Chickens are very common domestic birds that cannot fly. There are over 150 different breeds of chicken that come in various colors, patterns and sizes. The chicken is believed to have descended from the wild Indian and south-east Asian Red Junglefowl which is biologically classified as the same species.
With a population of more than 30 billion, there are more chickens in the world than any other bird. Chickens provide two sources of food frequently consumed by humans: their meat, also known as chicken, and eggs which they lay.
Chickens have a great usefulness to humans. Chickens can be kept as pets, for breeding, egg laying and a food product. There are many different breeds that come in a variety of colors. They are commonly farmed all over the world.
Chickens have a varied diet. Chickens are omnivores and will feed on small seeds, herbs and leaves, grubs, insects and even small mammals like mice, if they can catch them. Chickens often scratch at the soil to get at adult insects and larva or seed. Chickens have a well-developed gizzard (a part of the stomach that contains tiny stones) that grinds up their food.
What do Wild Chickens Eat?
The Grey Junglefowl (Gallus sonneratii) is a wild species of domestic fowl endemic to the evergreen hill forest in southern and western India. Grey junglefowl are found mainly in peninsular India but extend into Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and south Rajasthan.
The Grey Jungle fowls range overlaps with that of the red junglefowl who are found more along the foothills of the Himalayas. Together with red junglefowl and other jungle fowl species, the grey junglefowl is one of the wild ancestors of the domestic chicken breed. The Grey Junglefowl is also referred to as Sonnerat’s Junglefowl, which commemorates the French explorer Pierre Sonnerat.
Grey junglefowl forage in small mixed groups of both males and females. They are omnivores, and feed on bamboo seeds, grains, termites, spiders, ant larvae, moths and berries.
What do Domestic Chickens Eat?
Domestic chickens are typically fed commercially prepared feed that includes a protein source as well as grains. Chickens will often scratch at the soil to get to insects and larva or seeds.
What should you feed your Chickens?
Chickens are friendly birds, easy to keep, undemanding and will supply their owner with a regular supply of fresh eggs.
If you have decided to keep chickens at home then it is important to remember that they are natural foragers and will explore all the plants in your garden. It is a good idea to give them their commercial feed on a morning before they explore their area for bugs, plants and seeds.
What should you not feed your chickens?
Chickens will avoid most plants that they should not eat however if you are keeping chickens in your garden it might be a good idea to avoid adding these foods to their diet or you should put a fence around them.
- While the flesh of the avocado is fine for chickens, the pit and skin contain a toxin called persin and should not be given to your chickens
- Dried beans contain hemagglutinin, which is not good for their digestion
- Rhubarb contains anthraquinones and oxalic acid. Anthraquinones are laxatives and high concentrations of oxalic acid is very poisonous.
- Moldy and rotten foods can contain toxins that are not good for your birds.
Do I need to Give my Chicken Grit?
Chickens need grit because they do not have teeth to grind down their food. Grit is sand or small stones that chickens eat to help them digest their food.
When left to forage over a larger area, chickens naturally pick up grit in the form of tiny pebbles. The grit is stored in the gizzard and when the gizzard moves, the food is ground with any grit inside. This helps them digest their food better.
There are two forms of commercial grit:
- Oyster Shell Grit
- Flint Grit
Oyster shell grit is typically made from oyster shells, but you can also make your own grit by grinding up baked eggshells. Eggshells are a good source of calcium, which is essential for chickens’ health. Adding oyster shell grit to your chickens’ diet will help them digest their food better, make their eggshells stronger, and keep them healthy. Flint grit is made from flint or granite milled into very small pieces.
If you are keeping chickens it is a good idea to leave some grit in a bowl that is easy for them to access so they can supplement themselves.