Most backyard flocks have dozens of chickens but only 1-2 roosters. It is tempting to let them all eat the same food. But can roosters eat layer feed? Is it good for them? Let’s find out
When feeding a mixed flock of roosters and hens, you may want to give layer feed to all of them together. However, layer feed is specifically designed for egg-laying chicken.
While most non-egg-laying chicken will not have any problems in eating layer feed, it is not the same for roosters. Roosters have different dietary requirements.
In this article, we explore why layer feed is not good for roosters, what problems it can cause, and what you should feed them instead.
Can Roosters Eat Layer Feed?
No, layer feed is not good for roosters. Since layer feed is designed for hens to produce healthy eggs, it is food that has high calcium levels but not so much protein and other essential nutrients.
While it’s ok to give this type of feed to your rooster once in a while, we will share some concerns about regularly feeding roosters with layer feed in our later sections.
Why Layer Feed is Good For Chickens
Layer food is intended for chickens who are laying eggs. There is a high concentration of calcium in layer feed (which helps develop the egg shell). Typically, layer feed has 3.2-3.8% calcium in them.
It also contains 15-17% protein content and a high amount of calories as needed by the chicken for the process of laying eggs.
While this diet is intended for laying chickens, most chicken farms are able to feed all chickens the same diet, whether they are laying or non-laying.
The problem happens when you use the same feed for roosters as well. Roosters have a higher protein requirement and do not need as much calcium.
Why Layer Feed May Not be Best For Roosters?
A typical rooster feed product may have 20% protein and only 0.8-1.3% calcium. This means that layer food is not so great for roosters.
The lack of protein in layer feed can raise many health risks for your roosters. Although you will probably not notice the signs early on, here are a few problems that can happen if you feed your roosters with layer feed regularly.
Roosters do not need as much calcium as layer hens. Excess calcium from layer feed over a long time may cause calcium toxicity in them.
Young pullets who have a high calcium diet tend to develop kidney stones and damage their kidneys. Over time, it may even lead to organ failure.
Kidney or Liver Damage
Another common problem that might occur due to excess layer feed is FLHS. This is one of the most common causes of mortality in poultry, and more so in roosters.
This disease causes excess fat in the liver which can cause internal bleeding and ruptures.
Since layer feed is not designed to meet the nutritional requirements of roosters (especially proteins), eating only layer feed can cause your rooster’s growth to be stunted.
It is essential to mix the right ingredients in a roosters diet to accommodate for the lower protein intake caused by the regular feeding of layer feed.
What To Feed Them Instead
While it is clear that layer feed is not a good option for roosters, what else should you focus on? You need to provide food sources rich in protein (at least 18% protein by weight).
For this purpose, you can add high-protein snacks such as flax seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, and chia seeds to the layer feed.
You can also buy rooster-specific food products after talking to a poultry vet. These are designed to provide the right amount of protein and calcium to the rooster’s diet.
You can also offer them organic meats that are free from preservatives and high-protein eggs. Make sure not to add anything to their diet that is processed or contains preservatives.
Can They Eat Laying Mash?
Some chicken owners add laying mash as an extra supplement to layer feed for nutrition and vitamins. However, laying mash also has a similar composition as layer feed.
In both cases, it is ok to use it for roosters, but it is not ideal. You should add sources of protein to the rooster’s diet to supplement it.
Can They Eat Oyster Shells?
Oyster shells are a source of additional calcium. While they might be a good diet for your laying hens, they are not a good option for your roosters.
Preferably do not let your roosters eat the oyster shells even if you are mixing it up in your chicken’s regular feed.
Other Food You Can Give
It is best to offer roosters a dietary product that is designed specifically for their needs. However, other foods that they might enjoy are things like:
Corn Mix, which is a good option for them to take late in the day so that they can roost on it during the night.
Worms, insects, and slugs, which they love to eat. They often offer these as a mating ritual to a hen they are trying to woo.
Vegetables and fruits (organic, fresh, and from the farm itself). Vegetables like broccoli and cabbage are a good mix of nutrients for roosters.
What Not to Feed?
Several food items are unsafe or toxic for roosters. Make sure that you never feed these to your pet roosters:
- Avocados: the pits and the skin of the avocado have persin, a toxin that is harmful to roosters.
- High sugar foods (candies, cake, soda, etc): anything that has a high amount of sugar, salt, or preservatives is bad for a rooster.
- Tea and coffee: both are poisonous to roosters
- Green potatoes have Solanine, a toxin that is poisonous to poultry.
- Chocolate, cocoa: These contain theobromine, a substance that is bad for almost all animals.
- Moldy cheeses or other moldy food are all bad for poultry
How Much To Feed?
Chicken feed and rooster feed quantities are very different. Because roosters are bigger, they will typically need more food.
It is important to let them eat since roosters will rarely overeat themselves. Do not let them have a go at the food before your chickens have had their fill because they tend to dominate the food.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best feed for roosters?
You can feed corn, corn mash, rice, garden slugs, insects, and most food scraps to your roosters. They love to gorge on leafy vegetables like cabbage and lettuce.
How can I fatten up my rooster?
Apart from providing them a regular diet of rooster-specific feed, you should supplement the diet with other treats. You can give whole wheat, soy, cracked corn, and other carbohydrate-rich foods that will help fatten them up.
Can chickens eat layer pellets?
Up until 18 weeks of age, it is not advisable to feed layer pellets to chickens. Layer pellets are rich in calcium, and are specifically designed for egg-laying hens.
Excess calcium at an early age can lead to kidney damage and reduce the bird’s ability to produce eggs.
Do roosters eat bird seed?
Bird seed is not rich in protein. Therefore, it is not a great option to put up on the plate to a rooster. If you offer it, they will certainly eat them, but it is not recommended.
Giving your roosters and chickens the right diet at the right age and period of their lives is of the utmost importance.
Layer feed is meant for egg-laying chickens, and as such should not be the main source of food for your roosters. Give them a high protein diet with considerably lower calcium instead.