If you’re new to chicken keeping, then feeding will be an aspect of their care that you will soon need to become familiar with. Besides, nutrition is the single most important factor in ensuring your flock is healthy and happy. And the more time and care you put into feeding, the more reward you will gain in the form of fresh, well-formed and a continuous supply of eggs. But, how regularly do these birds need feeding, and more specifically, when? I spent some time researching the dietary needs and requirements of these birds to clarify, for good.
So, how many times per day should I feed my chickens? Ideally chickens should be fed continuously throughout the day, but at the very least once per day. Each adult chicken requires about 0.25lb (120 grams) of balanced and nutrient rich poultry feed per day.
Feeding chickens need not be complicated, but it may take a little while to find the right routine and schedule, that works for you and your birds.
Once you understand your chickens needs and when or how often to feed them, you’ll be surprised at the results. Especially in egg quality and quantity.
Follow the guidelines in this article and you’ll be well on your way to owning a healthy and productive flock of hens.
Plus you’ll know exactly how to approach feeding right from the very outset.
What Is The Best Time Of Day To Feed Chickens?
Chickens should have a readily accessible supply of food throughout the day; they will eat when they need to and so they should always have a supply of high-quality pellets available.
Laying hens require a lot of energy to produce eggs and so a constant supply of nutrients will allow their eggs to develop without interruption.
How often you feed your chickens will partly depend on your individual circumstances.
If you work from home or are retired, then you may have the time to keep checking in on your hens and providing feed when needed.
However, if you are away from home during the day then you may not have the luxury of providing a constant supply of food.
In this case you are best feeding them once in the morning before you leave and once again at night when you get home.
Another suitable option is to provide food in a hopper feeder. This is a device that stores food and will slowly dispense it throughout the day as your hens feed.
This can be especially useful if you are not always around to top up feeding troughs and bowls.
Chickens should go to bed with a full crop to provide them with energy as they rest to allow eggs to carry on developing.
The crop is an organ within your chicken’s throat that temporarily stores food allowing it to be released into the stomach later for digestion.
Therefore, having a full crop prior to your chicken sleeping will allow them to continue to have a steady supply of food throughout the night, allowing for maximum egg growth.
Always ensure the food you provide is kept in a cool, dry place and away from any vermin and be sure to regularly clean out the feeding troughs or hoppers.
If you are letting your chickens out of their enclosure for a wander, then be sure to keep your hens wormed as they might eat other animals’ faeces leading to potential parasite infections.
What Do You Feed Chickens Daily?
Chickens are classed as omnivores and in the wild they would feed off a mixture of plant material and insects, foraging for whatever they could get their beaks on.
However, just because chickens aren’t picky eaters this doesn’t mean that you should only feed your hens table scraps; while chickens can effectively recycle food remains, feeding them like this is inconsistent and won’t maximize egg production.
Be sure to check your local regulations as in some countries such as the UK, it is illegal to feed chickens table scraps.
To ensure your hens are as healthy as possible and to maximize their egg laying potential, it is essential that you feed them a complete and balanced diet.
Chickens need a supply of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in their diet.
The foundation of a balanced chicken diet is high quality poultry feed.
This often comes in the form of pellets or mash which are usually formulated from a mixture of grains (corn and oats), grit (oyster shells or limestone) and added vitamins such as calcium.
The grain component provides vital protein and carbohydrates for growth of both the hen and the eggs, while the grit portion is essential to allow food to be ground up in their gizzard (essential since chickens don’t have teeth to break down food).
Fresh fruit and vegetables can also be given to provide some variation and extra nutrients to your hens’ diet.
These shouldn’t make up the bulk of the diet however, and are no substitute for pellets.
The age of your chickens will have an affect on what types and how much food they should be receiving:
- Chicks that are less than 5 weeks of age will need to be fed chick crumbs, these are usually 19% protein and support development of the chick.
- Pullets are chickens that are less than 1 year old. At this stage they are growing rapidly so will require a special feed called growers pellets/mash to provide the energy they need. This is typically 15-16% protein.
- Chickens will usually start laying eggs at around 18 weeks old. At this point they will need to be fed layers mash or pellets. This is typically 15-17% protein and will provide the nutrients they need to regularly lay eggs.
Chickens will also require access to fresh water.
Replace and clean out their water supply daily to prevent them from becoming dehydrated.
Avoid feeding chickens mixed poultry corn as this is low in protein and too high in fat.
Feeding too much maize corn can cause your chickens to become overweight and won’t provide them with the essential nutrients they need to lay efficiently.
Avoid bread, cereals and pasta as these types of food have little nutritional value and will fill your chicken up, preventing them from eating the all-important pellets.
Stick with high-quality pellets and a little fruits/vegetable on the side.
There are also some foods that are toxic to chickens in large quantities.
Never feed chickens onion, garlic, avocado, chocolate or plants that are part of the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, etc); these foods can make your chicken unwell which in turn reduces egg production.
Never feed chickens rotten or mouldy food. Just like any other animal, this will make them unwell and will reduce their productivity.
How Much Should I Feed My Chickens Per Day?
As mentioned, it is best to supply your brood of chickens with a constant supply of feed throughout the day, but it is possible to overfeed your hens.
Generally, each adult chicken will require about 0.25 pounds of pellets or mash per day, so multiply this by the number of chickens you must know how much you should be providing.
Measure out the required amount of feed and place it in your feeding troughs or hopper; often adding a little extra can be a good idea to ensure that they don’t run out completely.
Most chicken feeds will have a basic guide on the packaging for exactly how much each chicken should be fed.
Be aware of competition amongst your chickens as some individuals may be more dominant than others when eating.
Dominant chickens will be literally higher up the pecking order and so may steal food from more subordinate hens.
Always ensure there is plenty of trough space, so that all your chickens can eat separately without competition.
As mentioned above, adding some fruit and vegetables to your chickens’ diet can provide extra nutrients.
However, don’t provide too much extra food sources as it may fill them up, preventing them from eating enough of their essential pellets.
Do You Have To Feed Chickens Every Day?
While chickens once foraged for food and may have had to have gone long periods without adequate nutrition in the wild, this doesn’t mean that it is a sustainable way for them to live domestically.
To ensure your chickens are as healthy as possible and are producing as many eggs as possible then you should certainly be feeding them at least once per day.
Healthy hens will lay 5-6 eggs per week; this number can vary depending on breed of chicken, age and seasonal factors but if your hens are laying significantly less than this then you may not be feeding them enough.
Feeding chickens can be straightforward once you know what you’re doing.
The fact that chickens do best when the majority of the diet comes in the form of a nutritious, balanced feed really does take any confusion away.
It makes it relatively simple; so long as you are using age-appropriate feed and follow the serving suggestions and recommendations as provided by the manufacturer.
From there, the addition of the odd treat and scrap can add variety, along with some supplemental nutrition if you choose wisely.
With a clean enclosure and a balanced diet, your hens will be providing you and your family with all the eggs you will ever need.
If you are worried about the health of your hens or would like more specific advice for your flock then contact your local veterinarian who should be able to help.
Can You Feed Chickens Once A Day?
It is possible to feed chickens once per day, so long as you are putting out enough feed that will last them for the duration of the day. Your chickens should graze as and when needed. However, feeding in this way can result in wasted feed, and there is always the potential that rodents and other pests may attempt to consume it. It is for this reason that rat-proof feeders are highly recommended.
What Do You Feed Chickens For Organic Eggs?
You need to provide your chickens with only organic feed and other organic foods (such as organic vegetables and fruits) in order for the eggs to be certified organic. Access to the outdoors, and the ability to forage on pesticide-free land is also a requirement.