How Much Do Chickens Eat?

On both traditional and urban farms, chickens are an excellent addition. You can sell the eggs or use the chickens for pest control. Starting a flock is also a fun challenge, but you probably have some questions about chickens, too. One common question that new chicken owners have is how much do chickens eat? And how often should you feed them?

Fortunately, chickens are foragers, and they will happily spend most of their day pecking at whatever interests them. Here is what you need to know about keeping your flock happy and healthy.

How Much Feed Does a Chicken Need?

Chicken Feed
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Figuring out how much feed to give chickens is difficult but important. Yet, there is no clear cut formula. Chickens, like all animals, have varying personalities, appetites, and dietary needs. Depending on what they pick up foraging, they might eat more or less that day.

That said, the average amount of feed is between 4-6 ounces. Some chickens might eat far less, around 2-3 ounces. Start out around 4 ounces and adjust the amount as needed. If you notice that the chickens are rapidly scarfing down the feed, it might be time to give them more food.

Conversely, if the chickens are leaving too much food behind when you feed them, it could be a waste. You will also attract squirrels, skunks, raccoons, and pests. So keep an eye on how much the chickens eat to save yourself some money.

How Often Should I Feed My Chickens?

If 4-6 ounces seems like too much or too little in one shot, try feeding your chickens smaller amounts twice a day. You may even be able to divide it up further into 3-4 feedings.

Chickens do not like eating a lot all at once. They like small but frequent meals. Plus, this will decrease the risk of wasted food and pests.

The Importance of Water For Chickens

Chickens Drink Water
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

As with all living creatures, chickens need water. Make sure you are providing your chickens with clean water throughout the day to prevent dehydration. A single chicken is capable of drinking up to 1L of water a day, and this can increase during hotter months.

Not having enough water could affect a chicken’s appetite, too. Not to mention stunted growth, fewer eggs, and poor health. Therefore, ensure the water source is clean and that the whole flock has access to it.

During the hot summer months, you may opt for electrolyte supplements in the water. You can find powdered electrolyte mixes at the local feed store or online.

Factors Affecting a Chicken’s Appetite

Understanding how certain factors, such as temperature and access to water, can affect a chicken’s appetite is essential to raising a healthy flock. Not only will you keep your chickens healthy, but you’ll also reduce the cost of care.

Breed

How much does a chicken eat? Often, it is determined by breed. A chicken’s breed affects it in a couple of ways. One, the body size could be larger or smaller than average. Two, how the bird forages will change.

Jersey Giants, Orpingtons, and other breeds raised as poultry are larger. In other words, they will need to eat a lot more food than smaller breeds to gain muscle and conserve it. Consider egg-laying breeds like Rhode Island Reds. These chickens are known for daintier builds and smaller appetites.

Foraging habits also depend on a chicken’s breed. Some chickens, like Leghorns, would rather forage for food than eat from a trough. If you find that your chickens aren’t eating their feed, it might be a good idea to read up on the habits of their breed. You might also be able to save food and money by letting them forage for their own food.

Climate

Yes, chickens have feathers, but they aren’t well insulated. This means that the colder months can be hard on a chicken, as they are burning calories like crazy while trying to stay warm and active. This is why chickens tend to eat a lot more food during the fall and winter than they do in the summer.

Feed Type

There are many kinds of feed (which we will discuss below) that you can give your chickens. Some feeds are more dense than others, and you—and your chickens—might develop a preference for one kind. Look for feeds that will satisfy your chickens but also provide excellent nutritional value.

An example of highly nutritious chicken feed is fermented or sprouted grains mixed with corn.

Food Delivery

Depending on the size of your flock, you probably don’t want to scatter feed by hand. Chickens can start to bully one another if they feel the food is scarce. Observe your chickens to see which ones are more dominant than others. The ones that are less aggressive will need to be separated from the flock so they can eat in peace.

Purchase some shallow feeders. Dishes are also a good idea, since they are easy to clean and not too expensive. However, a chicken feeder is one of the best ways to save yourself time and money. Since chickens scratch at their food, dishes and shallow feeders could result in a huge mess. A chicken feeder will limit that.

