How To Feed Chickens: The Best Types Of Chicken Feed

There are multiple different ways you can feed chickens. This post explains what the best way to feed your chickens. We will also explore different types of chicken feed and help you figure out what type works best for you.

The best way to feed your chickens is to let them scratch and find the food before they eat it. Chickens are meant to scratch, peck, and look for their food. This keeps them more active than if they eat from a feeder or eat in a cage. They are also able to participate in their normal chicken behaviors which will increase their quality of life.

Listed below are the different types of chicken feed. All of them are good choices, but one or two of them will likely be better and more practical for you. First, let’s do a deeper dive into why you should allow your chickens to hunt for their food.

Why Should You Let Chickens Hunt For Food?

Allowing chickens to scratch can increase their quality of life and keep them more active. Both of these things contribute to the overall happiness of your chickens. By paying attention to the demeanor and behavior of caged chickens versus the demeanor and behavior of pasture raised ones, you can easily observe the differences. Pasture raised chickens have ample room to hunt whereas caged chickens have very little room to move at all. Chickens who have extremally limited mobility due to overcrowding behave differently than those who are allowed to roam free. If you’ve ever seen a documentary where they go inside one of Tyson’s (or a similar competitor’s) farms, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You want happy chickens because happy chickens are better layers, better behaved, and healthier. The benefits for you don’t have to stop there. Chickens that are allowed to peck around on the ground will till the soil, weed whatever space they have access to, and eat most insects.

They will also deposit nitrogen (chicken poop) into the soil. This will serve as a fantastic fertilizer. You can also run them on deep mulch and let them deposit nitrogen into the mulch. The nitrogen will serve as green material and the mulch will serve as brown material. The mulch needs to be changed out once a year and left to sit for five to six weeks. After that, you’ll have compost that’s perfect for planting plants!

Letting chickens run around and hunt and peck for food has multiple benefits for both your chickens and you!

Types Of Chicken Feed

There are four main types of chicken feed: Wild, bagged, food scraps, and home grown. Each type has pros and cons. People often use multiple types to give their chickens variety and to make sure they are getting good nutrition.

Let’s dive into each type and why you may or may not want to use it.

Wild Chicken Feed

Insects, wild plants, and small wild animals (like mice), all fall under the umbrella of wild chicken feed. Essentially, it’s all chicken feed that’s naturally occurring. This is by far the cheapest and the healthiest option for your chickens. It doesn’t get any more organic than this! If you can feed your chickens exclusively on wild feed, you won’t have to pay a penny on feed!

Unfortunately, this can be difficult. The space your chickens roam in has to be large enough. People will often move their chickens from spot to spot in order to let areas that the chickens have eaten grow back and repopulate with insects.

Once you accumulate more then a few chickens, it becomes impossible to completely feed them with wild feed on micro farms. Nevertheless, it’s a good way to diversify their diet even if they can’t get all their calories from it. I personally allow my hens access to whatever wild feed is available on my micro farm as a way to supplement feed.

Bagged Chicken Feed

Bagged feed is the most popular option for chicken feed. It’s also one of the easiest options. The formula of bagged feed is specially made to give chickens the correct ratio of macronutrients. You won’t have to worry about if they’re getting enough of a specific nutrient.

This is the most expensive option. Organic feed is even more expensive than non-organic. Feeding our chickens organically is very important to me. The best deal I’ve found on organic feed near me is at Thayer Feed and Seed in Thayer, Kansas. At $19.50 per 50 lbs. of layer feed, it’s $5.00+ cheaper than all other brands of organic feed I have found in my area.

I use bagged feed mostly when I have to be away from my hens (when I’m traveling or sick). I also use it as supplemental feed in the winter when there isn’t as much wild feed, or when I don’t have as much food scrap…which brings me to the next type of feed.

Food Scraps

Chickens are omnivores just like us. A lot of the food we eat can also be consumed by chickens. Food scrap is any food that you don’t consume in your kitchen. Feeding your chickens food scraps significantly cuts down on food waste from your kitchen. Banana peels, cooked potatoes, stale grains, nuts, and seeds, carrot skins, limp lettuce, and much more.

There are of course certain things you should not feed your chickens. Chickens should not be fed mold, chocolate, avocados, apple seeds, candy, citrus fruits, or onions. Fast food is also generally not a great idea. These foods contain certain ingredients (like arsenic in apple seeds or harmful additives in fast food) that can be harmful to chickens. Chocolate in particular is considered toxic.

Now, all of these ingredients have made it into my chicken bucket from time to time and I can confidently say my chickens have never suffered any ill effects. However, over time these ingredients have the potential to case harm. It’s important to try and keep these things out of their diets as much as possible.

Most of us do not produce enough food scrap to feed a flock of chickens. There are many restaurant kitchens, school cafeterias, and grocery stores that are happy to give away or sell food scrap to local farmers.

Growing Your Own Chicken Feed

I tried growing crops for my chickens for the first time last year and it worked out really well! I grew cover crop and that fed my 70 laying hens for about a week. My plan is to grow even more this year. There are several crops that are high in protein like comfrey and duckweed.

For the past few years I have also raised black solider flies for my chickens as a source of protein. If you’d like to learn more about that, check out my article Black Solider Flies: Why Should You Have Them?

You can also feed chicken eggs that you aren’t using back to them. This is actually really beneficial for them. Especially when they are molting.


There are four types of chicken feed:

  • Wild feed
  • Bagged feed
  • Food scraps
  • Home grown feed

I use all of these types of feed. That’s what works best for my lifestyle, budget, and land. My hope is that this post will help you figure out what type of feed works best for you!

Remember the best way for your chickens to eat is to hunt. No matter what type of feed you choose, try and let them hunt and peck for it.

I wish you all joyful farming!

Leave a Comment