It is not very expensive to keep hens once you have gone to the initial expense of setting up the hen run and coop and bought your hens. Hens will eat lots of things including table scraps and insects from the garden and if you already grow your own vegetables then you’ll have even less expense because you need never have any wastage.
Don’t throw away any vegetable peelings – potato,onion peel, radish, garlic peel, carrot, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, cucumber – you name it and your hens will eat any of it. Some vegetables should be boiled first though, in particular potatoes. It is essential to boil the peel as it is toxic to hens if eaten raw.
You can also feed them all kinds of fruit peel and melon rind. These are things they will also enjoy.
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Buying pellets and mash from a store or even better, on-line, is not too expensive and a bag will last a while. They include calcium to encourage strong egg shells. I would not recommend feeding your hens only scratch as it is not a balanced enough food to provide you with the quality of eggs you want. What you feed your hens will obviously impact the eggs they produce.
As well as commercial feed, fruit and vegetables chickens can also eat steamed or boiled rice, figs and porridge oats.
In the winter months give them some cracked corn as this can also help give them extra internal warmth.
At all times of year make sure they always have a supply of fresh water. Without water they can’t produce eggs. If you will be away from the house for several hours you will need to find a way of making sure they don’t run out of water. Several bowls spread around the run should do it although in very hot weather this could dry up so add some ice cubes to keep it cool. You could also try and set up an automatic water feed or a water holder that dispenses water gradually.