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How Much Feed Do Chickens Eat?

Knowing how much feed a chicken should eat is the key to managing your flock budget and doling out the proper amount of food.

A fairly common question I get asked pretty consistently is "How much feed do chickens eat?"

Fortunately, it's a pretty easy and straightforward question to answer. 

How Much Feed Do Chickens Eat?

An adult, laying chicken will eat about 1.75 lbs of feed a week. That translates to about 3.5-4 ounces (about 1/4 lb.) a day which roughly measures out to about 1/2 cup of feed per chicken per day. 

Inadequate amounts of feed will almost immediately result in a decrease in laying, so you don't want your chickens to ever go hungry. The best practice is to feed free-choice, leaving out feed for them all day. 

Baby chicks will eat 1-2 ounces of feed a day for the first 8 weeks. That comes out to 3/4 to one pound of feed a week. And they'll drink about three times more than they eat.

Don't worry, chicks and chickens won't overeat, so you can fill the feeders comfortable in the knowledge that each will eat only as much as she needs to get the nutrition and energy that their body requires for that day.

A quick tip is to ration out your flock's daily feed by measuring out the half cup per chicken into a pail.  

Make note of how much feed that is and then either use a scoop of that size, or find a container that fits that amount of feed. Then in the future, you can just fill your feed scoop and dole it out each morning without having to measure.

I generally put out my chickens' feed in the morning and then early afternoon I check to see if they have eaten it all. 

If they need more, I measure out a bit more, and if they leave any at the end of the day, I make note and might reduce the amount I give them the next day.

That half cup guideline is, of course, influenced by several factors:

  • the size and breed of chicken
  • the time of year
  • the age of the hen (layers require more feed than older, non layers for example)
  • the quality of the feed
  • how much the flock is allowed to free range
  • how many treats they get (treats should always be limited to no more than 10% of their total diet, and be given in the afternoon, after they have filled up on their feed)

Chickens will also eat more in the fall when they require extra protein to regrow feathers during the molting season and more during the winter months when they require extra energy to stay warm and can't be out supplementing their diet eating worms, bugs, seeds and grass. 

How to Save Money on Chicken Feed

You can save some on your feed bills if you ferment grains for your chickens. They'll eat less if you ferment their feed because the process of fermentation boosts the nutrient levels in the feed and makes those nutrients more readily available, so chickens need to eat less to get the same amount of energy. 

Similarly, you might think that you're saving money by buying the cheapest-priced feed, but most often, investing in a high-quality feed will actually save you money (and trips to the feed store!) because your chickens will need to eat less in order to get the energy and nutrients they need.

Once the temperatures start to rise, chickens will eat less. In general, feed intake will begin to decrease once the temperature hits around 68 degrees F and then decrease considerably once temperatures rise above 86 degrees F.

As a rule of thumb, chickens will drink twice as much water as the feed they eat, so figure on about one cup of water per chicken per day, although during the summer, their feed intake will decrease while water intake will remain the same or increase. 

Then once the mercury really begins to rise, their water intake will really begin to increase while feed requirements still remain fairly low. Either way, they need nearly unlimited access to both feed and water all day long to remain in optimal condition and lay you delicious eggs!

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