What Do Hens Eat- In the bucolic landscape of farms and backyard coops, the gentle clucking of hens has become a reassuring and familiar sound. Hens, those feathered companions, are not just prolific egg layers but also cherished members of many households. Whether you’re a seasoned farmer or a novice enthusiast, understanding what hens eat is fundamental to their well-being and the quality of the eggs they produce. This guide, “What Do Hens Eat?”, embarks on a journey through the dietary needs and preferences of our beloved feathered friends.

Hens, known scientifically as Gallus gallus domesticus, are omnivorous creatures with a complex dietary profile. Their dietary requirements are essential not only for their growth and development but also for producing those delicious eggs that grace our breakfast tables. While they are not particularly finicky eaters, providing them with a balanced and nutritious diet can significantly impact their overall health and egg production.

What Do Hens Eat

This comprehensive exploration of a hen’s diet will delve into the intricacies of their nutritional needs, offering insights into the different stages of life, from fluffy chick to seasoned layer. We will uncover the basics of what hens eat daily, including grains, greens, and protein sources, and examine how these elements contribute to their health.

What to feed your hens is more than just a matter of sustenance; it’s a way to ensure their vitality and happiness. Whether you’re a small-scale backyard farmer aiming for a steady supply of farm-fresh eggs or simply someone with a deep admiration for these feathered wonders, this guide aims to demystify the world of hen nutrition. With the right knowledge, you can provide your hens with a balanced diet that will not only keep them clucking contentedly but also yield eggs that are a testament to their well-cared-for lives. So, let’s embark on this journey through the culinary world of hens and discover what truly makes them thrive.

What does hens eat?

Chickens eat anything and everything. They are omnivores, which means they eat both plants/vegetables and meat. Broilers and laying hens do not eat the same food at all. This is because hens need to lay lots of eggs and broilers need to grow meat on their bones quickly.

Hens, like many poultry birds, have specific dietary needs to maintain their health and productivity. Their diet primarily consists of a balanced mix of grains, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Here’s a breakdown of what hens eat:

Grains: The foundation of a hen’s diet is grains, which provide them with essential carbohydrates for energy. Common grains fed to hens include corn, wheat, barley, and oats. These grains are often ground or cracked to make them more digestible for the birds.

Protein: Protein is crucial for egg production and overall health in hens. Hens require a source of high-quality protein, and this is often provided through commercial poultry feeds or supplements. Soybean meal, fish meal, and alfalfa meal are common protein sources used in chicken feed.

Vitamins and Minerals: Hens also need a variety of vitamins and minerals to thrive. Calcium is particularly important for eggshell formation, so crushed oyster shells or limestone may be added to their diet. Vitamins like vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin A are essential for overall health and egg production and can be included in commercial feeds.

These primary components, hens also benefit from access to fresh water and foraging opportunities. They often peck at insects, plants, and small pebbles in their environment, which helps them meet their nutritional needs and engage in natural behavior.

It’s important to note that the specific diet requirements of hens may vary depending on their age, breed, and purpose (e.g., egg-laying hens, meat-producing hens, or dual-purpose hens). Providing a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for the health and productivity of hens, whether they are raised on a small backyard farm or in a commercial poultry operation.

What is the Favourite food of hen?

Watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries make healthy snacks for chickens when fed in moderation. A few flock favorites include: Vegetables: Lettuce, beets, broccoli, carrots, kale, swiss chard, squash, pumpkins and cucumbers. Herbs: Lavender, mint, oregano, parsley, cilantro, thyme and basil.

Hens, like many animals, do not have personal preferences or favorite foods in the same way humans do. They are driven by their instincts and dietary needs rather than taste preferences. However, hens tend to show enthusiasm for certain types of food based on their nutritional requirements.

One of the foods hens are particularly drawn to is grains, such as corn and wheat. These grains are rich in carbohydrates, which provide the birds with the energy they need for their daily activities and egg production. When offered grains, hens will eagerly peck at them, but it’s essential to ensure a well-balanced diet, as grains alone are not sufficient to meet all of their nutritional needs.

