What I have learned about chickens needing to eat meat from my experience, is yes, chickens need to eat meat. Bugs are meat and given the chance, chickens will eat tons of bugs. In fact chickens will live on bugs if they have a choice. So when I keep them as pets for eggs, I try to make sure they are getting as close to their natural diet as I can.
The next thing I had to figure out is what is the best and most convenient way to add meat to my chickens diet. After some investigating I learned that there are a few ways I can do it.
Adding some cat kibble to their food is one easy way to add animal protein. Dog kibble can also work but sometimes the chunks are too big, so I like cat food better because it’s easier for them to eat.
Canned dog or cat food will also work. I will add about one big tablespoon per day per chicken in the middle of winter when all the bugs are gone. The only problem with this method is it is super inconvenient to me.
Meat table scraps can be fed to chickens and I do feed some, but the problem with table scraps is I just never have enough. I have three dogs and one cat and my Guinea hen that is so spoiled, she is right in there with the dogs and cat. If I can battle my way past all of them and manage to save a bit for the chickens, I know it isn’t enough, especially in the winter. During the summer they catch enough bugs on their own. Every little bit helps and they all enjoy table scraps, plus I like feeding them extra stuff as treats
Meal worms can work great, but if you have more than a few chickens like I do that can be quite expensive.
I personally can’t swing that for my flock through the whole winter. I have to use something I can afford so my chickens make it through winter and are healthy and ready to go come spring.
Commercial chicken feed that is meat based is a great convenient way to add animal protein to my chickens diet. I like this way the best because they will get animal protein every day. What I do is mix one 50 pound bag of crimped oats with a 50 pound bag of meat bird crumbles, plus about 25 pounds of whole corn. I keep that in a feed bin all mixed up and ready to go. It,s very convenient. I also have the proper size scoop right in the feed bin so anybody can feed for me if need be. Simple, simple just the way I like it.
When you live on a homestead there is no time to waste. I can’t fiddle around feeding all my animals, because I wouldn’t get anything else done.
I have a lot to get done in a day so I can’t waste time with a complicated feeding program. It has to be healthy and efficient.
So now I’m going to talk about how I discovered chickens need a certain amount of animal based protein in their diet. Signs that your chickens might need more animal based protein. Feather eating, this can be plucking feathers out of another chicken and eating it and also eating feathers that are on the ground. Most chickens molt in late fall so I always see lots of feathers on the ground in the coop.
So when I see feather eating going on I’m thinking, that is not normal. Especially plucking them out of another chicken and gobbling it up. I’m thinking that chicken, which happens to be a growing rooster needs something he isn’t getting. I do feed a varied diet, but I narrowed it down pretty fast. For one thing I know they are all getting less bugs because it is winter and I do feed a bit more in the winter, but more isn’t better when it isn’t the right thing. I just figured I have to replace the bug meat protein that’s missing in the winter.
One thing I would like to mention is that chickens need fat in their diets and mine get that fat from whole corn in the winter. Remember bugs are fat and protein, so I’m replacing both in the winter. If your chickens live in a coop 24/7 which is fine if the coop is plenty big, you will need to feed the whole corn and animal based protein all year long because the chickens won’t get enough bugs in their coop.
I love and enjoy my chickens so much and I also just love the fresh eggs they give me. I want to do my best to make sure they have everything they need to be happy and healthy. On my homestead my animals are an investment in time and money so I take the time to keep things running smooth and keep everyone healthy and happy, which equals good trouble free egg production.