We have had a lot of questions about what our customers should feed their laying hens after they purchase pullets from us, and here are our recommendations. We use a good quality starter feed of approximately 20% protein until chickens reach about 16-18 weeks of age and switch them to a layer ration with oyster shells offered free choice. There are many quality brands available, and the brand you choose will probably depend on which feed dealer is most convenient. Since starter/grower and layer feeds are complete rations which are scientifically formulated to meet the dietary requirements of poultry, we advise against the use of scratch feed, as it effectively "dilutes" the nutrients present in a complete feed. Nutritional deficiencies can manifest themselves in many ways, often with very detrimental results.
Questions have also arisen about the feeding of vegetable scraps, and we have found this to be a good practice. When birds are free-ranged, we recommend offering feed, especially to laying hens. In an area with plenty of natural forage, it is quite possible for chickens to perform very well without supplemental feed, but if there is any doubt about whether or not your chickens can obtain enough nutrition from nature, feed should be offered. Regular feeding in the same place also keeps chickens roosting there and makes management much easier.