Another item hens commonly enjoy is insects. Hens are natural foragers, and in the wild, they would scratch and dig for insects as part of their diet. Insects provide valuable protein and other nutrients that contribute to the overall health and well-being of the birds. When given the opportunity, hens will readily chase and consume insects they find in their environment.

While hens may seem to have favorite foods like grains and insects, it’s important to remember that their dietary preferences are based on instinctual needs rather than taste preferences. To ensure their health and productivity, it’s best to provide them with a well-balanced diet that includes grains, protein sources, vitamins, and minerals, as described in the previous response.

Do hens eat eggs?

Chickens are omnivores and if left to their own devices may eat just about anything. Chickens commonly eat fruit, vegetables, insects, and their own eggs.

Hens generally do not have a natural tendency to eat their own eggs. In fact, they will go to great lengths to protect and incubate their eggs to hatch chicks if given the opportunity. However, under certain circumstances, hens may start eating their eggs, and this behavior can be problematic for poultry keepers.

One common reason hens may start eating their eggs is when they encounter broken or damaged eggs in the nesting boxes. If a hen accidentally cracks an egg while laying it, the sight of the broken egg can trigger a scavenging response. Once they discover that the broken egg contains a nutritious yolk and egg white, they might be tempted to consume it, and this behavior can become a habit if not addressed promptly.

To prevent egg-eating behavior, it’s essential to provide hens with comfortable and clean nesting boxes that reduce the likelihood of eggs breaking. Collecting eggs promptly after they are laid can also help deter the habit. Additionally, ensuring that hens have a well-balanced diet with sufficient nutrition can reduce the temptation to consume their eggs. If egg-eating behavior becomes a problem, removing any egg-eating hens from the flock may be necessary to prevent it from spreading to other birds.

While hens generally do not naturally eat their eggs, certain conditions, such as encountering broken eggs, can lead to this behavior. Proper nest management, egg collection, and nutrition are key factors in preventing egg-eating habits among hens.

What Do Hens Eat

Can hens eat chicken?

Under normal, healthy conditions, your backyard flock will not try to eat flock mates if they get a taste of your leftovers. Chickens are omnivores and voracious eaters, but they don’t actually know your leftovers are chicken. To them, it’s just meat. Remember that chickens are extremely social.

Hens are omnivorous birds and can technically eat chicken or other meat if it is offered to them. However, it’s generally not a recommended practice to feed hens chicken meat, especially if the chicken in question is from the same flock or a closely related bird. There are several reasons for this.

Cannibalism: Chickens, including hens, can exhibit cannibalistic behavior when they are stressed, overcrowded, or lacking proper nutrition. Feeding them chicken meat may increase the risk of them developing a taste for chicken flesh, potentially leading to cannibalism within the flock.

Disease Transmission: Feeding hens chicken meat from within the same flock or bird species can introduce the risk of disease transmission. Chickens can carry various diseases, and consuming infected chicken meat could lead to the spread of these diseases within the flock.

Nutritional Balance: While hens can eat meat, their primary dietary requirements are grains, plant matter, and protein sources like insects and commercial poultry feed. Providing a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs is essential for their health and productivity. Feeding them chicken meat as a primary protein source is not advisable, as it may not provide the necessary nutrients they require.

While hens can consume chicken meat, it’s generally best to avoid feeding them their own kind or closely related poultry birds to prevent potential behavioral issues, disease transmission, and nutritional imbalances. It’s more appropriate to focus on providing hens with a diet that meets their specific dietary requirements and includes a variety of suitable protein sources.

What are the primary components of a hen’s diet?

A hen’s diet consists of several primary components that are essential for its health, well-being, and optimal egg production. These components include grains, protein sources, vitamins and minerals, and access to fresh water.

Grains: Grains like corn, wheat, barley, and oats are a fundamental part of a hen’s diet. They provide carbohydrates for energy and help maintain body weight. Grains are typically ground into poultry feed or provided whole as scratch grains. Hens enjoy pecking at whole grains, and they also help satisfy their natural foraging instincts.

