Feeding For Breeding - Tips For Healthy Chicks

Last Updated: 19 February 2021


Have you ever had poor chicken fertility or chicks die in the egg before day 21? 

Chicken breeders often blame their incubator.  While this is often the case, something else can also be the cause.

"Feeding for breeding" helps minimise the risk of infertility, low hatch rates, poor health and deformities in baby chickens.     

In this article Feeding for Breeding - Tips for Healthy Chicks, we'll look at: 

  • What is Feeding For Breeding? 
  • Why is Feeding For Breeding Chickens so Important?
  • Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Chickens
  • How to Provide the Ultimate Nutritional Powerhouse

What is Feeding For Breeding? 

rooster and hens in the backyard

"Feeding for breeding" is a phrase that's common in the horse world, but it applies to all livestock.

Are backyard chickens considered livestock?


What is the best feed for breeding chickens? Breeding roosters and hens need vitamin-rich and high protein diets (around 17%) to produce healthy chicks.

Feeding for breeding means providing a breeder ration for your hens and roosters. You may also choose to add a supplement in the six weeks before you collect eggs from your chicken coops for setting to hatch.   

Why is Feeding For Breeding so important?

When learning how to raise chickens, one of the most valuable lessons I received from mentors and older breeders in my poultry club was:

"If it's not in the egg, it's not in the chick"

This advice will prove a game-changer for anyone struggling with low hatch rates or chronic illnesses in their flock.  

Feeding For Breeding not only improves fertility and hatch but gives your chicks the best possible health in the future. It also helps minimise defects in all types of chickens. 

It's an investment in your flock's future health and will save you in years to come.  

Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Chickens

chickens and hens backyard feeding


Protein is full of amino acids. And amino acids are the building blocks of life. Without enough of the right ones, your chicks can't hatch, let alone thrive from day one.

Protein also increases the number and size of eggs from your hens. And bigger eggs mean bigger chicks. 


Vitamin A is needed for embryo development and plays a critical role in respiratory health. 

Vitamin D3 is needed to help maintain a chicken's calcium-phosphorus balance.

Vitamin E reduces the risk of chicks dying in the shell within the first four days of incubation or soon after hatch.  

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) deficiencies can lead to curled toes (different from crooked toes in chicks) (Damerow, 1994). This deficiency is common in breeding birds with no access to green feed (see below).

Vitamin B7 (Biotin) is a lesser-known vitamin. Biotin deficiencies can lead to chicks dying in the shell at day 19-21 and may lead to Slipped Tendons (Damerow, 1994). 


Calcium & Phosphorus

While calcium and magnesium are essential in mammals, calcium plus phosphorus are crucial to poultry health. Feed chickens with balanced rations ensuring free-choice access to fine shell grit. What to feed breeding chickens for maximum phosphorus intake? Bone meal is a common source in commercial feeds.

Our 100% natural, Australian Seaweed Meal is jam-packed with more than 50 common, rare and trace minerals. 


Sounds too simple, doesn't it? But access to clean, cool water is a must. 

How to Provide the Ultimate Nutritional Powerhouse

backyard chickens feeding automatic feeder

Commercial Breeder Feeder

Commercial chicken feeders are the easiest way to ensure your breeding flock is enjoying a balanced diet. Always be cautious when changing feeds, but even fussy eaters should be fans of these favourites: 

  1. Laucke Showbird Breeder MP
  2. Barastoc Champion Layer - 0.5% higher in protein but 0.3% lower in Crude Fat than Barastoc's Breeder Ration. I love this feed as an all-rounder. 
  3. Barastoc Poultry Breeder

Use Supplements

What to buy for backyard chickens? I only sell products I use and love, and this is one of them.

Solaminovit is my favourite supplement for chickens.

Add to water or a breeder ration in the six weeks before collecting eggs. 

Grit, Greens and Garden Grubs

backyard chickens foraging in the garden

Grit: Ensure you always provide access to hard grit and fine shell grit for chickens to peck as they please. 

Greens: Access to grass or green vegetables every day is critical to maintaining strong, healthy chickens. Fordhook Giant is a secret of many exhibition chicken breeders!

Garden Grubs: If your chickens don't have a daily run, allow them to free-range for at least an hour a day. Foraging for insects reduces stress and boosts protein intake.

Follow our guide to learn what to feed backyard chickens in Australia - Feeding for Breeding - Tips for Healthy Chicks for a happy, healthy flock. Buy 100% Australian, all-natural shell grit, supplements, seaweed meal for nutritional abundance. 


Want your chickens to be the healthiest and happiest they can be? I offer backyard chicken workshops, online programs, phone coaching, and in-person support to families, schools, and free-range egg farmers. Visit my online shop for natural, tried-and-tested poultry supplies in Australia.

Become an expert in Backyard Chickens 101 and check here for the latest tips and trends all about chooks. 

Check out my Instagram or drop me a line - elise@chickencoach.com, comment below or visit my Facebook page

Elise McNamara, Chicken Consultant & Educator.

Useful resources

Gail Damerow's Chicken Health Handbook has a brilliant table with Nutrition-Related Hatching Problems. This book is a must for every breeder and chicken keeper. I know many vets who recommend it, too! The Kindle version is the cheapest and is easy to search. Get it here. 

Australasian Poultry has shared many terrific articles on this topic over the years, with many incredible breeders sharing their secrets for success. 
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