Looking for opinions on how I'm feeding my chickens

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
8,650
18,929
726
USA
How much food do chickens need per day?
It depends on the chicken: how big it is, whether the chicken is growing or molting or laying eggs, what the weather is like, and how efficiently that particular chicken uses food.

It seems like the popular answer is free choice but we've been having a rat problem so I have to remove their food as soon as they finish eating. I feed the 5 of them about 1-1.5 cup 3x a day.
Do they eat it all, or do they stop at some point?

Are you feeding it dry, wet, or fermented?

I would start by letting them all eat until they stop, no matter how much that takes, at every feeding. After a few days, you should have a fairly good idea of how much they need, although the amount will still change from time to time (growth, egg laying or not, cold weather or hot, etc.)

I found a website that says chickens need about 1/2 cup of feed per day.

I've seen lots of websites that estimate 1/4 to 1/3 pound of dry feed per laying hen per day. I found one place where someone measured, and found that was about 3/4 cup to 1 cup (which might be different for different brands of feed.)

Weighing or measuring feed when it is wet means you are weighing or measuring the water too. Water is heavy, and feed swells a lot when wet, so the measurement is very different even though the amount of actual feed has not changed.

I used to only have 2 and maybe they did eat about that much per day but now that we have 3 extra chickens, it seems like my two earlier birds are fighting for the feed and maybe even overeating.
If "overeating" means eating so much it is bad for them, they are probably not.

If your chickens used to eat both fermented feed and dry feed, and you took away one kind (because of the rats), of course they will be eating more of the kind they still get.

It's tough for me to gauge how much to leave out especially since they pick on the smallest one and kick her away and I'll see her pecking at the empty bowls later. I pour out more food for her and the other ones that I thought were full will come back and keep eating! I feel like I'm overfeeding them but I also want to make sure nobody's hungry.
It would help if they can all eat at once.
That might require more bowls, or maybe a long trough (some people use plastic gutter, like is used on a house to catch rain.)

It might also help if you have a way to keep them from seeing (or noticing) the smallest hen so much as they eat. Maybe you could put bowls in several different corners, so their heads face in different directions as they eat.

Chickens like to eat small amounts all day long, so it's hard to tell whether picking at the empty bowls means she needs more food or not.

You could feel the crop of the small one, or all of them, after they finish eating. A full crop is fine. An enormous bulging crop is probably fine. An empty crop, or one that is almost empty, could indicate a bird that did not get enough (especially if it is the one that gets chased away.)
 

Aunt Angus

Crossing the Road
Jul 16, 2018
6,615
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Nevada County, CA
Free feed is preferable, but I understand the rodent issue. You might invest in a rat-proof feeder/treadle feeder.

And I agree with the others: Free choice is best. Continue fermenting. Only give treats 1x or 2x/week (think of it as dessert). I actually switch to starter when my flock is molting. No DE. Get some calcium free choice when your girl nears laying age.
 

Mrskrieg77357

Chirping
Jul 21, 2020
39
65
74
Free feed is preferable, but I understand the rodent issue. You might invest in a rat-proof feeder/treadle feeder.

And I agree with the others: Free choice is best. Continue fermenting. Only give treats 1x or 2x/week (think of it as dessert). I actually switch to starter when my flock is molting. No DE. Get some calcium free choice when your girl nears laying age.
This is the storage I use to prevent squrriels and rats from eating our animal feed
 

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U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,097
15,288
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North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
The "thumb rule" for feed is 1/4# per bird, per day, dry weight of a nutritionally complete commercial ration. It varies hugely, by bird, by breed, by condition, by age, by life cycle (i.e. molt), and by weather - then is further influenced by their ability (if any) to free range.

THAT is why offering (for all but CornishX, who will sometimes eat themselves to death) free choice feed and ratproofing the area (also all other predators) is the generally preferred option. You can also learn to condition check your birds, picking them up, feeling along the keel bone, and otherwise visually inspecting condition to get an idea of whether or no they are being overfed, but it takes practice *and* feedback. Or what you convince yourself is fine (and we humans have brains good at that) may not be. I, frankly, am no good at it, and barely bother - even though my birds free range all day, and only recieve a single feeding each night, in quantity which varies with the season and their behaviors.

I butcher a bird or two each week on average, and get my hands all up in it, so I can readily see if I have excess fat accumulation around the organs, intruding into the liver, or if my birds muscles seem stressed or undersized. That's my "condition check". Obviously an impractical solution for most.

Recommend reviewing coop and run for an upgrade to your predator protection, a treadle feeder design (I'm not thrilled, honestly, but I have a very wet environment and pretty dusty feed from the local mill with some frequency), or an alternative design which you can close securely in the evenings and reopen upon the morn - like a high (solid) sided wire cage feed tunnel with the food located in a central depression - so when your chickens scratch at it, they don't kick it outside the feed area. Having not actually crafted one of those, that's pure theory, however, based on what I have observed of chicken feeding behaviors.
 

JedJackson

Crossing the Road
5 Years
Jul 6, 2016
7,231
22,085
942
NW Washington state
I agree with the above posters. Cut down on treats and ixnay the DE, which does nothing. Save it for the nest boxes.

There is no need to limit their rations. Put out as much as they will eat, unless they are getting fat. And even then, I would suspect the sunflower seeds as the cause rather than the starter rations.

Also, be sure their chick starter feed isn't medicated. No need for that at 15 weeks. It can be harmful as it inhibits the absorption of vitamins.
 

Aunt Angus

Crossing the Road
Jul 16, 2018
6,615
16,977
832
Nevada County, CA
This is the storage I use to prevent squrriels and rats from eating our animal feed
Storage, yes. These are what I use, too. But these don't help if they are eating the feed right out of the feeders. I got my problem under control now. I was suggesting treadle feeders for the OP.

ETA: I also have to wire mine shut because we have raccoons. And bears.
 

JacinLarkwell

Crossing the Road
Mar 19, 2020
17,063
40,496
951
South-Eastern Montana
I just fill the bowls all the way up and wait until they get close to empty to refill them (the small single birds wind up being fed 2-3 times a day, large community groups are more once every day or 2). We do have mice, but considering we also have a barn, it's impossible to keep them out so we actively trap and clear out pinkies (chickens love them)
 

citychicks99

Chirping
Aug 20, 2021
112
86
88
Seattle, WA
I can't be sure because I don't do fermented feed, but I think that means half a cup DRY before you ferment it.

I free-feed, but the figure I've seen is 1/4 pound a day -- weight being more accurate than volume measuring. Again, that's DRY before it's fermented.
What is your fermented feed and how do you make it?
I just fill a glass jar halfway with the feed, fill it up with water, close it, store it in a dark place for about 3 days and that's it. It's funny how much they love it.

I didn't think of that! Good point... So the 3+ cups of feed probably isn't overdoing it like I thought..

I saw the treadle feeders and they make me nervous because I'm afraid it might snap off their neck. It's also too pricey for me anyhow.

So what I did this morning is leave out 3 bowls of fermented feed (one bowl can fit two chickens) and when I see that it's mostly empty, except for one of them with a little bit left, I just hold it out and see who else wants more. Some of them peck at it for a bit but go away shortly. I was looking at their crop yesterday and all of them seem pretty full at the end of the day. I'll try and feel them tonight to make sure.

I've seen the mice just scurry around my garden now, probably looking for food because there isn't any in the coop anymore. I saw one try and pick at scraps around the outside yesterday but it kept going away and coming back because there isn't much for it. I'll have to get some traps and get rid of all my old bushy tomato plants because it looks like they're hiding behind them.
 

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