20 gm of grain, such as wheat; scattered on the ground in the evening.

Where access to grass is limited fresh greens must be provided – ideally suspended on light ropes or chain to prevent soiling. If greens are not provided the egg yolk will be very pale and you will need to add dye to the feed in the same way as commercial producers.

Birds should always go to roost with a full crop to enable them to sleep soundly. During the night the crop slowly empties as the birds digest the food stored in it.

It goes without saying that fresh clean water must be available at all times. This is best achieved by using some of the wide range of commercial poultry drinkers or founts which are now available. These must be kept clean and filled regularly with fresh water. Chickens prefer cold water so site drinkers in the shade and out of direct sunlight.


Hens do not have teeth and grind their food in their crop or gizzard. This requires a supply of hard flint grit which should always be available in small clean containers. Although the compound feed pellets should contain sufficient calcium in the diet to provide for the hens own needs and form strong eggshells (94% calcium), it is good practice to also provide oyster shell grit along with the flint grit to keep the eggshells strong.

Keeping Chickens

  • Questions to ask before you start?

    Keeping chickens can be an extremely satisfying pastime with the added bonus of providing fresh eggs for family and friends. It does however require sustained commitment so before you start

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  • Choosing a Breed

    Hybrids. Commercial hybrid chickens are particular commercial crossbreeds based on those originally selected in the 1950s for the battery cage producers seeking to vastly increase production over the traditional pure

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  • Housing

    As explained earlier housing for hens does not need to be large or elabotate as long as it provides the essential requirements of shelter, protection, and sufficient space to exercise

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  • Feeding

    Poultry will eat most things but like all animals they require a balanced diet for good health and best performance. The best way to achieve this is by feeding ready

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  • Eggs

    Young hens or pullets start to lay at about 20 weeks of age. Commercial laying hens can lay over 300 eggs per year although this is much lower for some

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  • Flock Management

    It is helpful in managing any flock to understand bird behaviour. Chickens have a well developed social structure based on the “pecking order”. The dominant hen is at the top

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  • Pests and Diseases

    As with all livestock, chickens do occasionally fall ill and if in doubt you should consult a veterinary surgeon. However good management will prevent many diseases and lead to early

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  • Breeding and Rearing Chickens

    Breeding and raising poultry can be very rewarding, especially watching them hatch as chicks and then grow into mature adults. You can either breed your own stock or purchase “hatching

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The Supply Chain Development Programme is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). Further information on the programme is available at www.countrysiderural.co.uk