I’ve gotten several calls lately about chickens who aren’t eating their (new) food. Here’s what’s likely going on.
Birds are persnickety creatures, and any change to routine or environment can upset the applecart: construction noises may cause them to stop laying, a new object in the cage/coop may be avoided at all costs out of fear, it may take a while to get used to a new coop.
Diets are no different. If you switch from a crumble to a pelleted diet, for example, your birds may avoid the new food completely.
Chicken feed comes in several forms: mash (finely ground), crumble (looks like Grape Nuts), pellets (the name gives it away!), and a mix of grains with pellets, grit, etc. If you are changing to a different form of food, your birds may not recognize the new stuff as food.
Not to worry – here’s what to do. For the first week or two, mix 25% new feed and 75% old feed. Then switch to 50% new 50% old for a week or two, followed by 75% new, 25% old for a week or two. Finally, you should be able to feed them the new diet at 100%.
During this process, observe the chickens and check their crops to make sure they are eating the new food. Birds have been known to starve themselves during a diet change.