When free-ranging or in the wild, chickens have a good sense of selecting what’s good for them and eating only enough to nourish themselves with each food group.
Your backyard chickens are no different, but the difference is it’s up to us to ensure they have access to a diet that satisfies all their needs so they can continue baring lovely eggs for us and for their happiness and wellbeing. You do need to bear in mind what life stage your chooks are in, considering their age, activity, and role requirements in your backyard family. So, if you raise game birds and chickens, or just picked up some game bird feed, you may be asking — can chickens eat game bird feed?
Although chickens can safely eat game bird feed, there are a few things to consider before feeding them this superfood.
Can Chickens Eat Game Bird Feed?
The difference between game bird feed and regular chicken feed is like the difference between fertilizers and regular soil. Game birds, like turkey, pheasant, quail, etc. are supposed to be fast, strong, muscular, and up for an adventure. That’s why they need the ramped-up nutrients and protein in their various growth stages, or to suit their diet requirements.
This wrestler vibe isn’t a thing in the chicken pen, where they should just thrive and be well. A balanced chicken feed should be sufficient in most cases. However, if they do eat the odd amount of fortified game bird feed there will be absolutely no harmful effects. Your chickens will metabolize what their bodies need and simply pass the excess protein and other nutrients.
However, care should be taken to give chickens their needs according to their growth requirements, and whether or not they have started to lay eggs. Young chickens usually need more protein, but only through specific sources, and the laying hen should get extra calcium in her diet.
Do Other Feeds Effect Chickens Egg Production
Luckily, chickens are very quick to adapt to different food sources, and as long as they get their base levels of nutrients you won’t see a major downturn in egg production. When raising a healthy chicken before they are ready to lay you want to feed them any type of grower feed, or chick starter feed depending on their age. However, when they are regularly laying beautiful eggs they can eat layer feed, turkey feed, game bird feed, safe table scraps, etc. without any downturn in egg production.
If you are wanting your hens to work full-time and provide a healthy amount of eggs it’s important to ensure they get enough protein and other nutrients like calcium. The majority of chicken feeds will have between 10%-15% protein content which is sufficient for egg laying hens, and the majority of other game bird feeds will have at least 20%. If you’re trying to get more calcium in your chicken’s diet, something that might be missing from most other bird feeds, you can easily feed them crushed egg shells mixed with a bit of milk or bread for a healthy nutritious snack.
Other feeds which are designed for other animals should be fed to chickens only as a treat as it simply doesn’t have enough of the vital nutrients the chickens need for their long term happiness and health. These are feeds such as all stock feed, hamster feed, or even parakeet feed for example.
Nutritional Benefit of Game Bird Feed for Chickens
Game bird feed has high amounts of proteins and other nutrients to sustain the growth of these special game birds, such as pheasant or turkey. The protein content is particularly high in these feeds, and could easily go beyond 30%. In addition, it has amino acids, fat, minerals, salt, and fiber.
This comes in contrast with the protein contained in regular chicken feed, or layer pellets, which rarely exceeds 20%. That’s mainly because chickens normally need food with around 10% protein. They’d need more robust meals while growing or laying eggs, but other than that, they aren’t big protein buffs.
If you want to enrich chicken egg yolks, try feeding your chickens flax seeds too!
What Is Game Bird Feed Used for?
Game bird feed comes in a bunch of varieties, all of them with a high content of protein, minerals, and amino acids. It’s generally used in non-domestic settings which come with higher nutritional requirements.
But, if you do have some happy game birds in your backyard flock, here are some of the situations where game bird feed is essential:
- Boosting the growth and strength of pheasants, wild turkey, mallards, and other game.
- Strengthening the wings of flying birds.
- Giving a super concentrated food for the birds that don’t eat too much, like quail.
- Making sure that the game birds that lay eggs are in top shape.
- Adding some glam to show birds, with their extra shiny wings, sharp beaks, and vibrant colors.
- Ensuring that baby game birds get the best nutrition as they grow.
These applications go way beyond the typical feeds that chickens need. Backyard chickens live a simple life (usually). So, the extra proteins and nutrients in the game bird feed would simply be metabolized, and not harm your chicken. It’s not necessary though.
Additionally, game bird feed is rather specialized, and it doesn’t come cheap due to its high protein content. Thus, it might not be the best option for commercial or domestic chicken enthusiasts.