What to Feed Chickens in Winter?

Though chickens cope well with the cold winter weather, there are certain things that you should provide them for their survival. You have to keep the coop properly ventilated and protect it against frostbite. The coop should also have enough space for your chickens to move around and roost.

Expect your flock’s nutritional requirements to change as the cold season approaches. Since their food intake will also change, you need to be cautious about the type and amount of food you give them. It’s a great step to ensuring that your chickens grow normally while their egg production increases.

7 Best Foods to Feed Chickens in Winter

The food choices for your chickens should have the essential nutrients they need to survive and grow optimally. You need to consider your flock’s dietary needs when choosing foods to feed them during winter. Either way, your options should include the following.

– Whole Grains

As a low-cost feeding option, whole grains are a great addition to chickens’ diets, whether young or old. You can use them to supplement existing feed or as the entire diet.

Your options for whole grains include whole barley, whole oats, and whole meat. You won’t necessarily have to grind these grains to feed them to your flock.

Whole grains help promote gizzard development in adult chicken. If you include them in your chickens’ diet, start with a 5 percent portion in the first two weeks. Increase the portions over the next couple of weeks to help the birds’ gizzard adapt.

– Leafy Greens

Chickens love to eat dark leafy greens as treats when foraging the ground. These leafy greens are known to help egg-laying birds produce darker, richer egg yolks. Healthy options for leafy greens include kale, turnips, alfalfa, and grass.

You can also sprout seeds of alfalfa, wheat grass, red clover, sunflower, and barley and feed them to your flock. The sprouted seeds are easy to produce and can give your birds the nutrients they need to survive the winter months.

If you consider grass clippings as your source for leafy greens, ensure they are not contaminated with fertilizer or pesticides. The grass clippings are high in protein, making them a great food choice for your birds.

– Kitchen Scrap

Supplementing your chicken feed with kitchen scrap during the cold winter months is quite a good idea. Not only will it help you lower the overall feeding costs, but it also reduces the amount of kitchen scraps that end up in landfills. However, you need to take caution on the type of kitchen scraps to feed your flock.

Safe options include fruits, grains, cooked meats, bread, and greens. Others include squash, starches, and vegetables.

Be sure to cut the cooked meats and fruits into small pieces before using them as chicken feed. You should also avoid moldy bread and grains infested with pests.

If you are going with squash and starches, spit them before giving them to your flock. Dried, raw, or cooked peas and corn are okay. The same applies to zucchini, spaghetti squash, and pumpkins.

Avoid giving your chickens kitchen scraps in the form of apricot pits, apple seeds, avocados, and onions since they don’t pair well with the digestive system of chickens. You should also exclude chocolate, candy, sugar, citrus products, cat food, raw eggs, and uncooked beans for the same reasons.

– Corn

Corn is a popular choice for poultry feeds in the country since it is easy to digest and is packed with nutrients. Though its nutritional content varies with the variety and planting location, corn has approximately 1520 calories per pound. It also boasts a crude protein content of 7.5 percent.

Chickens have the ability to digest corn without any difficulties and gain a wide range of minerals and vitamins. Besides getting fiber from corn, chickens also get carbohydrates, vitamins B, E, and K, and magnesium.

As you add corn to your chicken feed this summer, opt for cracked corn over whole corn. This is because it has been proven that corn is quite hard to digest for chickens.

One way to prepare cracked corn is to ensure that the kernels are completely dry and crush them into small bits. Cracked corn pieces are easier to peck on and digest, making them a great addition to your flock’s diet this winter.

– Oatmeal

You can use oatmeal as a treat for your chicken this winter. In particular, warm oatmeal can give your birds the nutrients and energy they need to survive the cold weather. Oatmeal is also a great source of antioxidants, protein, and vitamins, whether cooked or raw.

Constantly adding oatmeal to your chickens’ diet can improve their overall health. It also helps lower incidences of cannibalism and pecking as your birds stay in the coop more than they are used to.

Your chicks can also take oatmeal but in moderation. The oats help them grow healthier and reduce their risk of having immune problems during winter.

You can introduce oatmeal in your chicken feed in small amounts, whether raw or cooked. Simply add one tablespoon per hen to the feeder. If you are using raw oats, be sure to add some water to soften them.

– Mealworms

As a great source of protein for poultry, mealworms can help supplement your chickens’ feed during winter. They are also a great alternative to fishmeal and soy, whose production is linked to marine life depletion and deforestation.

Mealworms are also rich in fatty acids and carbohydrates, which chickens need to stay active and healthy in the cold weather. Thanks to their high levels of amino acid leucine, they help the chickens’ bodies absorb calcium and improve egg-laying capabilities.

Like any poultry treat, you should give your flock mealworms in small portions. Excess consumption of mealworms can cause gout and kidney disease in your chickens.

Feed your flock about 10 to 12 mealworms each day to serve as a protein supplement. You may double this serving in during breeding, in cold weather extremes, or during mounting.

– Nuts

Adding nuts to your flock’s diet this winter season can ensure that they get healthy proteins and fatty acids. However, you need to be cautious about the type of nuts and portions.

Like other birds, chickens can use their beaks to break nuts such as pistachios, pecans, cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts, and walnuts. They can take them as treats instead of full-course meals.

You should also collect the right nuts since some are known to be poisonous. Ration walnuts, peanuts, and almonds by feeding them to your flock less than thrice a week. Even more, you need to break the hazelnuts into small quantities to prevent incidents of choking.

Avoid giving your chickens flavored, dry roasted, or salted nuts since they may contain anti-nutrients. Nuts combined with raisins, as well as raw peanuts, are also not good for your flock’s health. The same applies to nutshells since they are difficult to digest.

How to Feed Chickens in Winter?

During winter, your chickens’ nutritional requirements change more than they would in summer and spring. You should therefore feed them about 1.5 times the feed you give them in warmer months. Remember to make warm snacks rich in carbohydrates part of their diet to keep them energized and healthy.

Giving your chickens more protein in the winter helps them add more feathers to keep warm in the cold weather. Protein also helps boost egg production and growth.

Instead of sprinkling the food on the ground, use a trough to feed your flock in winter. Sprinkled food may get contaminated with germs, leading to diseases or infections that may be costly to treat.

Your chickens also need to get the right amount of water at all times, even when it is cold outside. Use a heated water bowl to ensure they have a constant supply of water. You should also replace the water frequently to prevent it from freezing or accumulating contaminants.

Do Chickens Need More Food in Winter?

Chickens tend to consume more in the winter to keep warm and grow healthily. In this case, they need lots of carbohydrates in their diet to stay energized. You also have to supply your birds with forage or leafy greens to supplement the feed they are already taking.

Like most warm-blooded animals, chickens require extra calories in cold months to generate heat for their bodies. They can survive the harsh winter temperatures only if their body is supplied with nutrients for this purpose.

Only give your birds fresh and uncontaminated food during the winter season. Stick to the feeding guidelines given on the commercial poultry feed package to ensure that the flock is getting enough nutrients. You should also watch their feeding habits and seek veterinarian assistance for any bird that isn’t eating properly.


Ensuring that your flock has a constant supply of healthy, balanced feed during winter requires some special considerations. You have to gauge the nutritional content of any food items you introduce to their diet.

It’s also important to review the nutritional requirements of the chickens and the potions you want to give them for their bodies to have better protection against health-related problems brought by the cold weather.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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