Chicken feed

Discussion in 'Nutrition - Sponsored by Purina Poultry' started by dlampkin, Aug 20, 2016.

  1. dlampkin

    dlampkin Just Hatched

    Jul 18, 2016
    I know that there are a ton of posts relating to this, there is just so much fluff and I have been through so much and haven't found what I was looking for, so here goes...

    I have 30 layers with 2 roosters. 5 layers are leghorns and the other 25 are various types of red's. They are on about an 800 or 900 sq ft run not including their coop and getting ready to open up another 250 or 300 sq ft on the weekends). I've read that they need about 1/4 lb food per day per bird. It doesn't matter how much I feed them hey always act starved. I did the 1/4 lb for a while (8 lbs a day), and they get roughly 6 lbs of wheat or barley sprouts (sprouts are 7 days, about 1.5 inches of roots and about 5 or 6 inches of greens). Plus much of the summer I was getting a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers so they were getting those too. So overall, it was easily twice what I've read that they "need". The greens were gone within an hour (or at least torn apart and they would finish it off within the next couple of hours), and the 8 lbs of feed would be gone by noon. I'd get home from work and give the veggies and they would act like they hadn't eaten in a week, fighting and clamoring to get as close to the fence as possible. I always cut up enough pieces to make sure there are more pieces than birds. I then went to "free choice" my feeder holds about 25 lbs of feed they would go through about 18-20 lbs plus the greens and veggies. I did that just to see how much they'd eat since some said that they will only eat what they need and won't overeat. But even then, any time I fed them anythi extra, they act starved. I don't want to starve them, but 18-20 lbs of food makes the eggs more expensive than the high dollar ones at the health food store even.

    Does anyone have firm knowledge of how much they need? Maybe "acting like they are starved" is just normal behavior for chickens?
  2. BuffOrpington88

    BuffOrpington88 Non-Stop

    Mar 20, 2012
    Hi and welcome to BYC!

    Here is an article about the 1/4 pound of feed generalization. Pretty much, that figure is based on production layers in a highly controlled environment, and the amount of feed per bird will vary in a backyard environment. On another thread you said that you had Rhode Island Reds. RIRs will eat more than say, a Leghorn because they are a larger heritage breed designed for both egg and meat production, not simply for maximizing the amount of eggs laid with the least amount of feed. Here is a great article that includes ways of cutting costs on feed.

    How long did you offer free choice feed for? Because it will take them a while to learn to self-regulate (a few days), and if you just did it for one day, they will just gorge themselves. I would suggest that you feed them free-choice.

    Also, they will usually act starved if you feed them a treat like vegetables because it is new and exciting.

    Thanks for joining BYC and best of luck with selling the eggs! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  3. dlampkin

    dlampkin Just Hatched

    Jul 18, 2016
    Thank you for the reply... I'll check those articles out. I did the free choice for about two weeks. At thst time, the garden was on steroids and they were getting 5 or 6 tomatoes and 2 or 3 cucumbers every day... In addition to the 5 or 6 pounds of barley fodder, and the occasional watermelon leftovers... I was thinking about building a feeder and having an automated door thst just opened and closed several times a day. I've read that toys will keep them from eating out of boredom, I may try to find some of those for them too...
  4. KikisGirls

    KikisGirls Reading. Must read more. Premium Member Project Manager

    Jul 31, 2015
    Houston, TX
    My Coop
    Cabbage heads hanging will keep them busy for a while.
    Have you checked/looked/read into feeding fermented feed?
  5. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Free feed. My flock of 24 goes through about 10 pounds a day. I do have teenage cockerels and pullets that are getting close to laying, so that is the big factor right now. Those ones eat tons.
    Treats are exciting. That is normal.
  6. FlyWheel

    FlyWheel Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 19, 2016
    34.560847, -81.154203
    My Coop
    I don't have RIRs, but I noticed that a few days after I went from a 'regulated' amount of feed to just letting them pick as they needed the amount they were consuming dropped noticeably. Like the poster above said, once they know there will always be food available whenever they want/need it, they will eat only what they need and stop 'binge feeding'.

