Serving your flock the best feed for chickens in the summer months makes a big difference. The feed you use will affect how they handle the stress of summer. Heat waves, moisture, humidity, and molting are all conditions that are part of summer. Feeding your flock properly, during the summer months sets them up for a healthy fall and winter.
Summer Feed Amounts
Naturally, your chickens will eat less grain in the summer months. This is normal because of a few factors. There are other things to eat, that taste better to a chicken than chicken feed. Bugs, weeds, grasses, and worms are plentiful tasty tidbits!
In addition, as most of us lose a keen appetite during hot weather, the chickens will also eat less of a grain-based ration.
The Best Feed for Chickens in Summer is a High-Quality Feed Ration
Because your chickens will probably be eating less feed during the summer, it is important to feed a balanced, high-quality feed. When feeding chickens the best feed, you are guaranteeing they will have the nutrients needed to stay healthy.
Probiotics for chickens are another thing that can be added to ensure good health. Probiotics can be found in apple cider vinegar and fermented grains. Yogurt with live culture and Kifer are also good sources of natural probiotics. Be careful to not overdo milk products in your chicken’s diet. A little is helpful. A lot might cause digestive upset from the milk proteins. If I added only one item to the best feed for chickens, it would be fresh probiotic food supplements.
Do Free-Range Chickens Need a Purchased Chicken Feed Too?
In an effort to save costs while raising chickens, many people turn to free ranging and eliminating commercial feed. Free- range chickens do quite well without additional poultry feed, as long as the bird’s nutritional needs are met. This would require a variety of green plants and insects. Protein is a concern during the summer months as the chickens are getting ready to molt. Feeding plenty of protein leading up to molting will assist the chicken in growing new feathers.
In addition, feeding a calcium supplement is a good idea. This ensures that egg shells are strong and the birds are not depleting their calcium levels.
When choosing to not use a poultry feed during the summer, you need to be extra careful in observing the chicken’s condition. Weight loss, skin color, comb and wattle condition and egg shell quality are clues that show if the free range chickens are getting enough nutrients.
A safe feeding regimen could include limiting grain to morning or evening only and letting the chickens free range through the majority of the day. Each pasture, backyard, farm yard and chicken run will provide some nutrition. Being cautious and providing the best feed for chickens brings the best of both worlds together.
What to Not Feed to Chickens During the Summer
When people ask me about keeping chickens warm in the winter, I often reply that it’s more important to keep the birds cool in the summer. During the summer months, corn should be avoided. Scratch grain mixtures often contain a large amount of corn. Corn adds high carbohydrate levels to the chickens’ diet and carbohydrate energy releases heat. This can make the chickens feel hotter and suffer from the heat even more. Most of the time chicken owners are warned to not feed scratch grain containing corn during the summer.
Chickens love cooling treats like watermelon, ice blocks with frozen herbs, chilled chopped vegetables, and even frozen fruit popsicles. Mint is also a cooling plant and one that grows easily in most locations. The chickens can safely eat mint and mint also repels rodents and flies.
Other Tips for Summer Chicken Care
Provide cool, clean water at all times. Any discussion of what to feed chickens should include water. Water is the essential nutrient for all living creatures. Place the water bowl, bucket, or fount in a shady spot. If you don’t have natural shade from a tree or porch, hang a covering over a corner of the chicken run to provide shade. We use a tarp tied to the top rail of the chicken run fence.
Adding an inexpensive box style fan to the coop helps circulate and cool the air. We hang the fan in the doorway, positioned to send air through the coop to the back windows.
Reduce Wasted Feed and Deter Rodents
Of course, if you are feeding the best feed for chickens, you don’t want waste. One way to reduce waste is to use hanging feeders set to chest height on the chicken. This reduces feed that is scratched out of the bowls. Hanging feeders also reduce the incidence of rodents getting into the feeders. Clean up any spilled feed or scratched-out feed each day. This also reduces the rodents coming to the coop for a snack.
Pick up the feed at night and store it in a secure place. The chickens won’t eat during the night. Once the flock goes to roost, they don’t get up until morning light. As long as you can open the coop up early, there is no need to leave feed in the coop overnight.
Don’t over feed. Get an idea of how much the flock is consuming, adjust as needed. When I start to see feed left at the end of the day, I begin to adjust how much feed is given in the morning. When the bowls look like they were swept clean, I know it’s time to increase the feed amount.
Making simple adjustments, while choosing the best feed for chickens, will help your flock breeze through the hot summer months. As they begin to molt and grow in the winter down and new feathers, their bodies will be prepared because they had the proper nutrition during the summer.
What would you add to this discussion about best feed for chickens during summer? Let us know in the comments below.