Feeding bantam chickens

Feeding bantams and chickens:

It can seem sometimes like the rules for feeding are almost as numerous as the poultry feeders. Some people think only of the chickens and others think only of their own convenience.

Chickens need food that is specific to their diet, which includes:

  1. Layers pellets, or age appropriate feed like crumbles or growers.
  2. Whole grains. Mixed whole grains of different types are excellent feed for the backyard flock.
  3. Greens. Chickens love greenery and it is an essential source of calcium and other nutrients.
  4. Protein. Eggs are almost entirely protein and laying hens need around 16% in their diet.
  5. Supplements.

As part of a regular diet, layers pellets and whole grains are some of the best sources of nutrition for bantams and other chickens and a sufficient supply of it should be available in the coop all the time.

Some general rules apply to feeding chickens:

  • Chickens should be made to scratch and work for its feed. They like to be busy.
  • It should be kept dry. 
  • Its feed must consist of balanced feed, vegetable and minerals with sufficient water. 
  • Use fresh instead of old stale feed.

In feeding bantam chickens, it should always be borne in mind that the eggs are produced from the material that is extracted from the feed eaten. Hence, the importance of giving the proper feeds, so that the eggs will contain the elements of vigorous life.

Below: My bantams eating.

Such eggs can be laid only by hens that have had the most natural feeds; that is, a properly balanced ration of grain, animal, and green feeds.

Green feed during the winter months is of relatively more importance than the other feeds, and the power of green feed to give hatch-able quality to eggs can scarcely be overestimated.

Care should be taken to see that the male fowls in a mating get sufficient feed.

Can bantams eat layers pellets like my standard sized chickens do?

They certainly can eat pellets, they're not too big for them but I think it's the same as with LF; some waste more with pellets, some waste more with crumbles. It's going to be up to you as to what works better for your flock

Should you be buying them crumbles or feeding bantams layers pellets? Well, I feel like my birds waste more food when I buy crumbles and sometimes it can seem a little dusty, you can make it into mash with a little warm water and feed it that way.

I kept mine polish and Serama on crumbles, worrying they wouldn't want to eat the pellets or something because of their size difference.
They seemed to have problems eating pellets so I used crumbles.

My little true bantams are not all able to eat layer pellets, it won't fit in their beaks.

The ordinary bantams seem perfectly able to digest those big pieces. I think it's fine because the ingredients are ground up and compressed together into a pellet. I would think that is easier to digest than a whole corn kernel, for example. A pellet becomes mushy and falls apart when wet, but a whole grain doesn't.

So yes, you can feed bantams the same as standard size chickens and not worry about it, it is only if you have true bantams you may need to look at some alternatives.

short cut pellets?

How do you reduce waste feed with chickens?

1. Use quality feeders for less spillages.
2. Use quality feed, less dust and most calorific value.
3. Use fresh feed to preserve the mineral and vitamin content.
4. Don't overfeed the hens.
5. Healthy active birds will find more of their own food.
6. Don't bother with false time consuming economies like fermented feed.
7. Keep rats, vermin and Wild birds away from the poultry foodstuffs.
8. Keep it dry and secure.

How much do I feed my bantams?

I have seen it said that around 1/4 of a pound for an average large chicken and 1/3 for heavy ones, but what about bantams.

Mine eat between 2 and 3 ounces a day depending on the breed and the quality of the feed you use. Some are less energy dense than others.

I feed a mix of foods, layers pellets, whole grains, shell and grit and a few supplements. The birds have access to it all day.

What about feeding true bantams?

Understanding chicken feeding:

In Feeds there are three principal nutritive elements: Protein, carbohydrates and fats. There are secondary elements that are no less important, namely vitamins, minerals and fibre.

(1) Protein is the albuminous or nitrogenous matter; in grains it is known as gluten, in meat and blood it is known as fibrin, and in milk casein. It is nourishing food and supplies material for muscle, blood, bone and eggs.

(2) Carbohydrates are the sugars. They form the bulk of nearly all foods and provide most of the energy required.

(3) Fats or oils are found in practically all foods in varying but mostly small quantities. Sunflower or Safflower seeds are a good source for the poultry diet.

In addition to the above, there are some minor food elements, as follows:

(4) All feeds contain some shell or lime and other mineral matters in small quantities. In pelleted feed ash is useful to furnish material for egg-shells and feathers.

(5) Fibre which is found is husks and waste matter. It has no particular nutrient value, but is essential in giving the food a proper bulk, preventing it from packing so tightly that the digestive juices cannot reach it.

It has been calculated that when food has one part of protein to about five of carbohydrates and fat (or 1:5 as it is usually written) it is called a balance or a balanced ration.

Wheat is an ideal grain for poultry and is the bread and butter of the poultry household and makes up a considerable portion of layers ration. It is a good average ration for laying hens.

Corn is considerably higher in carbohydrates. It is a splendid food on cold nights, and no matter how much a fowl has eaten it will run after more corn. Corn, then, is a "candy" for poultry.

Buckwheat is an excellent feed for hens if you can acquire it cheaply.

Millet seed is rich in protein, but also has a large amount of fibre which causes trouble in little chicks, if fed exclusively. It is a good grain to mix in mashes.

Hemp seed is especially rich, if expensive, feed and is useful in toning up birds for exhibition, as it puts a fine gloss on the feathers and keep them in fine condition.

Canary seed is used considerably by Bantam breeders as it tends to keep the birds small.