Protein Sources: Protein is crucial for egg production and overall health in hens. Common protein sources include soybean meal, alfalfa meal, fish meal, and insect larvae. Hens need a balanced protein intake to support eggshell formation, feather growth, and muscle development. The protein content in their diet should be adjusted based on their age and life stage, with higher protein levels required for growing chicks and laying hens.

Vitamins and Minerals: Hens require a range of vitamins and minerals to maintain their health and produce quality eggs. Calcium is essential for strong eggshells, and it is often provided through oyster shell or crushed eggshells. Vitamin D helps in calcium absorption. Other important nutrients include vitamin A for eye health, vitamin E for reproduction, and various B vitamins for metabolism. Minerals like phosphorus and magnesium are also crucial for bone development and overall well-being.

Fresh Water: Access to clean, fresh water is a fundamental component of a hen’s diet. Hens can drink significant amounts of water daily, especially in hot weather or when laying eggs. Water is essential for digestion, regulating body temperature, and transporting nutrients throughout their bodies. Providing clean water in sufficient quantities ensures that hens stay hydrated and healthy.

A balanced diet for hens includes grains for energy, protein sources for growth and egg production, a variety of vitamins and minerals for overall health, and ample fresh water to maintain hydration. Proper nutrition is essential to keep hens healthy, promote egg production, and produce high-quality eggs for consumption or sale. Feeding practices may vary based on the specific needs of the hens and the goals of the poultry operation.

Why is it important to provide hens with a balanced diet?

Providing hens with a balanced diet is crucial for several important reasons, as it directly impacts their health, well-being, and productivity.

Overall Health: A balanced diet ensures that hens receive all the essential nutrients they need to maintain good health. Proper nutrition helps them resist diseases, recover from stress, and maintain their immune systems. Without a balanced diet, hens are more susceptible to various health issues, including nutritional deficiencies and diseases, which can lead to reduced lifespan and lower egg production.

Egg Production: For those raising hens for egg production, a balanced diet is essential. Hens require specific nutrients, such as calcium and protein, to produce high-quality eggs consistently. Inadequate nutrition can lead to irregular or decreased egg production, smaller egg sizes, and weaker eggshells. A balanced diet helps ensure that hens have the energy and nutrients required for optimal egg laying.

Egg Quality: The quality of eggs produced by hens is also influenced by their diet. Balanced nutrition results in eggs with stronger shells, vibrant yolks, and better flavor. In contrast, an imbalanced diet can lead to eggs with thin shells, making them more susceptible to cracking and bacterial contamination. These issues can affect the marketability and consumer satisfaction of the eggs.

Sustainability: Providing hens with a balanced diet is essential for the sustainability of poultry farming. Efficient utilization of feed resources is crucial to reduce waste and minimize environmental impact. A balanced diet helps hens convert feed into eggs more efficiently, reducing the environmental footprint of egg production. Additionally, healthy hens are likely to have a longer productive life, which contributes to the overall sustainability of a poultry operation.

A balanced diet is a cornerstone of good poultry management. It ensures that hens remain healthy, productive, and efficient, benefiting both the well-being of the birds and the economic viability of poultry farming. Proper nutrition not only supports consistent egg production and quality but also contributes to the sustainability of the poultry industry as a whole.

How do hens obtain essential protein in their diet?

Hens obtain essential protein in their diet through a combination of commercial poultry feed, foraging, and supplemental protein sources. Protein is a critical nutrient for hens, as it is essential for various physiological processes, including egg production, feather growth, and overall body maintenance.

Commercial Poultry Feed: Commercial poultry feed is a primary source of protein for hens in most poultry farming operations. These feeds are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of hens at different stages of their life cycle. Depending on the type of feed (starter, grower, layer, or broiler feed), the protein content varies to ensure hens receive the right amount of protein at each life stage. Typically, these feeds contain plant-based protein sources like soybean meal and corn gluten meal, which provide a balanced amino acid profile for optimal growth and egg production.

Foraging: Hens are natural foragers, and they can obtain a portion of their protein by pecking at insects, small plants, and seeds found in their environment. For free-range or pastured hens, foraging can be a significant protein source, especially during the warmer months when insects are abundant. This natural foraging behavior not only supplements their diet but also provides mental stimulation and contributes to their overall well-being.