    Of course they will never turn down treats. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2016
  7. DrPatrickBiggs

    DrPatrickBiggs Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 20, 2015
    Ideally, the birds should always have access to feed. Yes, the average feed consumption for hens is around 0.25 lbs per hen. This is just an average though. As we know, averages are rarely always correct.

    Our research shows that feed intakes can range from 0.21 to upwards of 0.4 pounds per day. It is going to depend on many things. If you have always limit-fed your birds and they are not receiving enough feed, then they are going to over-consume feed for a few days until they adjust to the unlimited access to feed. They have learned that there is a limited amount of feed available, so they will eat as much as possible as quickly as possible to be sure they get what they want. It may take several days for the birds to unlearn this behavior.

    Feed intakes are also going to change based on the environment. In warmer weather, birds tend to eat less feed, but in colder weather, the birds will eat more feed in order to stay warm. Limit-feeding the birds during the winter can lead to serious problems if the birds aren’t able to eat enough.
    In the end, be sure that your birds always have access to a supply of feed. Continue to fill that feeder and provide supplements at no more than 10% of their total diet. We hope this helps! Please let us know of any follow-up questions.
  8. dlampkin

    dlampkin Just Hatched

    Jul 18, 2016
    They have always had access to food all day (always while in the brooder and then while not in the coop once they moved out. I moved them at 8 weeks, but they wouldn't come in at night, so I kept them inside for a week to train them where to sleep). I don't keep food and water in the coop, only out in the run. The food and some of the water is under the coop (coop is raised) so it's out of the weather (and another waterer out a bit). I was going through more and more food as they grew, which was expected. But by 13 or 14 weeks, they were eating about 22-23 lbs a day. My feeder holds 25 pounds, but there's about 2 pounds that doesn't flow out (makes a cone inside the feeder). There was always a lot of food on the ground. If there is a very heavy rain (more than about an inch or so, or a lot really fast) under the coop would get wet and ruin the food. So I finally went to the 1/4 pound per day. A few days before I started doing that, I started giving them barley fodder. It started out as about 1.5 or 2 pounds, but since they acted starved, I got bigger bins and now it's about 6 pounds roughly. Plus I was giving them a couple of pretty good sized cucumbers and a half dozen 2 to 4" tomatoes. I would toss some scratch grains toward the end of the day, all just because they seemed hungry. After about 2 or 3 weeks, I went back to all you can eat style, and they seem to just waste so much, but again, went through about 22 or 23 pounds a day, or almost 3/4 pounds per bird.

    When they first come out of the coop, the food is there. After their door closes, I get the feeder and refill it, so it and the fodder is there waiting for them (I mix wheat and barley for the fodder now). The cucumbers are small now and only about every other day and the tomatoes have stopped. I have them at about 9 pounds of food (plus the 2 at the bottom that they can't get to, I just add 9 pounds each night), 6 pounds of fodder, and still some veggies here and there. I stopped the scratch grains when it started to get really hot as I read not to do that in the heat. So they are getting roughly 15 pounds of food, 16 on some days. They tear the fodder apart within 30 minutes, but there is always probably 1/4th of it scattered about. They could eat that if they were hungry, but even at the buffet of food, they act starved. If I do full feed, I might as well spend the $6 for the whole food eggs, as this would make these eggs pretty expensive. I tried the buffet again last week and did it for 4 days, there was food everywhere, 23 lbs a day, and then a heavy rain. It's got to be easier than this I would think.

    Also, I do plan on giving them cracked corn and scratch grains in the winter to help with their increased metabolism.

    I sincerely appreciate your response.
  9. dlampkin

    dlampkin Just Hatched

    Jul 18, 2016
    FlyWheel, I am becoming more and more aware of the treats that they love. They love watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers and tomatoes. They always fight over those like it's a famine. But as much food as they were eating, I don't see how they were still hungry.

    It could be just that they waste so much. I plan on building a feeder soon that has a much deeper "feed well" so that it will be harder for them to throw food all over the place. Once I do that, I will try the all you can eat again. In the mean time, maybe I'll go up to 10 pounds plus the fodder. Nutritionally, that has to be plenty for them I would think.

    Thank you for your reply...
  10. Little Fuzzy

    Little Fuzzy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 16, 2016
    They do alway act hungry, especially for treats. are your losing weight on your amounts?

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by