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How Much Feed Does A Chicken Eat?(Plus How Much To Feed Chickens Per Day)
When starting a flock of chickens, it can be tough to tell how much feed you should stock. Most folks that have chickens in their backyard don’t have an enormous flock to sell poultry or eggs, which means that saving money on feed is a helpful way for owners to come closer to breaking even on costs. Too little feed though can be unhealthy for your birds and it is important to make sure that the chickens are happy and healthy.
How Much Feed Does a Chicken Eat?
Figuring out how much food a chicken needs is an important but difficult problem to solve. The answer is not exactly clear cut because, just like us, chickens are animals and their appetites can change depending on the season, their dietary needs, and how well they forage for their own food. Luckily, we have a pretty good idea of what is average consumption for most chickens.
How Much To Feed Chickens Per Day
According to Pam Freeman over at the blog I Am Countryside, a good rule of thumb is to start out with 4 to 6 ounces of feed per chicken per day. Try feeding your chickens and adjusting the amount of feed as needed. If you notice that the food rapidly disappears, it might be time to add a bit more.
Lots of leftovers at the end of the day though can be wasteful and attract other critters like skunk, raccoons, or squirrels. If you notice a lot of wasted feed, cut back a bit to save yourself some money and headaches. It’s also a great idea to keep an eye on consumption year round, because your flock’s appetite will change from season to season.
What Factors Affect a Chickens Appetite?
As mentioned before, some things will make a difference in the amount of feed your flock needs. Being knowledgeable about those factors can help reduce your costs while also just improving the overall health and happiness of your brood.
Although your chickens have feathers, they don’t have tiny little coats to keep them warm in the winter time. Generating the extra body heat needed to stay warm during cold months burns calories. Expect your chickens to have larger appetites during the winter months than the summer, when the ambient temperature keeps them warm.
Breed can affect a bird’s appetite in two ways, body size and foraging. Orpingtons, Jersey Giants, and other breeds that a raised for poultry have larger bodies. This means that they need to consume more calories every day to conserve and build their muscle.
On the other hand, egg layers like Rhode Island Reds, tend to have a slightly smaller build. A smaller body means less feed needed daily. Foraging also affects how much feed the chickens need. If given space to forage, some breeds like the Leghorn really enjoy finding their own food.
According to the folks at Timber Creek Farm, their feed usage what cut in half once they started letting their chickens free range for part of the day.
There are a lot of different types of feed that you can provide your chickens, and different types of feed have different densities of the nutrients your chickens need. This article from Backyard Chicken Coops does a great job of explaining the differences between each type of feed and why some chicken owners have a preference of one over another. If you can, it is good to choose a feed that will keep your chickens full while also covering all their nutritional needs. Sprouted or fermented feeds are great for this, but you can also mix just a little bit of corn into your feed.
If you have several chickens, they might tend to bully each other especially when it comes to feeding time. If you didn’t check out their article before, Timer Creek Farm has a great blog post on chicken feeding and how to do it efficiently. Essentially, you need to break up your feed so that chickens who are lower on the pecking order can eat somewhere else. You can opt for shallow feeding dishes, or specialty feeders.
Dishes are great to get started with, since they are easy to keep clean and they are very affordable. Since chickens aren’t known for their table manners though, you might find that a chicken feeder saves you money over time. Chickens will scratch at food, flinging it onto the ground and if the pieces are too small or get wet, and the chickens won’t always go back to eat what’s spilled. Chicken feeders don’t alter how much your flock eats, but they might reduce how much feed gets wasted.
What Can I Do To Reduce Feeding Costs?
Now that you know how to get a ballpark estimate of how much feed your chickens will need each day, you might wonder how you can save money on their feeding. Luckily, there are a few different ways you can make your feed go a little further.
If you happen to have the space to let your chickens run about and look for their dinner, that is awesome. Even a small enclosure outside the coop can help with this, and growing chicken friendly plants like alfalfa, dandelions, and nettles are great to encourage their foraging instincts. Chickens are omnivores, eating insect and grubs in addition to veg and they will always find something crunchy to peck at if they have the space.
While there are certainly food that chickens have to avoid, like potato peels and citrus, there are quite a few that can be added to their daily feeding. McMurray Hatchery has a nice little list of what is good and what isn’t for the chickens. A general guideline though, is to avoid salty, fatty, and processed foods. Veggies, cooked meats, grains, and fruit are all great.
Feeders Over Dishes
You already heard this part, but chicken feeders a just more efficient. Avoiding spilled feed means saving money, but it also reduces pest problems. Spilled feed is a buffet for nocturnal creatures, including mice that could be carrying some nasty diseases.
The right feeding regimen can boost your chickens ability to lay eggs, and beef up their bodies for poultry. Not to mention, well fed chickens tend to be happier and a lot more pleasant to deal with. Now that you have the information you need to get buy the right amount of feed, you can move onto enjoying the benefits and fun of having your own backyard chicken coop.