If you’re new to raising roosters, you probably have plenty of questions about the best way to go about it. One important question for new rooster owners is what they should be feeding them. Male chickens, known as roosters or cockerels, will have individual preferences for what they love to eat most. However, you should know that they are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals.
But what does their exact diet consist of, and how often should you be feeding them? Are there certain foods they can’t eat? Below you can find the answers to all your questions about what roosters eat!
What Do Roosters Eat?
As omnivores, roosters eat various food items consisting of both plants and animals. This diet can consist of commercial feed, insects, worms, seeds, grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Unfortunately, there is less research on exact diet requirements for roosters because the main focus when raising chickens is the egg-laying hens.
A staple of the rooster diet is chicken feed. You’ll find a variety of types available, with each type affecting the health of your rooster in different ways. Some feeds will be suitable for babies, others for adolescents, and still others for adults.
For baby chicks, you’ll need starter feed. You’ll give them this kind of feed up till about 6 weeks of age when you’ll need to start phasing it out of their diets. An overabundance of protein as they get older can cause liver damage, and starter feed contains anywhere from 20-24% protein.
Around 6 weeks, you’ll start moving on to grower feed. Between the ages of 6-20 weeks, a young rooster’s dietary needs change from the ones they had as babies, and they start to require less protein. Grower feed contains less than starter feed with approximately 16-18%.
Finally, for most of their lives, your roosters will eat what is known as layer feed. One note, however, is to be aware that most layer feeds are formulated with boosted calcium to help strengthen the eggshells for hens who lay eggs. Your roosters won’t need that calcium, of course. In fact, too much can cause kidney damage. The good news is that most rooster owners find that their roosters do absolutely fine on the same layer feed they give to their hens. If you want to play it on the safer side, though, you can feed them layer feed in the form of crumbles or pellets that has a protein amount of 18% or more. Just be aware that if all your chickens are together in one place, you may have difficulties keeping them away from the hens’ layer feed.
Roosters like eating all sorts of plants; you may often find them foraging around in the yard or garden for treats. When it comes to natural foliage, your rooster will enjoy grass and leaves. If you have natural herbs growing (or growing in a garden), you’ll find they’re quite fond of those as well!
When it comes to the fruit roosters enjoy eating, there is a wide range. However, these should be offered only here and there, not every day. Having too much fruit in their diet can lead to loose stools in roosters. Fruits safe to feed your rooster include fresh tomatoes, apples, bananas, grapes, guava, berries, plums, and peaches.
Leafy green veggies will be best for your rooster. They will love lettuce, kale, spinach, cabbage, and turnips. But that doesn’t mean they can’t eat other vegetables! Your rooster may also enjoy veggies like potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins (although you may need to cook harder vegetables to soften them up first).
Grains, Nuts & Seeds
Roosters love many types of grains, nuts, and seeds; in fact, you’ll often find these in chicken scratch (which is different from chicken feed). Chicken scratch and grains, nuts, and seeds, in general, should be given as treats. Too much, and they can cause your roosters to gain weight and become unhealthy. Seeds you can provide your rooster include sunflower seeds, cashews, and almonds. When it comes to grains, you can include corn, oats, bulgur, and barley. Another tasty treat they might enjoy? Peas!
Insects & Animals
Don’t worry — you don’t need to feed your roosters insects! They’ll take care of that all on their own. Roosters tend to catch insects such as butterflies, flies, and crickets when they’re pecking about. They will also sometimes eat smaller animals such as worms, tiny lizards, or even mice if they’re looking for a protein boost.
Roosters can dehydrate fairly quickly, partially because they don’t get nearly enough water from food to stay hydrated. So, they need access to fresh water throughout the day. They’ll also need plenty of water to help cool themselves off in hot weather so they don’t suffer from heat stress.
Foods To Avoid
Now that you know what your rooster should be eating, you’re probably wondering if there are any foods they can’t have (because, let’s face it, they can eat a multitude of things!). There are foods you should avoid giving them, however. Some of these are self-explanatory — like not giving them chocolate, caffeine, or moldy food.
There has been some debate about whether cooked tomatoes, potatoes, and rhubarb are toxic to roosters due to the presence of oxalic acid. In hens, this can lead to eggs with softer shells, and it has been known to cause kidney failure in birds. Proceed with caution here.
Other than that, foods to avoid include avocados, dairy products, onions, and an overabundance of sugary items.
How Much Do I Feed a Rooster?
Great, now you know what to feed your rooster and what not to, so the only question remaining is how much you should feed them! Turns out, there aren’t really any hard and fast rules about this. Since their diets will mostly be comprised of feed, following the instructions on the product is best advised. Some people will feed their roosters once in the morning and the evening; others will use feeders of some type. Other than feed, supplemental foods and treats should be used sparingly.
Your rooster can eat various food items, from plants to fruits to grains and more. A good feed will meet most of their nutritional needs (although what kind you give them can vary by age). So long as you’re making sure your roosters aren’t overeating and becoming overweight, you can even give them nice, tasty treats every once in a while, too. Plus, roosters with the ability to roam will forage a bit of food for themselves.
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Featured Image Credit: GAIMARD, Pixabay