How Much Should I Be Feeding My Backyard Chickens?

November 7, 2018

I actually get this question quite a bit.  So, it seemed only prudent to write a post about chickens and their eating habits.  By now, I’m sure that you have figured out that chickens know what they like.  They also are sometimes hesitant to try new things, like the time I plopped a whole pumpkin into the chicken run. Chickens are actually pretty easy to care for and that includes feeding backyard chickens. Did you know that chickens will not overeat?

It’s true that chickens will not overeat no matter how much food is in front of them. Chickens will automatically stop eating once their body’s sense that a certain amount of food sources has been ingested during their day.  Interestingly, like us, they are unaware if they consumed the proper amounts of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. They too can fill up on “junk food”.

Feeding Backyard Chickens

There are some days though when you find they are in general eating more.  That can be during the height of egg laying season or molting.  Chickens don’t care to consume lots of food on hot summer days and when given the choice between a formulated feed verses a treat like mealworms, like young children, they will most always chose the treat.  This is important to keep in mind when feeding your flock. In addition, chickens should not eat food that is stale, moldy or rancid.  If you would not eat the feed than your chickens should not either.

Amount of water consumption per adult chicken/per day

Cool weather:  0.05 to 0.08 gallon per day

Hot Weather: 0.08 to 0.16 gallon

So a flock of 6-12 chickens will consume approximately a gallon of water per day depending on the outside weather conditions.

Amount of commercial chicken feed consumption per adult chicken/per day

Chickens will eat approximately a 1/4 pound of feed per day. With the average weekly total of 1.5 pounds.

Chicken Feeder Tips

All feeder sizes are rated in pounds. So that makes calculations easy. The feeder should hold at least a couple days of feed.

A hanging bucket type of feeder is very easy and the most popular.

Hang the feeder at the mid-breast height of the smallest chicken in your flock.

Have a few feeders to prevent bullying when feeding backyard chickens.

Allow your chickens continual access to the feed throughout the day.

Bring the feeders inside each evening to prevent rodents and attraction of predator.

Clean your feeders regularly with some distilled white vinegar and water.  Be sure to dry completely prior to re-filling with food.

I always like to recommend when feeding backyard chickens that have at least more than one waterer in the chicken living space as well as more than one feeder.  This prevents any squabbles over food or water and helps to make them readily available to all ranks in the pecking order. If your chickens have a predator proofed coop and run and a larger feeder and waterer, it is possible to leave them for a couple of days.  Here are some of my tips for when you go away.

TillysNest basket full of eggs

Calculating Costs

Chicken feed mostly comes in 50 pound bags. Smaller options now come in 35 pound bags and some even smaller two to five pound bags.  It is best to divide the price of the bag by the number of pounds contained in the bag to determine a price per pound rate.  This way you can determine the cost it is to feed your flock on a weekly, monthly and annual basis.  It can also help you compare different brands of feeds, organic vs. non-organic and non-GMO vs. GMO.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.