If you’re new to chicken keeping you might wonder how much to feed chickens per day. Not feeding your chickens enough food can result in poor egg production, malnutrition, egg deformation, and much more.
Learning what and how to feed your chickens is an integral part of having happy healthy chickens.
It’s important to note that chicken scratch is NOT FOOD! Chicken scratch is simply a treat. We’ll talk about the importance of snacks and treats, and how much you should give your chickens each day later.
For now let’s focus on answering the question at hand.
How Much To Feed Chickens Per Day?
An average egg-laying hen should have about 1/4 lb of feed every day. That’s works out to about 3/4 cups.
However, this isn’t a set rule. Some breeds are bigger and will require more food. Meat chickens typically would eat more feed and a higher protein feed to help their rapidly growing bodies.
While bantams typically don’t eat as much as a typical egg-laying hen. Baby chicks, typically have access to food and water all day long. The amount they eat will depend on their breed too.
How Many Times A Day To Feed Chickens
You can feed chickens twice a day, in the morning and once before they go to bed at night. Their night feeding is especially important during the wintertime. A full belly can help the chickens stay warm.
Another way to feed chickens is to keep a feeder out all day. In order to keep food out, you’ll probably want a treadle feeder. These are the kind of feeders that the chickens have to step on to open the door to eat the food.
These feeders are helpful, especially when you have squirrels, wild birds, and other wildlife who want some of that action!
But Kristi?? Won’t my chickens overeat? Mm, no. Your dog overeats, people overeat, but have you ever laid your eyes on a fat chicken? Yep, me either. Once they are full they are full. This is one of the biggest reasons not to give them too much bread, scratch, or other nutritionally deficient treats!
The Importance of A Quality Diet
I mentioned this earlier but it’s worth saying again. Chicken scratch is not chicken food! It’s a snack!
Now that we all understand that, it’s time we talk about giving snacks to chickens.
Chicken feed is a well-balanced diet. Interrupting that diet can result in malnutrition and all kinds of other issues.
When chickens are fed too many snacks, they don’t get the nutrition they need. Feed chickens snacks in small amounts. Preferably, a few times a week at most.
Daily snacks are not necessary, except for in molting season. Extra protein is needed to re-grow those lovely winter feathers. You can make homemade chicken treats like these peanut butter chicken and dog treats, or these homemade suet cakes.
What to Feed Chickens At What Ages
Before I show you what to feed your chickens, I just want to note, I’m linking to Amazon. The prices at your local feed store are usually much lower from my experience. So I suggest you actually buy feed at your local feed store.
Baby Chicks to Pullets – 0 to 20 weeks – You can feed them “start and grow”. It’s a well-balanced diet perfect for their growing bodies. Or you can give them “starter” at ages 0 to 6 weeks, and “grower” from 6 to 20 weeks, that is if you can find it. However, it’s hard to find and start & grow works just fine. Learn how long baby chicks need a heat lamp.
Start & Grow comes medicated or non-medicated. Chicks that come from a hatchery have probably been vaccinated against coccidiosis and won’t need the medicated version. Coccidiosis is an GI disease that can affect young birds.
If you hatch your own chicks, you’ll want to use the medicated feed. Keep in mind that if you’re also raising ducklings, the medicated feed is not approved for use for ducks or geese. If you have a mix of chicks and ducks, you can feed them non-medicated and contact your vet and ask about vaccinations.
Layers – 20 weeks plus+ – When your girls start laying they will need to switch over to a feed with calcium, which helps them make eggs. They will need “layer feed” 15-18% protein. You can also feed them “flock raiser” if you also have ducks. Just make sure you give them extra calcium. Either by giving them dried, crushed eggshells, or oyster shells.
Broilers or Meat Birds – Typically meat birds will eat a higher amount of protein. Usually, it’s a 22 to 24% feed for baby broiler chicks up until they are fully grown. This feed is usually called “meatbird feed” Purina has a version of this, but I couldn’t find it on Amazon, so I linked to the only other brand on Amazon for meat bird feed.
Roosters – Some say that the extra calcium in layer feed can be detrimental to their health. Many chicken owners feed all their adult chickens with layer feed with very little issues. However, you can feed your chickens a “flock raiser” formula. Just be sure to give the hens crushed up eggshells or oyster shells.
Learn more about what do chickens eat.
Increased Diet During Cold Weather
Chickens are pretty hard birds believe it or not. I have a friend in Alaska who keeps chickens. As you know, it gets pretty cold there. My friend doesn’t use any heaters in the coop even during the wintertime.
They tend to eat a little more during the winter. The feed gives them a little extra energy and helps keep them warm. You can make them homemade winter treats too, like these suet cakes.
During the summer heat, chickens might need a little help cooling down. Cooling chicken treats like these frozen treats for chickens work great. Also, make sure they have plenty of water. Chickens drink a ton of water when it’s hot outside!
Popular Ways to Cut Down The Feed Bill
A great way to cut down on the feed bill is to free range your chickens. They will forage for food on and off all day long. Chickens will eat a wide variety of bugs, insects, plants, lizards, frogs, and even rodents!
Chicken Breeds That Are Great At Foraging
Here are a few chicken breeds that are great foragers. Leghorns, buckeyes, Ameraucanas, and Jersey Giants. There are a few more breeds, check out the Cackle Hatchery to learn about more great foragers!
Grow Or Make Your Own Chicken Food
Fodder – is sprouted grains typically barley, wheat, or oat. These easy to grow grasses grow really quickly and are a great supply of protein and fiber for chickens. TimberCreekFarmer has a great post on growing fodder on the cheap.
Fermented Chicken Feed has improved the nutritional benefits. Just like when humans eat fermented food, it’s easier to digest. Feed nearly doubles in size when it’s fermented. It’s a great way to cut down on the feed bill. Check out the Chicken Chick’s article on making fermented feed in 2 easy steps!
Grow Plants for your chickens! Below is a fantastic book about gardening with chickens.
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