How much feed/scratch should I feed my free ranging chickens?


8 Years
Aug 29, 2011
I have 20 chickens. Now that they are getting older I am free ranging them more and more and in about a month or 2 they will free range 100% of the time only going in the coop to sleep at night. Is there math to find out how much addition feed they will need? They have a good 1.2 -1.8 acres they range on. Right now they free range all weekend and I have been cutting back on the feed and they seem starving all the time. Are they just being lazy?
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I fill the feed hopper with chicken crumbles and let the girls have it whenever they want; poultry feed and water are always available to them.

The chicken scratch is more of a treat for them. I scatter it for them in my garden area when I have an area that I want them to work over for me. They are great little rototillers. I also have a deep litter compost setup in their run and I scatter the scratch in there so that they will turn the compost in their run and keep things broken down and smelling nice and earthy.

I also feed them the scratch by hand because I like to check each of them each day. So they sually come running when they see me; so they can be the first in line for a Chicken Scratch treat.
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I have tried keeping their feeder full but they will eat it all down before looking for bugs and other things in the yard
the scratch is more of a treat. as long as the chickens have alot of feed to last them it does not matter as long as it is available to them they always need to have lots of feed and water
Each full grown hen eats from 1.8 to 2.2 lbs per week
                                         ( mine are medium sized, use 2.0)

Total food for 20 hens x 2 lbs = 40lbs per week

Pasture grazing of bugs and greens is estimated to use 10% to 25% of total  
This estimate is low because factory chickens do not move, but pastured chickens do. They therefore use more energy which requires more feed than the estimate for factory chicken.

.25 x 40 = 10 lbs.  40 - 10 = 30 lbs of feed still required

This is all based on what I have found after many hours of trying to find research about free ranging. My own experience with three pullets is that they still want their feed even though they like (demand!) going out for free range time. I have a lot of bugs in florida, enough greens that they eat what they want, but they choose to go back in the run for store food. I give all three (11 weeks old) a total of one 8 oz cup of food, plus 1 to 2 hours of monitored free range and they are all growing well without looking fat, are healthy, and have good feathering.

A good idea is to create piles or rows of plant litter to attract bugs for them. Once they found the first pile they were in heaven!
Mine also went mad over grass seed in my yard area after it went to seed and the seeds started to get ready to fall, so letting pasture go to seed is also beneficial.
The chickens need a regular commercial food (unless you blend your own) because of its high protein/calcium content and other vitamins.
Yes, your hens can live on pasture & bugs alone, but they won't be as healthy. And their eggs probably won't be as large and nutritious, either.
Let the birds decide how much commercial food they need, and they will supplement themselves with pasture and bugs.
Good idea. I'm waiting for my compost to breakdown & will put it out for chickens to break apart & fertilize compost further
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I let all 34 free range on several acres (with woods and a creek they just love) and during the warm weather I do not feed them anything. They are huge and healthy and during the winter I do give them feed and yes, it seems once warm weather sets in they are a bit lazy at first but once they know they are going to have to forage, off they go LOL.
There is something worth adding, I do keep a huge compost pile going in the barn (dirt floor) and it not only gives them bugs but it keeps it warm in the winter!

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