How much feed will I need for 8 free range in the backyard hens?


In the Brooder
9 Years
Mar 1, 2010
Newbie here, I've been checking out books and the online resources, but I have some specific questions I haven't found answers to...

We are planning to get a 2-3 pullets/hens that have just started laying from my aunt who lives out in the country, and also will add 4-6 day old chicks from a local feed store. We live on .21 acres, and have about half of that fenced in as our backyard. We are playing around with coop/run designs, throwing around the possibility of a tractor, but I want to know how much we can depend on the chickens eating on their own from the yard, and how much we'll need to supplement w/ bought food. And if 8 hens are free ranging in my backyard, how much area is required to keep it from becoming one huge mud pit?

If it matters, we're looking at heavy dual pupose breeds like rhode island red, australorp and barred rocks.

Also, should/do they eat plants like hostas, ivy, dusty miller, azaleas? Should I protect the birds or the plants from each other?

Thanks for any help!
I think for 8 birds you won't be needing a lot of rations, but you will need to make sure they get a balanced diet by supplementing them. Toss down what they will eat within 15 minutes. Do this twice daily. Make sure they have oyster shell for calcium. Depending on your quality of forage, the ammount they consume of ration will vary. I'd protect plants that you want to keep. Chickens don't mind cleaning out flower beds of unwanted AND wanted plants.
If you don't want mud, the tractor is the best idea on the size of your plot of land. I think you may have a hard timewith that anyway. 8 chickens scratch a lot! Hope that helps!
toasted salmon,

How much they will eat will depend on what is available in the yard. I have 4 hens in about a 6000 sf back yard (similar to your size). Seems like during the winter they eat much more pellets, than in the summer. Sometimes in the summer they don't touch the pellets for a few days each week. I also supplement the pellets with greens, vegs, etc daily. They always finish their salad. I go through about 100 lbs of pellets a year, about 25-40 lbs of scratch a year.

I read somewhere here that hens need 450 sf each to maintain a chance at a lawn. My 4 hens can do damage to my backyard, but not wholesale destruction. 8 hens in your backyard sounds like a bit tight. If you limit the free range time you'll have less trouble. Or if you free range all day you'll have lots to keep you busy.

Now about plants. Anything under about 2 ft is fair game, but they seem to like some plants better than others.
Hostas- I don't have, but I've read several posts that they are history around chickens. Mine don't touch the iris or lilies in my yard.
Ivy- Chickens seem to not like Ivy
Dusty Miller- I don't know but suspect that that being soft, they would be gone
Azalea- If they are small they may pick at leaves or flowers, but I doubt they'd totally destroy them.
Mine really don't mess too much with my plants, but I have more trees and shrubs, less perennials in the backyard. I do have the berry bushes and a couple flower beds fenced off.

Hope this helps

It will also depend on time of year. In Spring/Summer/Fall when they can find lots of greenery and lots of bugs, they will eat less commercially prepared feed. But in winter, bugs just about disappear and the grass is pretty dead so it is hard for them to find much. They will need to eat a lot more commercial feed then.
HEChicken is right. It depends on where you are at and the weather. If your yard is buried under snow, they won't have any choice but to eat the feed.
Now here in Seattle we are having the warmest winter in history. Grass & bugs have been available since the end of Dec.

Lucky you, Imp! We are just starting to see the early, EARLY signs that Spring is on its way. Can't wait until the girls can start finding bugs again....
If only every winter was like this one. When the weather forecasters start saying we are having typical June weather in February.

Mowing season started a couple weeks ago. Apricot tree is in full bloom + all the usual spring plants.

Imp- Toasted Salmon, Where are you located?
Thanks all for the replies. We're in maryland, about a block from the chesapeake bay. we still have snow on the ground and have had a record breaking winter for snow. I realize the hens will need supplements in the winter, but i'm hoping for low cost summers. Not sure how I feel about my hostas becoming a salad bar--I may have to stick with a tractor model or limit their open yard time.

I've heard people reference the chickens needing a lot of sunlight to lay well. Does that mean access to outdoors, or literally the house should be in the full sun, like plants that need sun should be placed in the sun? (prob a stupid question, but I've never done this before, so sorry!)
It's not only sunlight. They need lots of any white light. It is usually recommended at least 14 hours per day. During the winter many people add extra light in the coop. Either enough to get up to 14 hours or a light 24/7. Some people do not like supplementing light. It does not have to be very bright.

I'd like to chime in here if I may.

Eight chickens for a backyard flock means a generous zoning department rule. Here in my town in Colorado the maximum is six and ten miles away in another town they are allowed three. And we had to fight for six and cannot have a rooster. I only mention it because when you said 0.2 ish of an acre and backyard, that's what I have: one-fifth of an acre.

And I have six chickens who use every inch of the fenced yard, approximately 2/3 of the lot size. This winter, they've been deadly and dig down the roots of my roses and other plants looking for grubs or something. I ended up building an additional run to keep them from completely destroying things and only let them out for an hour or two at the end of the day.

Eight birds on one-tenth of an acre is a lot, I think and you will end up with a lunar landscape if you let them romp all over.

Now to your original question: My six standards go through fifty pounds of food every 45 days approximately. Sometimes longer.


New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom