Egg-laying chickens have simple dietary needs. A healthy diet contains grains, greens, protein and calcium. However, finding the right feed to fulfill these needs can be confusing. Some chicken farmers feed their chickens a laying feed, some give scratch grains and some feed both. Laying feeds and scratch grains provide nutrition and both have a place in your chicken’s diet.
Laying feed or laying mash is a mixture of grains, greens, protein and calcium that is either commercially prepared in a pellet or crumble form or mixed together by the chicken farmer. Laying feeds contain the 15- to 18-percent protein and the 2.5- to 3.5-percent calcium that layers need to produce protein-rich eggs with hard shells.
Scratch is a mixture of grains and cracked corn. Scratch grains contain 8- to 9-percent protein and few other nutrients. A chicken raised on grains alone will get fat and most likely produce few eggs. Scratch grains do supply calories, are more appetizing to the chickens than commercial feeds and generally cost significantly less than commercial feeds.
Although scratch grains do not have the nutritional value of commercial feeds, they do serve as a good complement of laying feeds. To cut costs and still maintain a healthy flock, farmers substitute up to ½ pound of feed with scratch grains in their birds’ daily rations. The grains stretch the feed and entice finicky birds to eat the laying feed. Scratch grains tossed in the coop’s litter encourage chickens to scratch through for grains, naturally turning the litter and helping to maintain sanitary conditions.
grains image by Jean-Michel POUGET from Fotolia.com
Elizabeth McNelis has been writing gardening, cooking, parenting and homeschooling articles from her St. Petersburg urban homestead since 2006. She is the editor of “The Perspective,” a homeschooling newsletter distributed in Pinellas County, Fla. and writes a blog entitled Little Farm in the Big City. McNelis holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional and technical writing from the University of South Florida.