If you’re raising roosters and hens together, you’re right to question whether or not roosters can eat layer feed. The answer is, yes, roosters can eat layer feed just fine. But, it’s not ideal as roosters require less calcium and more protein than laying hens.
Feeding chickens and roosters is pretty easy. There are some things you need to know to ensure you’re providing the right nutrition for them to maintain optimal health though.
Here’s a look at the do’s and don’ts when it comes to feeding roosters:
What Do Roosters Eat?
Roosters’ dietary needs are a little less complicated than that of hens, there are really two main feeds to give them based on their age:
0-18 Weeks Old - From zero to around 18 weeks of age, roosters should eat a quality starter-grower feed.
There are a number of key nutrients that chicks need to give them the best possible chance to grow up strong and healthy, and there is no easier way than by providing a formulated starter feed.
Here is an example of a great starter feed from Manna Pro available on Amazon:
18 Weeks Onwards - From 18 weeks onwards you can start to introduce some different ‘treat’ foods to your rooster, as well as switching them over to a feed formulated and intended for roosters.
There are a few options on the market, but one that I recommend is this Flock Raiser feed from Purina available on Amazon:
Reading through the copy from Purina, although not obvious at first, they do say that this feed has been specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of a mature rooster.
It’s important to note that the nutritional requirements of a rooster are different from a hen (I’ll explain in more detail below). If you can ensure that your rooster is eating the appropriate feed, as are your hens also, this is the most ideal situation.
Can Roosters Eat Egg Layer Feed?
Laying hens require a layer feed to ensure they’re getting enough calcium and protein along with all the other good nutrition to lay regular eggs at their best.
Obviously, roosters do not lay eggs, so they do not need the same balance of nutrition.
Now, I did some research while writing this, and honestly, I found that most people I spoke with, combined with what I could find on forums, most backyard chicken owners allow their roosters to eat layer feed.
If you have a rooster in with your flock of hens and keep them in the same coop, it’s hard to separate out their feed and make sure they’re both eating their own feeds.
In fact, it’s almost impossible. So, I get it.
I couldn’t find any evidence that eating layer feed caused a rooster any health issues. But, I’m not a vet and this doesn’t give us any insights into the long-term effects - if there are any - of roosters eating layer feed.
So, my best advice is to try and feed your roosters a more appropriate feed, as well as letting them free-range as much as possible so they find plenty of bugs and other stuff they enjoy.
But if they’re eating layer feed because it’s available for your hens, it’s not that bad and this is something most backyard flock owners deal with.
Related - Do hens need roosters to lay eggs?
Can Roosters Eat Laying Mash?
Layers mash is a supplement some owners feed their chickens to provide extra nutrients and vitamins.
Much like layer feed, it’s not a huge issue if your rooster is eating layer mash. But again, it’s not ideal, and you’d rather your laying hens were eating it as it benefits healthy egg production.
Can Roosters Eat Oyster Shells
Another supplement that’s commonly given to laying hens is oyster shells. Oyster shells are very high in calcium, and it’s one of the best ways to make sure your hens are getting their daily calcium intake.
It’s also used as a soluble grit, this helps chickens break up and digest their food. Later dissolving and being absorbed into their bodies.
Too much calcium can actually be detrimental to chickens. It’s known to cause some health issues like kidney damage, particularly in young pullets.
Therefore, it makes sense to err on the side of caution and to try not to let roosters gobble up oyster shells.
They’re most beneficial for laying hens, so you should try and make sure that only your layers are eating shells.
What Should You Not Feed Roosters?
It’s just as - if not more - important that you’re aware of what foods you should not allow roosters to eat.
It’s essentially the same foods that are toxic, poisonous, or dangerous to hens. Here is a list of the most common foods that chickens should never eat to be safe:
- Avocado skins and pits - a fungicidal toxin called persin is present
- Green potatoes and some nightshade foods - a toxin called solanine is present in these foods
- Tea and coffee - various toxins that are harmful to most animals are present
- Candy and other sugary treats, this includes soda - foods with high sugar content and preservatives are bad for chickens
- Foods high in fat or salt, greasy fast foods, etc - fatty foods do not exactly deliver quality nutrition!
- Chocolate and foods with cocoa or chocolate in - there are chemicals in chocolate that causes health issues for most pets
- Any moldy or spoiled foods - you wouldn’t want to eat moldy food, would you? On a serious note, mold spores are toxic and can cause some health issues
There you have it; yes, roosters can eat layer feed. But the bottom line is that there are better feed options for roosters that deliver a much better balance of nutrition.
It’s up to you how you approach feeding your flock. Chickens, and this really applies to laying hens, require some specific nutrition to lay eggs at their best and maintain optimal health.
If you’re really unsure or concerned about any of your chickens, it’s always best to contact a local avian vet and ask for their advice.
Image credits - Photo by paulo morales on Unsplash