How much should I be Feeding my chickens?

How much should I be Feeding my chickens?

May 09, 2024angelique van zuylen

How much do chickens eat?

Most chickens will eat about 120 g of complete feed per day. If their food is less nutritious, for example a grain mix or table scraps, they will often eat more because they are trying to get enough of the essentials that their diet is lacking.

Because a complete feed contains exactly the right amount of protein, energy and other nutrients, chickens can regulate their own intake and eat the right amount for them.

The exact amount your chickens eat will vary depending on age and breed, and whether they are laying or moulting. How much your chickens forage and what else they might be eating, such as scraps or treats, also influences how much feed they consume. Even the weather will influence how much chickens eat!

How much food to give your chickens

Giving your chickens unlimited access to their feed is the best choice for most flocks. This allows for differences in feed consumption from the average 120 grams per bird per day. 

In order to prevent your birds from gorging on less healthy food and neglecting their feed, you should never give your birds more scraps than they can eat in 20 minutes or so.

It is a common misconception that chickens can live on scraps and foraging, supplemented with a little grain. While this may have been true of barnyard chickens in the past, modern chicken breeds need a more complete and balanced diet.

Do chickens with unlimited feed eat more?

In reality, limiting the amount of feed that you give your chickens is unlikely to make them eat less. 

Unless you feed each bird individually, dominant birds will eat the same amount and only birds that are lower in the pecking order will eat less. This impacts the health and productivity of lower-ranking birds.

Some people believe limiting the amount of feed makes chickens forage more. But forage doesn't have the same nutritional value as feed. And more dominant birds will still eat more.

5 reasons why chickens need unlimited access to a complete feed

  1. Confined chickens top a yard or run do not have access to enough fresh forage daily. Particularly protein, as even a large area is quickly cleared of insects if it is foraged on daily.
  2. Most chickens forage in a domesticated environment - either a backyard or maybe a on a farm. There are fewer fruiting plants and insects available than in a wild environment, meaning less protein and fewer calories.
  3. Chicken keepers in New Zealand today do not usually cull their chickens. This means birds live longer and in order to remain productive in old age (which is anything over 2 years for a (brown shaver, for example), birds need to have optimum nutrition.
  4. Chickens today are highly productive, with many breeds laying 300+ eggs a year at their most productive. This level of production requires ideal nutrition.
  5. Chickens are better foragers when raised by a mother hen who can teach them where and how to look for food. So few chickens have that sort of education, making it harder for them to survive on a limited diet.

The ideal diet for laying hens

If your keeping chickens for eggs and want them to lay most days of the year, you need to supply them with proper nutrition and that requires a complete, balanced diet. It is not enough to rely on what they can forage supplemented by a few “extras” or a little feed. This is especially the case when you consider that chickens can live for over 5 years and you would like them to be productive over that time!

For optimum health and egg production, chickens should be given free access to a complete layer feed. e.g. (Weston milling Peak Layer ). 

Allow your chickens to forage freely but know that they will generally get most of their nutrition from their feed. Foraging is important for their well-being and greens especially are a very healthy addition to their diet.

Limit scraps and other dietary additions.

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