When the weather is fine, a free-range chicken will happily forage for food. But, when winter arrives, this is not an option and the flock needs access to high-quality feed. The cost of feed is a large portion of the expenses of keeping chickens. So, it’s vital to ensure that you’re giving them the nutrition they need without wasting feed.
A healthy diet should include plenty of protein which is required for the production of healthy eggs. The flock will also need vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates for optimal health. The healthy feed you choose must be backed with testing and research. Once you’ve chosen the feed, it’s time to work out how much and how often a layer needs per day.
Understanding the Basics of Feeding Chickens
There are hundreds of different chicken breeds and every breed of chicken and flock is slightly different. So, it can take a while to figure out the optimal daily feed. But, there is a simple rule of thumb that you can use as a starting point: each fully grown chick tends to consume around ¼ pound of feed each day. So, every chicken will eat around 1.5 pounds of food per week.
Most layer feeds are sold as a 40 pound bag and this will help you to calculate how much you need for your flock. The exact amount may vary depending on the size and age of your chickens. Observe the flock and check the feeders after they’ve eaten to see if any feed is left behind. Then you can make minor adjustments up or down on the following day. It’s always a better idea to feed the chickens too much feed rather than giving them too little. Wasting a little feed is better than having a malnourished flock.
The Frequency of Chicken Feeding
When you ask yourself the question, how much does a chicken eat per day? It’s important to consider the frequency of the feeding. When a chicken goes to roost, it needs to have a full stomach or it will not produce an egg. Chickens have an instinct to forage for food all day and you can certainly keep the feeders stocked continuously.
But, if you have pest problems or you want to adopt a hands on approach, you will want to restrict the feeding to twice per day. This will ensure that your layers get the nutrients they need and it will be easier to observe their behavior. To prevent crowding issues, add more feeders and add some natural and nutritious treats to round out their diet. Don’t overdo it, chickens will neglect their layer feed if they are filling up on entertaining and tasty treats.
At different stages of their lives, chickens eat different quantities of food. Up to the age of around 6 weeks old, they tend to consume approximately 1 pound of food per week. At 6-20 weeks, this increases to around 8 pounds of food per week. When the chicken is fully grown, they consume 1.5 to 2 pound of food per week.
If you multiply the number of chickens in your flock with these rough numbers and divide it by 7 you will know how much food they need per day. Regular checks are important, observe the chickens a few times each week to see how much they are eating. A chicken can be competitive when it comes to eating and some members of the flock may miss out. Adding extra feeders can help and you can make adjustments for underfeeding and overfeeding as needed.
Is it Possible to Overfeed a Chicken?
Chickens have a well developed instinct that helps them to avoid eating too much food. As omnivores, the flock will eat pretty much anything you put in the feeder. In fact, in extreme circumstances, chickens will even consume each other if they are stressed. So, it’s up to you to make sure that they get the optimal food to ensure that they are healthy. Giving chickens an occasional healthy treat is fine, but don’t overdo it because they may overindulge. High-quality organic feed is preferred and if you provide treats vary the quantity they receive. Let’s take a look at four signs that your chickens may be overeating, they are:
1. The Egg Production and Quality Changes
When the quality of the eggs changes, it may be a sign that the chicken is being overfed. The color of the eggs may change or the shell may be thin and more prone to breaking.
A healthy and happy hen can lay one egg per day and after three days without laying it may be time to check if they are overfeeding. If you have free-range chickens, follow them to see if they are finding treats from an unknown source. If you feed your chickens treats, maybe it’s time to limit them until things return to normal
2. A Change in Mobility
When a chicken is overfed, it will gain a lot of weight quickly and this will result in a loss of mobility. This is another good argument for regular observation of the flock. If you notice changes in their mobility, it’s easier to make faster changes to fix the problem.
3. The Egg Size Changes
An overfed chicken may lay a larger egg, which may sound tempting, but it’s not healthy for the hen. To make an egg a chicken requires calcium and the more they use the larger each egg will be. A calcium deficiency can lead to egg binding, the hen cannot lay an egg and this can be fatal for the bird. If you notice the production of larger eggs, check their diet because overfeeding may be the cause.
4. The Attitude of Your Chickens Has Changed
Much like a human after a heavy meal, a chicken that is overeating may be lethargic or irritated. This is especially true if they have consumed food that is harmful to them, such as dry beans. When you understand your flock you will notice these changes and changes in their diet can correct the problems quickly. Soon enough their behavior will return to normal and they will become more active.
If you give your chicken a healthy diet, it’s hard to overfeed your flock. The main cause of overfeeding is feeding the chickens treats and if you limit them you can avoid this problem. Regular observations of your chickens will help you estimate how much does a chicken eat per day and make quick adjustments to the feeding schedule to ensure that they stay happy and healthy.