Laying pellets are the basic food for chickens and contain all the nutrients they need to stay healthy and to be able to lay enough eggs. Chickens that do not receive laying pellets can lay fewer eggs if the diet is not complete enough. Chickens that cannot forage enough are therefore best given laying pellets. However, just giving laying pellets is not enough. The chickens also have to eat the laying pellets, and not all chickens like to eat this. A chicken can also spontaneously stop eating laying pellets. This can have various causes, for which there is usually a solution.
The laying pellet is a compressed pellet that contains all the nutrients a laying chicken needs. It forms the basis of the feed for laying hens. Breeders and feed manufacturers therefore often recommend feeding chickens mainly laying pellets, supplemented with only a limited amount of grains and seeds, because the latter can make the chickens fat. Due to the high nutritional value of laying pellets, the feed can be offered unlimited to chickens. The laying pellets should not remain in the feed trough for too long, as this can increase the risk of contamination, spoilage or vermin.
Laying pellets mainly consist of food that chickens also eat naturally, such as grains, seeds, legumes and green food.
Laying pellets can contain the grains corn, soy, wheat, oats and sunflower seeds. As green food, alfalfa is usually chosen, a protein-rich plant that contains many nutrients. Laying pellets also contain peas, which are naturally high in protein and nutritious. But in addition to this natural food, laying pellets are supplemented with nutrients that laying hens need a lot. That is why vitamins, minerals and proteins are added to laying pellets. Vitamin and mirals are necessary for the good health of the chicken, where calcium is especially needed for the production of firm eggshells. Proteins are energy supplier for the chickens, but are also necessary to maintain egg production. All these ingredients are ground very finely, after which vegetable oils are added to be able to press it into a laying pellet.
Best laying pellet
Much research has been done into the nutritional requirements of chickens that lay eggs, in order to arrive at an ideal composition for the laying pellet. Yet not every brand of laying pellets is the same. Each manufacturer has its own specific recipe. It is difficult to say which manufacturer makes the best laying pellets, because this depends on several factors that can be different for each chicken. One chicken can forage freely and move around a lot, while the other chicken is in a small run with no possibilities to look for additional food. The number of eggs laid, the weight and the chicken breed also influence the nutritional requirement.
Differences between laying pellets and laying meal
Besides laying pellets, there is also laying meal for chickens. The composition between these two feeds differs little. The main difference is that laying meal is not compressed into a grain. This allows laying meal to be ground coarsely and contains coarser fibers that can activate the chicken’s gizzard and improve intestinal function. In addition, laying pellets are homogeneously mixed, while with good laying meal the individual grains, seeds and legumes can still be distinguished. Chickens also take longer to eat laying meal, which promotes natural foraging behavior and prevents boredom. A disadvantage of laying meal is that it becomes moist and soiled more quickly, making it inedible for chickens.
Chickens have a natural preference for grains, seeds and animal food sources such as mealworms and amphibians. If chickens are fed mixed feed in which all ingredients are still clearly recognizable, they will pick out whatever they like and leave the rest. Unfortunately, the preference of chickens does not always lie with laying pellets. This means that if chickens have the choice between laying pellets and other feed such as grains, seeds or green feed, they will often choose the other feed. With an excessive supply of other food, the chickens will eat their fill and leave the laying pellets, which makes them old. Old laying pellets can start to mold or attract vermin. This can lead to diseases in chickens. As a result, it is often recommended not to offer chickens too much other feed in addition to laying pellets, so that the nutritious laying pellets can in any case be eaten within the foreseeable future.
Chickens that do not eat laying pellets
Many chickens do not prefer laying pellets and only eat them when no other feed is available. But there are also chickens that do not eat laying pellets at all because they simply do not like them. These chickens can lay worse and even lose weight or get sick if no other food is available. Not eating the laying pellets does not always have to be due to the preference of the chicken. There may also be other reasons why the chickens do not eat the laying pellets.
Several reasons why a chicken does not eat laying pellets
Chickens cannot eat the laying pellets for several reasons:
- The laying pellets have become moist so that the chickens no longer like it.
- The laying pellets have been affected by vermin, so the chickens no longer like it.
- The chicken is sick. Coccidiosis, red mites, Salmonella, snot and bird flu, for example, can lead to decreased appetite.
- The nutritional requirement is reduced by, for example, warm weather or a temporary stop of egg laying.
Tips to improve the eating of laying pellets
To improve the eating of laying pellets, it is important to first rule out that the chicken is sick. Check the droppings for worms or blood, keep an eye on the chicken’s behavior and check the chicken for bald spots, lice or swollen legs. If the chicken is not sick, there are several ways to improve the feeding of the laying pellets.
- Store the laying pellets well in a closed food container. Make sure that no moisture and vermin can get to it.
- Feed the laying pellets in good feeding troughs. A trap tray that the chicken can open itself keeps pests and moisture away from the feed.
- Do not leave the laying pellets in the feeder for too long and replace the feed at least once a week if it is not yet finished.
- Replace the laying pellets with laying meal. Chickens sometimes like this.
- Do not overfeed the chickens. Certainly grains can fill the stomach. Therefore, do not feed the chickens anything extra until the laying pellets are used up.
Replacement for laying pellets with other feed
In addition to replacing laying pellets with laying meal, which has a similar composition, one can also choose to give the chickens different feed. Good nutrition for laying hens that do not want to eat laying pellets must be carefully composed. This food must consist of a versatile mix of grains and seeds, supplemented with green food, vegetables and fruit, chicken grit, stomach grit, insects and possibly another additional protein source such as fish or cat or dog food. Finally, one can give additional vitamins and minerals. The amounts must be well coordinated, with about half consisting of grains and seeds. Green food, vegetables and fruit take up about 25 to 40 percent of the total amount. The remainder consists of animal protein sources, stomach grit and chicken grit. In addition, limited amounts of kitchen waste and dairy can be given, the latter being especially good for an extra calcium source.