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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12 thoughts on “How Much Should I Be Feeding My Backyard Chickens?”

  1. Hi! Thanks for sharing all your wonderful chicken information. I have a question about feeding younger chickens along with older egg-laying chickens. What type of feed do I put out for all? I read that younger chickens who have not begun laying eggs yet should not eat the same feed as egg-layers. However, since I have put out flock starter, my egg-laying chickens are producing eggs with a partially soft shell. I do have oyster shell available for them, but I don’t think they are eating it. Any help with this is appreciated. Thanks.

    • Hi, so often this is why they don’t recommend combining flocks until all can be on the same feed, in this case the layer. Some will segregate the flocks during feeding time. Some will make the older flock’s feeder higher, so the younger ones cannot reach it. If the younger ones do eat the layer feed, the calcium can harden the pelvic bones too quickly, making laying eggs difficult and sometimes not possible. I hope this makes sense.

  2. Hi I had this time where i feed my chickens for the first time but when I feed them i only gave them half a cup but the next day it was all gone completly.

    • Chickens will not overeat, so I would put out the age appropriate feed all day long. You can take the feed in at night and keep it safe to avoid predators and pests like mice, rats and raccoons.

    • Chickens will not overeat, so I allow them to eat what they want. This is important because birds lower in the pecking order eat last and you do not want to limit what you give them. The 1/4 of feed per bird is what their average intake is.

    • Yeah. Seems a bit low, but I hydrate my feed each day. I get more volume and I was told it allowed the birds to digest the food a lot better. One thing I do know is they go crazy over it. A gallon will last all day. But I free-range my birds, too, so that might factor in how much feed they consume.

  3. Thanks for the information. I was wondering how allowing my flock of fifteen birds to free-range on my acre of land would impact the amount of feed I give them. Also, I fill a gallon jug half way with feed and add water to the top. The next day, I feed the “full” gallon of food to them in the morning. The birds go crazy over it, but don’t seem to eat as much at one time. They keep coming back until, at the end of the day, it is all gone. So far, the egg-laying output is consistent and the eggs are nice.


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