Chickens eat a diet that consists of commercial chicken feed, fruits, vegetables, grains, insects and worms. Laying hens may receive additional feed or supplements, such as oyster shells, in addition to commercial feed.
Commercial chicken feed is the primary component of a chicken's diet. Starter feed, grower feed and layer feed are types of commercial chicken feed that are provided according to the chicken's stage of development. Layer feed is typically given to egg-producing hens, while starter feed is the primary food source for newly hatched chicks. Some chickens may require additional protein sources or vitamin supplements. For instance, laying hens should eat crushed oyster shells to produce healthy eggs.
Chickens also eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and grains. Kitchen scraps typically include vegetable peels, herb stalks and other whole foods, including plain cooked rice. Thick peels, such as banana peels, are removed before giving the food to the chicken. Grains, such as cracked corn or oats, should be fed to chickens sparingly to ensure they receive adequate nutrition from their regular feed. Grains and other foods should make up no more than 20 percent of a chicken's diet.
Chickens should eat coarse shell grit regularly to aid in the digestive process. Free-range chickens also eat a wide assortment of insects and worms. Free-range or backyard chickens should be provided daily access to weed beds, which house many types of insects and worms, to supplement their diet.