Linseed meal and cotton-seed meal are very rich in oil and also improve the plumage. Flax is high in omega-3's which is good for the egg quality and the health of the birds.

Sunflower seed is especially rich in oil, and is said to be a good egg stimulant, and puts a good, healthy gloss on feathers.

Eggs are a good, but rather rich and concentrated food.

Vegetables are valuable in feeding chickens, especially in winter when they supply the green grass elements, and nearly all are relished by fowls.

Potatoes are rich in carbonaceous matter and must be cooked.

Cabbage makes a splendid winter green food and is useful to induce exercise by making it necessary for the fowls to pick it.

Beets, mangles, turnips and carrots are best fed whole and raw and placed where the fowls can pick at them.

Grass. It is surprising how much grass a chicken will eat when the flock is allowed to run on the grass. I have noticed from spring onward when fresh green grass is available the eggs seem to come in greater numbers and the green pigment in grass also seems to intensify the colour in the yolk of the eggs, making it richer looking.

Clover and alfalfa can be fed too.

Molasses of itself has splendid food and tonic qualities.

Sour milk, buttermilk, yogurt, curds or whey are good for fowl. It can be given to drink or used to moisten the mash.

All poultry supply houses now carry grit for poultry. Grit is indispensable and must be furnished to supply the gizzard with grinding material and also furnish the minerals to produce feathers. Commercial grit contains silica, magnesia, sulphur and lime.

Oyster Shell — Some use this in place of grit, but as it is composed mostly of lime, grit has some advantages over it.

Both grit and shell should be available for laying hens at all times.

Charcoal is almost pure carbon, and is useful as an aid to digestion.

Feeding Secrets:

Of course, when a careful egg record is kept, and when the fowls are weighed occasionally, these matters can be determined accurately. But this involves considerable labour, and in these days the labour costs.

There are, however, four things to observe:

  • The Fowl,
  • The Feed or Feed-Box,
  • The Dropping Board,
  • The Egg Yield.

The healthy fowl has an appearance of its own which every keeper should know. It is active, alert, moves about freely, the comb is red and the appetite good.

The chickens that are the busiest, feed well and go to roost last with a full crop are the producers. There are very few exceptions to this rule.

The feeders - The successful poultry man does not throw down so many measures of feed and leave the hens. He pauses a moment or two and notices the eagerness with which the fowls partake of their food and later goes through the pens again to see whether all of it has been eaten up.

Watch the dropping board, it is the secret of proper care and will reveal the physical condition of the fowl. Normally the droppings should be
firm, greyish black mass, terminating on top with a light greyish substance which is the secretion of the gall-bladder.

If the droppings are soft and of a yellowish or brownish color, it indicates too much carbohydrates.

Too much protein will produce droppings that are watery, with dark red splashes of mucus.

A greenish, watery diarrhoea usually indicates unsanitary conditions in the surroundings, the feed, or the water.

The egg yield is very good indicator of the overall health and condition of the flock. Keep a daily tally of eggs.

Feeding for Eggs in Winter:

Fresh eggs in winter are a delicacy.

The secret for getting winter eggs is proper stock, feed them the proper elements and make them "scratch" to keep busy and active.

The proper stock will consist of April hatched pullets and yearling hens, in good health. There is a difference of opinion as to the variety but to me it is not so much variety as it is proper care.

In winter I prefer giving a moist mash feed for first meal as it is ground and being moist passes quickly into the gizzard. Do not feed too much. Let the hens be hungry enough to scratch for additional grains. The mash feed formulas differ with different localities and access able grains.

The following are two good ones:

About noon I feed the grains in the litter. I like to get as great a variety as possible as I think variety causes the hens to do more hunting. The
first time over they will not get all and will keep at it. I prefer cracked to whole corn.

In extremely cold weather I like to throw them some whole corn or wheat just before roosting time, this keeps the chickens digestive system working longer at night.

Remember whole corn is a strong fat producer and too much will produce fat and not egg. Further, quick, light, active hens can partake of more corn without serious disturbance of egg production than the large sluggish fowls.

Of course, fresh water, grit, oyster shell and a dust bath should be accessible at all times and be sure there is no vermin in the pen. Chicken lice is a great enemy to egg production.

The water should not be hot nor should it be allowed to freeze.

The dust bath is best when made from road-dust and wood ashes, with a little DE or lime.

Green food must be supplied in winter if the best results are to be obtained. For this purpose a cabbage suspended from the ceiling by string, just high enough so the chickens can reach it will do wonders, a turnip or swede/rutabaga cut in two lengthwise and nailed to the side of the house will furnish good "green" food also.

I use sprouted grains from early fall. They are prepared by placing some wheat, barley or oats in a box having sides about 6 inches high and by moistening the oats and keeping them warm and they will sprout.

In about 7 days they will be fully twice the size and much more relished by the chickens than whole oats and much more beneficial. By having seven boxes a continuous daily supply can be kept up.

The grains should be first soaked over night in luke warm water then spread in the boxes about an inch deep and moistened daily. They should be stirred daily until they start to sprout after which moisten only. In seven days the sprouts should be about six inches long making a matted mass which can be broken up and scattered in the pen or mixed in with feed. Chickens will not hurt themselves eating too much of this feed.

For a small flock a six inch flower pot will do and seven of them are not out of place on a kitchen window.

After emptying the growing pans they should be washed thoroughly with a disinfectant and dried or the growing oats will develop a mould which may prove injurious to the fowls.

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