Essential Nutrients for Happy, Healthy Hens!

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 02 July 2014

Chickens free range foraging in backyard

Just like humans, chickens require a healthy and balanced diet so they stay at the height of their health (accompanied of course by a few treats here and there!). However with so much information about chickens diets readily available, it is easy for backyard chicken keepers to become overwhelmed with choice and overcomplicate their flocks needs, often spending large amounts of money unnecessarily.

In their natural habitat, chickens would free-range and scavenge for food, eating what they can, but as chicken keepers we have a responsibility to provide for our chickens dietary needs to keep them happy, healthy and producing nutritious and delicious eggs!

To do this you need to provide your flock with a range of essential nutrients, which they can generally obtain from eating a good quality mixed grain feed, with a few additional mix-ins.

Below are a list of nutrients along with their function in keeping chickens healthy, and where you can get them from. This is great to keep in mind when choosing a chicken feed, or if you’re wanting to make your own.


  • Function: Protein is probably the most crucial nutrient to include in your chickens diet, especially young, developing baby chicks. It assists with body building and development and helps with injury repair.
  • Sources:  fish and blood meal (both which can be bought from any good pet/farm supply store).


  • Function: Carbs are needed to provide your flock with the energy to go about their busy day.
  • Sources: all cereal grains are laden with carbohydrates to keep your hens active

Fats & Oils

  • Function: Also needed to help keep your hens energy levels up.
  • Sources: Meat meal and bone meal, fish meal (all which can bought from any good pet/farm supply store).

Vitamin A

  • Function: Vitamin A is required to keep your chickens resistance to disease and for the well-being of their mucous-producing gland.
  • Sources: Grass and green forage is great to keep up vitamin A levels, as is maize meal which can be bought from pet supply stores.

Vitamin B Complex

  • Function: Promotes optimum growth development, as well as aiding in reproductive and general health among your flock. Also essential for healthy, radiant feathers and skin.
  • Sources: Cereals and fish meal will provide your girls with a healthy dose of Vitamin B.

Vitamin D

  • Function: Vitamin D is an important part of your chickens diet to keep them growing healthy and strong, and producing strong shelled eggs.
  • Sources: Fish meal and cod liver oil will help your chicken should they need some extra vitamin D in their diet, however lots of sunlight is the best source.

Calcium & Phosphorus

  • Function: Promotes strong egg shells and healthy bones
  • Sources: Bone meal and fish meal is great for a healthy calcium and phosphorus boost, although grass and greens is a great firsthand source of calcium.

A balanced diet packed with these essential nutrients along with fresh water, additional kitchen scraps and the occasional treat is sure to keep your chickens clucky for a long time to come!

Sources and further reading