If you keep hens and they’re fed on layer feed it can be difficult to know what to do food-wise if you introduce a rooster into the flock.
Layer feed is produced with laying hens in mind and contains extra calcium which a hen needs to produce eggs with a strong, hard shell.
When we got our first rooster we found it difficult to know what to feed him because there’s so much advice for feeding laying hens but not so much when it comes to feeding roosters.
Our main concern at the time was the additional calcium in the layer feed and whether this would cause any issues for a rooster or a chicken who doesn’t produce eggs. So in this post, I want to share what we’ve learned over the years about feeding a rooster alongside a flock of hens.
Roosters can eat layer feed, but it’s not optimal due to the higher calcium levels designed for laying hens. Excessive calcium can be harmful to roosters. Offering a general-purpose poultry feed and providing a separate calcium source, like oyster shell, for hens is a balanced approach to meet all nutritional needs.
Read on to find out more about feeding roosters, including when you shouldn’t feed a rooster layer feed and how you can supplement some of their feed with alternatives which they’ll love.
When can a rooster eat layer feed?
Although its fine for a fully grown rooster to eat layer feed, it cannot be given to young chickens or chicks (male or female) under a certain age because the additional calcium can cause organ failure.
Roosters should not eat layer feed until they’re at least 16 weeks old and preferably older (around 18 weeks). Until they reach this age they should be fed with grower/chick feed which will provide them with all the nutrients they need to grow and stay healthy.
For more information on what to feed chickens by age, my article below explains everything you need to know:
Do you have to feed roosters layer feed?
You don’t have to give layer feed to roosters, it just makes it easier to feed them layer feed when you already have a flock of laying hens. You can feed them with an alternative chicken feed for adult birds providing it contains all the nutrients and protein they need in a complete feed.
Roosters like to feed alongside their hens so it can be difficult to feed them separately unless you have a set up where you can close the rooster in alone at feeding time.
Many chicken keepers and specialist breeders choose not to feed their hen’s layer feed and will substitute the additional calcium that’s in layer feed with something else such as oyster shell.
There are many feeds available which aren’t specifically for layers which can be fed to adult birds.
Other food you can give to roosters
As well as feeding roosters a complete feed they will also enjoy some added treats to give them some variation. Roosters enjoy a corn mix feed and it’s good to give them a handful later in the day so that it can digest slowly while they roost at night.
Roosters will also enjoy grazing for natural foods such as worms, slugs, insects, seeds and vegetation. It’s common to see a rooster offering his hens morsels of food which he finds as part of his mating ritual.
Fresh garden veg and fruit always go down well with roosters too, nutrient-rich veg such as spinach, broccoli and cabbage are some of the best veggie types to feed chickens.
If you’re new to chicken keeping, you might find the posts helpful via the links at the bottom of this page for more information on what you can and can’t feed chickens.
How much food do roosters need?
Generally, roosters are much bigger than a hen of the same breed which means they will need more food than a hen to maintain a good weight and stay healthy.
Our rooster will carry on eating after the hens are full, but they won’t over-feed because once their crops are full they’ll stop eating.
Roosters can dominate feeding times and will keep hens in line to make sure they don’t get above their station in the pecking order. To make sure they all get enough it’s we like to put more food out than they need and then remove the bowl with any leftovers once they stop eating.
We feed our flock with layers feed in the morning and again in the evening, they also have a corn mix later in the day. We don’t tend to give them too many treats in between because they free range during the day. However, when its cold and grazing treats are less hard to come by, we make sure there’s more food available during the day.
I hope this article has helped you to find out more about feeding roosters, you might also find the following articles helpful too:
Our recommended coop
Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.
This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on November 24, 2020.