Feeding your chickens right is important. Without a proper diet, your chickens are not going to produce any eggs or get big enough to sustain your family. Selecting high quality feed is necessary, but with all the options out there, you may be wondering, “Is cracked corn good for chickens? Or should I use something else?” The answer is that it depends. Cracked corn as pros and cons, which this article will be describing today.
Here is everything you need to know about cracked corn for chickens.
What is Cracked Corn?
Cracked corn is exactly what it sounds like: dried kernels of corn that have been crushed into smaller pieces. Cracked corn is typically maize, a kind of corn that is grown for livestock food, including chicken scratch mixes. Often, cracked corn is also used in complete chicken feed, since it is highly nutritious and contains less sugar than sweeter varieties of corn.
Is Cracked Corn Good For Chickens?
Yes, cracked corn is good for grown chickens — as a snack. You should never give cracked corn to baby chicks, as it is not only hard for them to swallow and digest but also low in protein. Cracked corn contains some protein, but it is more starchy than anything else. That is why you should only give cracked corn to adult hens and roosters as a supplemental snack. It is not nutritionally balanced enough to be your flock’s primary food source.
That said, corn can provide your chickens with a number of essential vitamins and minerals. Corn is a source of selenium, which is hardly ever found in commercial chicken feed. Selenium is essential, because it helps chickens absorb vitamins more readily.
Furthermore, corn contains phosphorus, a mineral that regulates growth, bone health, and kidney functioning. Another trace mineral in corn is magnesium. Like phosphorus, magnesium assists with bone health by increasing bone mineral density. It also assists with keep your chickens’ hearts healthy.
Benefits of Cracked Corn For Chickens
Cracked corn as a treat has numerous benefits:
- Good energy source. Corn is loaded with carbohydrates. A single kernel of maize is made of roughly 15% water, 4% corn oil, 62% starch, and 19% protein and fiber. All those carbohydrates will give your chickens plenty of energy to roam the yard throughout the day.
- Favorite among the flock. Most chickens go crazy when cracked corn is in their diet. Few chickens will turn their beaks up at it, meaning that little goes to waste.
- Affordable. Want a treat that is budget-friendly? Cracked corn is cheap when compared to fresh fruits and vegetables, and you can buy it in bulk.
- Warming. In the winter, many chicken keepers give their feathered friends cracked corn for warmth. The fiber content in cracked corn means that it takes longer to process. As the digestive system works to break it down, thermogenesis kicks in, keeping your chickens toasty, even on the coldest nights.
- Versatile. Toss cracked corn around the run. Mix it into chicken feed. Mix it with grit. Cracked corn is more than just food; it helps facilitate healthy digestion.
When is Cracked Corn Bad For Chickens?
The main issue with cracked corn is that it contains far more carbohydrates than protein. Depending on the age of your chickens, they may need 16-24% protein in their diet. Cracked corn has around 10-15% protein per serving. That is not enough to keep your chickens happy and healthy.
A common problem with diets high in carbohydrates is that your hens cannot sustain egg production. Low-protein diets impact egg weight, too. You will notice that your chickens are laying smaller eggs less often, which is a detriment to you, your family, and business.
Chicken feed is the best source of energy for your chickens. You should give them chicken pellets regularly, ensuring that 90% of their calories come from that. The last 10% goes to healthy snacks, like cracked corn, fresh fruits, vegetables, and even meats. That’s right, your chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians. Give them a varied diet, and they will reward you with treasures.
Which is Better For Chickens: Cracked or Whole Corn?
Whole corn and cracked corn are the same thing, except one is broken into smaller pieces. Cracked corn is easier for chickens to eat, because of the smaller size. However, if you compare dry cracked corn to steamed corn on the comb, the whole corn is probably the better option. Sometimes the drying process can deplete vitamins and nutrients.
Of course, both make for excellent treats and can truly supplement a wholesome diet. Whichever way you choose to give your chickens corn, they are bound to love it.
When Can Chickens Start Eating Cracked Corn?
As mentioned earlier, you do not want to start your chickens on cracked corn too soon. Some people say that your chicks can begin eating cracked corn around 5-6 weeks old, but this may be too early for some birds. Cracked corn is difficult for young chickens to digest, because they do not have enough grit to break down the corn successfully.
It is recommended that you wait until your chicks are mature enough to begin producing eggs. That is a clear enough sign that they are “adult” enough to handle cracked corn.
As always, follow the feed instructions for commercial feed and treat your chickens sparingly.
How to Feed Cracked Corn to Your Flock
We have established that cracked corn is good for chickens in small amounts. So how should you give cracked corn to your chickens? One of the best methods is to toss a handful around the coop or run. If your chickens are free ranging around the yard, scatter a little bit of cracked corn around and let them hunt down the pieces.
Not only does this excite your birds, it also entertains them for hours. They will wander around, seeking out a tasty morsel, which keeps them from getting too lazy throughout the day.
Do not merely dump a heap of cracked corn in a pile. Some chickens will hoard the food and chase weaker chickens away. This could lead to overeating and weight gain. Instead, scatter the corn so that your flock’s natural scratching instincts are stimulated.
When the temperature begins to dip, you can mix cracked corn in with your chicken’s regular feed. At night, put some cracked corn in the coop for some extra energy and warmth.
You can also make your chickens corn soup by letting the cracked corn soak up some water. This ensures that your chicken digest the corn and are also getting enough hydration.
How to Buy or Make Cracked Corn
So you have decided to give your chickens some cracked corn as a treat. Now, where do you buy it? The good news is that cracked corn is fairly easy to obtain. You can visit the local farming supply store, which will have a number of options. Alternatively, you can shop around online. Retailers like Amazon have cracked corn available at decent prices, though you are bound to save money by shopping local.
You can also buy whole corn and crack it yourself at home. All you need is a heavy object to crush the whole corn kernels into pieces. A lot of people prefer cracking the corn with a wooden mallet, but you can also put the kernels between two sheets of parchment or wax paper then crush them with a rolling pin.
Make sure you store the cracked corn somewhere dry and out of reach of rodents and insects.
You can also watch this great DIY video:
Is cracked corn all that it is cracked up to be for chickens? It depends. As a treat, cracked corn is superb, because it has plenty of carbohydrates to keep your chickens warm in the winter. However, if you feed your chickens cracked corn all the time, you may notice negative impacts to their health and egg production. Cracked corn simply does not have enough protein to support your flock.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.