Hens who are fed properly are much more likely to stay healthy and produce more eggs! They are what they eat and your eggs are also what they eat, so if you want delicious, nutritious eggs...feed them quality food!
- Always make sure you have clean water available, changing it daily if you can. If you wouldn’t be prepared to drink it, don’t make your birds!
- In hot weather a large hen can drink a pint of water a day, so make sure you have enough receptacles available even if they're temporary.
- Hen drinkers are generally made of plastic or galvanised metal. Apple Cider Vinegar (a useful tonic for hens) is not compatible with galvanised metal. Plastic drinkers gradually become brittle in UV light. Neither is perfect. My advice would be to buy galvanised if your budget allows otherwise a sensible sized plastic one will do. Don’t be tempted to buy one that’s too large, water is very heavy and you might be tempted to not change the water often enough.
- Hens need to eat layers pellets. These are specifically designed to be nutritionally complete. Hens needs 2-3g of calcium a day to make an egg shell. The pellets contain this as well as all the nutrients to provide energy and keep your birds in top form. A large hen will eat 150g a day. Use an 'ad-lib' feeder. so they can eat until full, they won't over eat.
- Hen feeders are also generally made from the same material as drinkers with the same issues with UV brittleness. Again if you can afford metal then do so but make sure any feeder has a hat to keep the feed dry from rain and that hens can’t get in the feeder and flick the food around. Look for useful features like ‘anti-scratch’ rings.
Treadle feeders or grandpa feeders are generally an excellent investment although hens will need to be trained to use them and they do make a small noise when the flap closes. Always site them on a paving slab to keep them out of the wet and the mud. The training is easy, you just use a rock to weigh the pedal down during the day for up to a week so the hens can see the food. Remove all other food sources.
- Always buy the best quality layers pellets you can afford. Expect to pay double for organic. There are often good local mill varieties available too. If you can't choose, ask your feed supplier for recommendations
- Do not be tempted to feed your hens mixed corn as a staple food. This is by far the most common mistake people make. Mixing your pellets and mixed corn is also a big no-no. The hens love the mixed corn but nutritionally it’s very limited and it would be the equivalent of you living off of junk food. They will not eat pellets if they have mixed corn available. Why eat salad when you can eat cake? I really really love cake x
- If you want to give your hens treats, only provide them after mid-afternoon. They will have eaten the healthy stuff by then so a little treat is safer. Fresh and dried fruit, nuts, seeds, corn, sweetcorn are all great options. A thimble to an egg cup full per bird is plenty.
- Use treats to train your hens. Put some in a tin with a lid and shake, with the words ‘chickies’ or similar. They will soon come running when they hear the word or tin. This is very useful if you need to round up your birds to put them to bed early for example.
- Hens must have daily access to mixed hen grit. There are two parts, small grit and crushed oyster shells. The small grit is insoluble (doesn’t dissolve) so it sits in the hens stomach and helps them to pulverise their food so they can extract the most nutrition from it. Remember hens don’t have teeth! The oyster shell is soluble (does dissolve) so hens use this to boost their calcium levels to grow bone, feathers and egg shell. Mixed hen grit can be fed from any basic container that doesn’t hold water or added to the feed.