We’re on our third bag of feed since we got our chickens in May this year. This is pretty good, considering that each bag is 50 lbs, we feed them kitchen scraps and we bought them a 50 lbs bag of scratch as well. We’d been really happy with the pellets we got the first couple of times, and I didn’t realize “crumble” was different when we bought it this time.
The Difference Between Crumble and Pellets
Pellets are fully formed tiny cylinders, while crumble is almost a dirt-like consistency. Some cat owners use crumble in lieu of kitty litter – it’s much cheaper.
The biggest problem I’ve had is that I could fill our feeder with pellets, keep an eye on it, and refill it as it got low. With the crumble, the chickens kick out all the food into the run, empty the feeder, then eat it from the ground. Because the color and consistency of crumble is so close to that of the soil, it’s hard for me to tell when they’re actually running low on food. Usually, once the chickens start clucking a lot I’ll pour more crumble into their run.
Some enthusiasts had the same problem in the opposite direction, when they switched from crumble to pellets the chickens spread them around, so it could be the change was the problem rather than crumble. This discussion points out that the biggest problem is if the chickens can get their feet in the feeder. If they can they’ll naturally spread it around. I previously put my waterer on a platform, which was VERY effective in preventing the chickens from using it as a toilet.
Another option for feed, which I haven’t tried, is mash. Mash is the actual food, which is almost a powder, which machines form into pellets. Crumble is pellets that have been broken apart. Ultimately they’re all the same nutritionally, just different consistencies.
Chickens have different preferences for feed style, and there will be different amounts of waste.
Often baby chickens will be fed mash or crumble, as the pellets will be too large for them to handle.
In all three cases, you can just give the feed directly to the chickens. Some people mix their mash with warm water, making oatmeal of it, which they then feed to the chickens. You would want to be feeding them almost exactly what they could eat if you did this, as it would quickly go bad or get eaten by vermin. On a cold day, you could use warm (not hot) water if you want to spoil your chickens.
Fermenting Chicken Feed
Some people swear by feeding their chickens feed they have fermented. They claim the food is more nutritious, healthier, stretches the feed, and the chickens like it better. I’m suspicious of some of these claims, but it seems like it might be a fun project.
Follow the actual directions from a website giving an overview, but the basic idea is that:
- You put the feed in a clean, open container. Any feed could work, but I imagine this would be easiest with mash.
- Two-three times per day stir and add water – enough that the feed is covered by the water.
- Feed it to the chickens after it has been fermenting for 3 days, but not for more than 5 days.
- Starting a batch with a bit of the previous batch will help with the fermentation.
If it’s working, you should see bubbling and smell a sour smell.
I’m not sure if drunk hens will get into trouble.
All feed will attract pests, especially when it’s available in the run at night. Since we’ve switched to crumble I’ve been noticing more rodents in our run after dark – attracted by the spread-out feed I imagine. One morning we saw a chicken with a mouse in her beak – and the other chickens trying to take it away from her.
What do you feed your chickens? How do they like it?
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