Age

Adult chickens are going to eat more than younger chicks. Depending on the age in weeks, the amount a growing chicken eats will change. Here is a chart explaining the differences in how much chickens eat as they age:

Age in WeeksAmount per Chick per Day
1 week0.42-0.53 ounces (12-15 grams)
2 weeks0.53-0.74 ounces (15-21 grams)
3 weeks0.74-1.20 ounces (21-35 grams)
4-6 weeks1.20-1.70 ounces (35-50 grams)
7-8 weeks1.90-2.10 ounces (55-60 grams)
9-16 weeks2.20-2.40 ounces (62-68 grams)
16-27 weeks2.40-2.80 ounces (68-80 grams)

About the time a chick becomes an adult, which is around 4 months for a male and 6 months for females, they will be eating around 4-6 ounces (113-170 grams) of feed regularly.

What to Feed Chickens

Photo credit: Negative Space

You might be wondering how you’re going to deal with feeding chickens about 4-6 ounces of food per day. Most chicken feed comes in a 40-50 pound bag. This means you get anywhere between 640-800 ounces of feed. So you shouldn’t have much issues stretching the contents of the bag, especially if you supplement that feed with other sources of food.

Here are some ideas of what to feed chickens throughout the day:

  • Commercial feed: Pellets should make up the base of your chicken’s diet, since they are formulated to provide chickens with their nutritional needs. They will be able to get everything they need without having to forage. This is a great option for flocks in small yards or other condensed areas, where there might be less grass for the chickens to forage through.
  • Insects: Chickens adore bugs in their diet, and they will actively search for ticks and other pests, like crickets and beetles.
  • Seeds and grains: You can give your chickens a variety of seeds and grains, including corn, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, and cooked rice. However, these items should only be fed in moderation, since the caloric content is very high.
  • Grasses: Chickens will forage on their own for dandelions, Kentucky bluegrass, and clover. You can also use herbs as a supplement.
  • Grit: Chickens need grit to digest their food, so you will often see them pecking at gravel and sand. The sand travels to the gizzard, helping break up food and absorb nutrients.

What Not to Give Chickens

There are some foods you should never give chickens, even as a treat. These foods include:

  • Raw potatoes
  • Eggplant and other nightshades
  • Citrus
  • Onion
  • Beans
  • Rhubarb
  • Candy
  • Ginger
  • Avocado

How Can I Reduce The Cost of Chicken Feed?

Now that you have seen how much chickens eat and how much to feed them, you may want to make feeding more economical. Here are some ways to cut down the cost of feeding chickens (as well as some food ideas):

Free Range

As mentioned above, chickens love going free range, pecking at insects, grasses, and grains. This means that you give your chickens space to walk around freely. A small enclosure beyond the coop is ideal. Try growing or planting chicken-friendly foliage, like dandelions, nettles, or alfalfa.

Table Scraps

Are table scraps always a healthy option to feed your chickens? No. While chickens are omnivores and will try just about whatever you throw in their direction, you need to be cautious about what you toss into their enclosure. Avoid throwing any dangerous foods (like raw potato and ginger) out when chickens are nearby, as well as ultra-processed sugary or salty foods.

Instead, consider table scraps like bread crust, leftover oatmeal and waffles, pasta, apple cores, bananas, grapes, melon, broccoli, zucchini, and similar chicken-safe vegetables. Remember to remove apple seeds from the core, since it can contain cyanide.

Treats

A great treat for a chicken is mealworms. You can purchase mealworms live or freeze-dried. They will happily devour this treat and be looking for more.

You can also offer your chickens small quantities of cottage cheese in very small quantities. Chickens do need some calcium in order to produce eggs, so you can use the cheese, or you can crush up dried eggshells and serve it up like grit. Oyster shell supplements may also be available at your local feed store.

What if My Chickens Aren’t Eating?

If you are looking up how much chickens eat per day because one of your chickens isn’t eating at all, you should consider taking your feathered friend to the vet. Sometimes, chickens will need mush (commercial feed softened with water or milk) if they are not feeling well. You may also want to try feeding your chicken with a syringe to get them eating.

However, if the chicken’s appetite does not improve, or if multiple birds have stopped eating, a veterinarian needs to know. Immediately. A loss of appetite could be a sign that your chicken ate something toxic or poisonous. The bird will need care as fast as possible.

You can add supplements to your chickens’ feed, especially if some of them are under the weather. For example, there are powdered probiotic blends that you mix into the 4-6 ounces of commercial feed to help with digestion.

Also, for a more detailed consideration of this topic, we can recommend that you watch this video:

Wrapping Up

So how much do chickens eat? Depending on their age, the amount will differ, but the average amount of consumption for an adult chicken is between 4-6 ounces. Knowing the age of your chickens will help you figure out just how much you should feed them daily. Don’t forget that there are some factors that influence how much a chicken may eat and how often!

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