What to Feed Your Laying Hens

chicken eating henhouse reserve chicken feed out of top of feeder

If you scan your local feed store shelves, you may notice that there are quite a few poultry options available. Sometimes, it can be hard to know which product to choose. Today, we are going to discuss some of the specific nutrient requirements of laying hens and break down how to choose the best option for your flock. At the bottom of the article, you can find a quick quiz that will help you decide which feed may be the best option for you.

When Do I Need to Switch to a Layer Feed?

If you have laying hens and they are at least 4 months old, your birds should be consuming a complete layer feed. If you have a mix of laying hens in different stages of life, keep reading!

Nutrition of Laying Hens

The laying phase is what many poultry owners look forward to the most. There are a number of reasons why someone would choose to keep backyard poultry, but delicious and healthy eggs are almost always near the top of the list. A high-quality, COMPLETE layer feed is essential to keeping your birds in peak physical condition so that they can produce beautiful, wholesome eggs for you and your family.

A “complete feed” simply means that the product inside that bag contains all of the nutrients, in the correct proportions, that your birds need to stay healthy and productive. In a nutshell, if a complete feed is the only thing that your birds ever eat, it would be nutritionally sufficient.

Why Is a Layer Feed Important?

The physiological process of producing eggs depletes a lot of nutrients from a hen’s body and it’s important to replenish those nutrients through her feed. Multiple vitamins and minerals are required for proper egg production, but there is one nutrient that really stands out – CALCIUM! The calcium in a complete layer feed should be 3-4x higher than the calcium in a starter/grower or a maintenance feed. Hens need a lot of calcium to produce high quality eggshells. It takes a little over 24 hours for a single egg to be formed. Fifteen of those hours are spent on eggshell formation! In fact, when all is said and done, the eggshell is composed of over 94% calcium carbonate. Since a hen in peak production is producing one egg every single day, you can imagine that her calcium needs are very high.

Picking the Right Feed for Your Flock

As mentioned earlier in this article, there are often many layer feed choices. It definitely helps to consider your goals and your flock’s strengths when deciding on the proper chicken feed. At Kalmbach Feeds®, we have products that range from high quality economy feeds to unique and beautiful premium feeds. Answer the questions below if you aren’t sure what product is best for your flock.

If you answer YES to the following questions, the feed listed below might be the best fit for your flock.

  1. Have you ever said, “Nothing but the best for my girls!”?
  2. Do you love nutrition that you can see?
  3. Do you have roosters and older, non-producing hens in your flock, too?


Henhouse Reserve® may be the best feed for your flock! Henhouse Reserve® is unique because it is a textured, complete feed composed of vegetables, grains, seeds, and nutrient-rich pellets. It also contains multiple, independent sources of calcium. This feeding strategy gives your hens all of the calcium they need to produce high-quality eggs, but allows your roosters and non-producing poultry to self-regulate how much calcium they consume.

  1. Is the health of your birds the #1 priority for you?
  2. Do you want to use our #1 Best Seller in the poultry feed line?


Kalmbach 17% All Natural Layer may be the best feed for your flock! 17% Layer is available in All Natural, Non-GMO, and USDA-Certified Organic options. This feed contains LifeGuard®, a proprietary blend of prebiotics, probiotics, essential oils, and digestive enzymes that focus on gut health and natural immunity. In addition, 17% Layer contains YolkProud™ – a blend of flower and vegetable extracts that helps promote vibrant egg yolks.

  1. Are you looking for extra health benefits in the eggs that your hens produce?
  2. Do you love high quality feeds that support gut health and immunity?


Kalmbach 17% Hi-Omegga All Natural Layer may be the best for your flock! This feed also contains LifeGuard® and YolkProud™. Additionally, eggs produced from hens fed Hi-Omegga will have higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.

  1. Are you very feather-focused and love seeing glossy, gorgeous feathers?
  2. Do you look for higher crude protein feeds to use during molting season?


Full Plume® Feathering Feed may be the best for your flock. The higher crude protein in Full Plume® is perfect for customers that desire higher protein levels in their chicken feed or customers that want to focus on supporting feather growth and beautiful plumage. This feed also contains LifeGuard® and YolkProud™ technologies.

If you would like additional information pertaining to feeding treats, scratch grains, and other common products for laying hens, visit our article library here.

Keeping poultry is such a wonderful experience and the rewards are many! At Kalmbach Feeds®, we are always here to help. If you have any questions about the nutrient needs of your birds, feed options, or general poultry keeping, please let us know.


Nancy Jefferson, Ph.D.

Dr. Nancy Jefferson has been a member of the Nutrition and Technical Services team at Kalmbach Feeds since 2013. She received her Ph.D. from West Virginia University in 2008 and has worked in the feed industry for over 15 years. She lives on a farm in Crown City, OH with her husband, John, and their children. Dr. Jefferson is a passionate poultry enthusiast and loves her chickens! Together, she and her family raise beef cattle and she keeps an ever-growing flock of backyard chickens.