In my recent post, Managing a Broody Hen, I mentioned placing a feeder for the hens high enough so the chicks and half-growns couldn’t reach it, since layer feed is harmful to developing birds.
Well, not so fast. After several days of thinking this was such a great idea—Why hadn’t anyone else thought of it?—I realized the catch when I saw my broody hen taking a few bites for herself, then dropping some on the ground for the chicks! I decided I’d better only allow them access under supervision.
As I continued to observe this, I realized the hen wasn’t really dropping very much of the layer feed. More often I would see both hen and chicks chowing down on the chick feed, which is more accessible. I’ve also observed the half-growns trying to hang on the edge of the grown-up feeder, madly flapping their wings while they try to grab some layer feed. Chickens are so curious—always wanting to try something different! But in the end they seem to prefer whatever’s easiest.
I don’t think they’ll be harmed by the little bit of layer feed they may get, when so much of their diet is forage anyway. But I have to warn my readers—it does bear watching!