Chickens are omnivores with simple stomachs. They can and will eat both animal and vegetable products. In addition to foraged plants and insects, it is important to provide them with adequate protein in a form that is easily digested. Heritage Chickens need more protein than is in rations prepared for commercial chickens. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy recommends feeding for the first 16-18 weeks of age a ration containing 28% protein, most often found in Game Bird rations or Flock diets for turkeys and waterfowl.
For adult birds, the feed protein level can be backed off to 18-20%. For breeding birds, make sure their diet consists of a quality diet formulated for breeders. Note that the typical layer pellet is an industrial breed ration that contains minimal calcium and often does not include sufficient vitamins and minerals to ensure high fertility and hatchability of eggs. If you are growing for market do not skimp on the food – ever. Provide fresh food and clean water throughout the day to ensure healthy, productive birds.
For more information on raising productive, healthy birds, visit ALBC’s Heritage Chicken site.