backyard chickens

Can You Over-Feed Backyard Chickens?

Overall, chickens tend to be pretty easy to care for. No matter your reason for raising backyard chickens, it’s important to ensure they get the right type and amount of feed each day to stay happy and healthy.

What Nutrients Do Chickens Require?

Your backyard chickens’ feed should contain basic nutrients such as:

  • Amino acids
  • Enzymes
  • Trace elements
  • Protein
  • Vitamins

Depending on your chickens’ breeds, ages, and life cycles, they could require a specific type of feed with different levels of these important nutrients. For example, as they age, chickens will progress through these feed types:

  • Starter/Grower feed: Because they are still growing, chicks require a starter/grower feed with around 18-22% protein.
  • Finisher feed: Once meat bird chicks are around 12 weeks old, they can start on a finisher feed with a lower percentage of protein.
  • Layer feed: When the chicks reach laying point at about 18 to 20 weeks old, they can start on a 16% layer feed.

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How Many Cups of Feed Should You Give Per Chicken?

The amount of feed your chickens require can vary based on factors such as their age and size as well as:

  • The weather. During the fall and winter months, your chickens will require more feed.
  • If they are free-range. Since they’ll have access to other food sources, free-range chickens won’t need as much feed.
  • If they are laying eggs. Because laying an egg uses up a lot of energy, hens will require more feed during that time.

In general, the average chicken will need 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of feed per day. In addition to regular feed, you can also supplement their diet with fresh fruits and veggies or Poultry Scratch Grains. However, these extra snacks shouldn’t exceed 10% of their daily feed intake.

How Many Times a Day Should I Feed My Chickens?

How frequently you feed your chickens can depend on your own preferences as well as if they are free-range or not. On average, most chickens will benefit from having two pellet meals a day. You can either give them this meal by hand or use a feed dispenser. To split up the meals, provide one small portion in the morning and the second portion in the evening.

Can You Over-Feed Chickens?

Unless they are broiler (meat) birds, most chickens will naturally stop eating their feed once they feel full. The main cause of obesity and overeating is often due to excessive amounts of treats, table scraps, and scratch grains. If you overfeed your chickens, it could cause obesity, which can then lead to a range of health problems such as mobility issues, pressure sores, and becoming egg bound.

To prevent these health conditions — some of which can be fatal — it’s important to feed your backyard chickens the right type and amount of feed. While they can have treats, such as mealworms, try to keep them to a minimum to avoid overfeeding your chickens.

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