Supplemental Protein Sources: In addition to commercial feed and foraging, hens may receive supplemental protein sources to ensure they meet their protein requirements. These supplements can include mealworms, earthworms, fish meal, alfalfa meal, and even kitchen scraps like yogurt or cottage cheese. These protein-rich treats can be offered as occasional supplements to their regular diet, providing additional protein for hens.

Grains and Legumes: While grains like corn and wheat are primarily sources of carbohydrates, they also contain some protein. Hens that have access to whole grains in their diet can derive some protein from these sources. Similarly, legumes like peas and lentils can be included in their diet to boost protein intake. However, it’s important to note that grains and legumes alone may not provide the complete protein profile hens require, so they are often combined with other protein sources in their diet.

Hens obtain essential protein in their diet from a combination of commercial poultry feed, foraging, and supplemental protein sources. This diverse protein intake ensures that they receive the necessary amino acids and nutrients for growth, egg production, and overall health. The specific protein sources and their proportions can vary based on the type of operation, management practices, and the dietary needs of the hens at different life stages.

What Do Hens Eat

What role do grains play in a hen’s nutritional needs?

Grains play a significant role in meeting a hen’s nutritional needs, providing essential components of their diet that contribute to their overall health, energy, and well-being. Here are the key roles that grains play in a hen’s nutrition:

Energy Source: Grains are a primary source of carbohydrates, which are crucial for providing energy to hens. Carbohydrates are metabolized by the hen’s body to produce glucose, a readily available energy source that powers various physiological processes. This energy is essential for maintaining body temperature, physical activity, and vital functions like digestion and circulation.

Weight Maintenance: Grains help hens maintain a healthy body weight. A proper body weight is essential for both egg-laying hens and meat-producing broilers. Grains provide a calorie-dense source of energy that allows hens to meet their daily energy requirements. This is especially important for laying hens, as maintaining an ideal body condition supports consistent egg production.

Behavioral Enrichment: Offering whole grains to hens can serve as a form of behavioral enrichment. Hens are natural foragers, and pecking at grains in their environment engages their natural instincts and keeps them mentally stimulated. This can help reduce stress and prevent negative behaviors, such as feather pecking and cannibalism, in flock settings.

Egg Production: Grains, when included in balanced poultry feed, contribute to overall nutrition and can indirectly support egg production. While grains are not a direct source of protein, they help provide the necessary calories and energy that enable hens to efficiently utilize protein from other sources for egg production. This allows hens to allocate more of their dietary protein to processes like eggshell formation and yolk production.

Grains are a vital component of a hen’s diet, serving as a valuable energy source, contributing to weight maintenance, providing behavioral enrichment, and indirectly supporting egg production. However, it’s important to note that grains should be part of a well-balanced diet that also includes protein sources, vitamins, and minerals to ensure hens receive the full spectrum of nutrients needed for optimal health and productivity. Proper nutrition is essential for raising healthy and productive poultry.


As we draw the curtains on our exploration of what hens eat, we find ourselves with a profound appreciation for the dietary intricacies that underpin the lives of these charming birds. From the bustling farms to the quaint backyard coops, the nourishment of hens is not just about filling their bellies; it’s about fostering their well-being, ensuring robust egg production, and even deepening our connection to the natural world.

We’ve also uncovered the importance of supplementary elements like grit and clean water, which are the unsung heroes of hen nutrition. Grit aids in digestion, enabling these birds to extract maximum nutrition from their food, while fresh water is essential for maintaining hydration and egg production. Additionally, we’ve explored the benefits of free-ranging and foraging, allowing hens to exhibit their natural behaviors and find additional sustenance while roaming freely.

What Do Hens Eat

Our journey through the culinary world of hens, we hope you’ve gained valuable insights into how to nourish these clucking companions. With this knowledge, you have the power to create a diet that ensures their vitality, longevity, and happiness, ultimately resulting in healthier and more abundant eggs. So, as you continue to care for your hens, remember that the secret to contented cluckers and delicious eggs lies in understanding what hens eat and providing them with the balanced and nutritious diet they deserve.