How much should they get to eat per day?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by shegeekster, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. shegeekster

    shegeekster Out Of The Brooder

    75
    1
    33
    Jul 1, 2012
    Northern Michigan
    There is a lot of info out there that talks about WHAT to feed your hens, but I'm having a very hard time finding out how MUCH? My hens always seem to be famished although I think I feed them enough...it's winter and very cold, I want them to be comfortable and well-fed. They always have crumbles but I give them other stuff, too, and they seem to be preferring the bird seed I am providing. Perhaps that food is not nutritious enough, and that explains their apparent hunger? I'd rather have them plump, especially in mid-winter, and they seem skinny! :(
     
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    In winter, their need for calories increases as they need to produce body heat. Protein levels of the feed are very important both for egg laying, but also for heat production. If you add too much 10% protein seed or grains, yes, they'll over eat on that product in an attempt to satisfy their needs. Since they are often less active in the winter, it is also easy to just put fat on them which can also be unhealthy. A full sized hen, large fowl, can easily consume 6 oz of feed, per day, in the winter. I like to feed a 20% animal based protein feed in winter and I feed virtually as much as they can consume by 4 pm. I don't want left overs for the field mice that come searching for feed too.

    We can kind of get used to "a coffee" can or similar in our minds, during the summer, but there is range, grass, bugs and such for which to supplement their feed. In winter, this is all gone and they rely virtually 100% upon the feed we provide. Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013
    1 person likes this.
  3. michaelt

    michaelt New Egg

    4
    0
    6
    Jan 4, 2013
    Is it a bad thing to have a gravity feeder always full of 17% mash?
     
  4. shegeekster

    shegeekster Out Of The Brooder

    75
    1
    33
    Jul 1, 2012
    Northern Michigan
    Yes! Thank you, it does! 6 oz. per day per hen, for my 4 girls is 24 oz per day, or 1.5 lbs. I doubt I am giving them that much! I don't use a scale but a scoop, I will measure and weigh to make sure now that they are getting enough. By 4 pm sounds right here too, cuz the light is starting to fade soon after and I don't feed past that time either.

    I think I can read the packaging to determine the % protein in each grain or mix? thanks for your feedback Fred's Hens it will help a lot I'm sure.
     
  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Lots of people like to do that. I do not as we have a serious mice issue. I feed, feed, feed during the day. They eat very well. I do not have any feed out during the night when the only animal eating is the rodents. If you see mice or see mice turds in your feeder, you know very well you have an issue.

    It takes experience to feed this way. It takes a bit more attention. Not everyone needs to do it nor can do it the way we do.

    What everyone in cold weather does need to do, in my view, is realize that protein and crude fiber is essential for body heat production. Animal protein is what is lacking in most retail chicken feed products and a great need that chickens have is animal based protein. It is critical during cold months when the bird cannot supplement that need for animal protein through searching for bugs and worms.
     
  6. nwredrooster

    nwredrooster Out Of The Brooder

    75
    4
    31
    Jun 3, 2012
    Oregon
    Great information Fred. Thanks. We have very few mice here in our suburbs but we do have rats (truthfully I think everywhere where there is a sidewalk, a basketball hoop, or a powerline your going to find rats). We keep our feeder dangling from the run roof by a chain, when the girls come out in the morning the feeder comes down. When they go in in the evening the food gets hung back up. The hung up version has it 4 feet above the ground and 4 feet below the rafter.
     
  7. shegeekster

    shegeekster Out Of The Brooder

    75
    1
    33
    Jul 1, 2012
    Northern Michigan
    This is good to know! My birds can get grass and bugs etc. seasonally but as we are in the frozen north, now I feel like I have to provide all their meat protein. To this end, I give them some of the burger/brown rice/vegetable stuff that I cook for my dogs. Occasionally scramble them one of their own eggs. Sometimes they get a chicken leg (!) That is in an effort to provide protein in their diet...I am clueless as to whether it's enough, or too much, and probably should not trust them to eat what is best for them. Then again, I do not interfere with their hunting in warm weather so how would I know how much protein they normally eat? In summer, they turn their hard little noses up at dried mealworms. now that it's January, they can't eat them fast enough. Which suggests to me they are craving meat.
     
  8. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Some of this is just flat out experience and developing "the eye" of a flock keeper. It takes time.

    If you butcher a bird and see far too much layered fat, you know your diet provision was too much and too high in carbs, most likely. If you handle the bird and feel nothing but keel bone, you know they are too skinny. (I won't discuss worms.) The feather condition is a most useful visual cue as to their protein uptake. It takes good protein and animal protein/fats to produce the feathering I'm looking for. I also looking to see if they are active, do they have energy? Energy is provided mostly by the corn, which is often 60% of a prepared feed. In the winter, I want a large percentage, 80-90% of their diet to come from the quality layer mash I feed. I top dress that with meat drippings for fats and flavor. Fed back eggs every other day or so enriches the mash when stirred in as well. All left over meat scraps go to the birds. A few soaked alfalfa pellets help provide additional greens in winter months.

    I can also judge the diet to a large degree by the eggs produced. Do they have enough energy and excess protein to lay an egg in cold weather? What is the size and quality of that egg? These are just things one notices without committing a whole lot of focused thought to it. You just "see" things after a while and notice how the flock is doing.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2013

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by