Feeding Chickens and General Management
Present-day pullets are carefully bred to produce a certain number of eggs during their peak laying period in return for a certain outlay on feed. Quality and quantity of food are equally important.
No longer is it sensible to feed your birds on household scraps. To achieve maximum results, you must instead give them a proprietary brand of food in which protein, and all the other elements that contribute towards high egg production, have been blended scientifically.
This is available in two forms, layers’ mash and pellets. Though both contain the same nutriments, pellets are not really to be recommended unless your birds are truly free-ranging.
If they are restricted to a house and run, they will consume their entire day’s ration in half an hour. Having eaten their pellets they become bored, and may develop such habits as picking each others feathers, or egg-eating.
A dry layers’ mash is a far better idea. Each bird will eat about 4-1/2 oz. (130g) of this per day, and spend some four contented hours in doing so.
Multiply the ration by the number of pullets, add a little extra, and put this amount of mash into the feeder each day.
To save work, particularly if you have a tube feeder or a trough fitted with an anti-perching roller, you can put in several days’ rations at once, topping-up as the mash is eaten.
When replenishing the trough, however, remember to mix the residue of the old ration with the new meal that you put in.
Extras and appetisers
Once a day, preferably in mid-afternoon, scatter wheat — about 1 oz. (25g) for each bird — over the litter in the house or on the floor of the run. Searching and scratching for the grain, the birds will remain active until nightfall and will go to roost contented and with a full crop.
A few greens, such as the thinnings from your cabbage bed, also make a welcome addition to the birds’ diet.
Tie these in bundles to the enclosing netting of the run, or from the roof of the deep-litter house, so that the pullets have to stretch up for them. If the greens are simply thrown into the run, they will soon become a trodden, befouled mess.
Egg-shells are largely composed of calcium, so for sound eggs it is essential that this element should be included in the diet.
Until a few years ago this was done by giving them limestone grit, or a grit composed of crushed sea-shells or egg-shells. Nowadays, the correct amount of calcium is generally included in layers’ mash, and it is actually harmful to exceed this amount.
But check with your merchant when buying the feed that it does indeed contain calcium.
As is well known, birds have no teeth. Instead, at least in the case of vegetable-eating birds, the food is taken into the gizzard —a muscular, horny-lined part of the digestive system. There, it is ground by the hard stone grit that the bird must swallow regularly if its food is to be processed adequately.
So it is with domestic poultry. If the birds are free-ranging, they will generally pick up enough grit for their needs during the course of the day, particularly if the land is stony.
But if they are confined you must provide them with regular supplies of granite or flint grit.
This may be bought from a seed merchant and given to your stock at a rate of 1 oz. (25g) for each bird per month. Scatter it among the litter rather than providing it in a trough where it will become dusty and spoiled.