Limited feed vs free choice


In the Brooder
Sep 12, 2015
I have a flock of 16 layers. They're just over 1 year old, mix of common laying breeds. They're in a coop & run and do not free range.
They really seem to be going through the feed, and I'm seeing them wasting a lot. I'd like to experiment with limiting their feed to only what they need to keep laying well. I am by no means wanting to starve my hens lol, I just want to eliminate as much waste as I can.
They get kitchen scraps about 5x per week, and scratch grains 3-4x per week.
How much actual layer feed does each hen require per day?
If I wanted to try limiting it, would I just take the total daily amount and put it in the feeder all at once?
Thanks for any advice!
Last edited:
I only put out daily what my birds can clean up for the most part. It took me a bit to figure out that amount and it changes a bit throughout the season. I never withhold feed though, as the ration has what they need to not develop deficiencies.

If you are experiencing waste than often it's from birds spooning it out, or rodents eating it. Finding a feeder that works best for you is important. Some are better than others. It can also help to feed a pellet. I saw a lot of waste with a crumble.

When my feed use suddenly doubles or more I generally know I have rats probably. Either ground rats or sky rats like sparrows and starlings. So make sure it isn't rodents eating your feed.
If feed useage increased a game cam might tell you what else is eating it or how they are wasting it. Also, provide food in more than one location since chickens sometimes bully other chickens and they can’t eat because are kept from the feed.

It seems that I have read more commonly on BYC that those who feed limited rations (usually to meat birds) will feed 2x per day what they can eat in 20 min. They remove what is not eaten at that point. A little easier might be free choice during day, including before roosting, then remove at night. Can simply get a feeder that will fit right into a steel trash can with lid so that rodents can’t access, but is easily available the next morning to put back out for the chickens.

Sometimes mine seem hungrier some days than other days. Also, I limit treats or kitchen scraps to just occasional and one common “treat” I provide is chicken feed mash! Yes, chicken crumbles+water (sit for 10 or so min, stir) and voila! A special treat they run towards and the pan looks like it has been licked clean afterwards!
Roughly 1/4 pound per bird per day ... of course the real answer is "IT DEPENDS" ...

Depends on:
Breed and age of chickens
Time of year (cold/molt/laying)
What kind of feeder do you have?
It should be raised up to the back height of your chickens. This can help with them billing it out.
I use DIY no waste feeders with starter grower crumble. My feed is out all the time.

14 Gallon Waterer (2).jpg
I prefer to free feed as I have plenty of other things to do and don't want to have to be going out several times a day to feed them. It did take some experimentation but finally found a no spill / no waste feeder that worked for my setup. It was expensive, and had I known about the plans available from my friends here on BYC I would attempted building one.

But now that I have it, I love it. The hopper is water proof and holds enough that I only fill it once in a while. Also greatly reduced the amount stolen from wild birds as they don't wanna stick their head in there.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom