7 Best Chicken Feeders: Buyer’s Guide To No Waste Feeders

For most people, finding the best chicken feeders may seem like a reasonably easy thing to do, and in many ways, it is. But there’s different factors to consider before buying one.

 

In this buyer’s guide, I’ll show you the best chicken feeders, and factors to consider before you make a purchase.

 

 

Best Chicken Feeders: A Buyer’s Guide

 

** Top 7 Feeders We Recommend **

The best feeder for YOUR chickens largely depends on your flock.

 

For example, your chickens may be prone to knocking over water, fighting over feeders, and pooping all over the place. You also might work a lot, and not return home until well after dark.

 

The best, and most appropriate, feeder addresses these quirks, and helps you raise healthy chickens.

 

Where can I buy a chicken feeder?

You can buy chicken feeders from an array of locations near your hometown and even browse through an extensive selection online and have it shipped right at your door.

 

  • Amazon (ships nationally)
  • Your local farm store
  • Tractor Supply (nationwide locations)
  • Orschelns (locations in the midwest)
  • True Value (nationwide locations)

 

Why do you need a chicken feeder?

Chickens aren’t at all fussy when it comes to eating – in fact, most hens couldn’t care less if you dumped their food on the ground.

 

But the mess they create – and the vermin it attracts – means it’s easier to just invest in a reliable way to offer food to your flock.

 

A quality chicken feeder cuts down on food waste (which eases the strain on your wallet), and ensures your flock is properly fed at all times.

 

It’s also more hygienic, and reduces the likelihood that your fluffy butts will pick up bacteria from exposing their food to their own waste.

 

Bear in mind that you also might need multiple chicken feeders, especially if you have a large flock or bullies. One per 6 hens is usually adequate.

 

What to consider when choosing a chicken feeder?

When perusing options on Amazon or at your local farm store, keep the following questions in mind:

 

  • Are your chickens baby chicks or layers?
  • How many chickens do you have?
  • Do you have bullies?
  • Are your hens super messy (or do you hate messes)?
  • Do you work all the time?
  • Or, do you worry they won’t have constant access to feed?

 

This is so you can estimate the size and quantity you’ll need, as well as what features your new feeder should have.

 

Some other things to think about:

 

Strength

How much weight can the feeder hold? How much will you feed at a time. For example, if you’re planning to put 20 pounds of grain into it, make sure that weight won’t be too heavy.

 

Will the your flock’s food stay dry and fresh?

Wet and/or moldy feed can be prevented by buying a weather-proof chicken feeder. This reduces the chance your hens will eat grain full of mold and bacteria that can harm them.

 

** Best Weather-Proof Chicken Feeder **

 

Is it easy to clean?

This is especially important during summer because flies and maggots LOOOOVE old chicken feed. Note that even though metal is sturdier, plastic and PVC are easier to clean.

 

This prevents disease and abnormal eggs from being laid.

 

Are there any sharp edges or anything that can hurt your hens?

I don’t typically recommend chicken feeders that automatically close when your flock is eating. These feeders also have a tendency to tip over, causing waste and attracting rodents.

 

So, check out your potential feeder and make sure it won’t harm your flock.

 

** Safest Chicken Feeder **

 

 

How many feeders do you need?

This will depend primarily on the type of feeder. If you opt to use regular galvanized or plastic hanging feeders, then one per 6 chickens is fine.

 

However, as a precaution always keep an eye out that all your flock members are getting enough food.

 

How much should I spend on a chicken feeder?

You can spend as much or as little as you want. Chicken feeders can even be as basic as a dish or a bowl or as fancy as a golden automatic feeder.

 

If you’re on a budget, you can even fashion your own homemade chicken feeders, and there are many resources online.

 

Typically, you won’t need to spend more than a few dollars on a gravity or galvanized feeder, but automatic feeders can run a couple hundred dollars.

 

** Best Budget Feeder **

How often should I clean my chicken feeder?

A weekly clean up with warm soapy water is ideal. Grove Collaborative has wonderful all-natural cleaners that are economically priced and delivered to your door (on my first order, we got about $80 worth of free stuff).

 

You can use these in your feeders, waterers, and your chicken coop.

 

Plastic and PVC are easier to clean than metal, especially in the crevices.

 

Take note that if you buy a PVC feeder, thoroughly check that it is indeed easy to clean. Even though it’s convenient to have a chicken feeder PVC, some of the pipe feeders can be tricky to clean.

 

Should I hang my chicken feeder?

It’s entirely up to you. Hanging it keeps it cleaner because the chickens can’t poop in their dinner, and it keeps insects and rodents out of it.

 

Just remember that storing a lot of food in it will make it harder to hang well because of the weight. Always secure it to a stud or some other structural element that can support the weight.

 

How high off the ground should a chicken feeder be?

Your chickens should easily be able to reach their dinner. The point of hanging the feeder is to reduce waste, keep the feed clean, and provide a clean living environment for the flock.

 

You can also place the feeder on a cinder block to raise it off the ground.

 

However, if you have baby chicks, the feeder shouldn’t be off the ground at all as they won’t be tall enough to reach it.

 

Silkie chickens can’t fly well, so if you keep this breed, make sure they can reach the feeder, too.

 

Can it keep rodents out of my coop?

There is a possibility that it can prevent rodents from entering the coop because no-waste feeders mean that the feed doesn’t fall on the ground, and there’s no reason for them to enter the coop.

 

How do I keep rats out of my chicken feeder?

If you struggle with vermin, it’s best to use a feeder that closes right after the hens eat. Always make sure that the coop door is closed at night to stop rats and mice from entering and getting a free meal.

You can also spread herbs like PestsBGone to ward them off.

 

Do I need an automatic chicken feeder?

Like an automatic chicken coop door, having an automatic chicken feeder can make your life easier, especially if you work a lot and don’t have much time to visit your chickens, or worry that they won’t have constant access to their grain during the day.

 

Just check that it’s properly working every day, and remember that if they break, you will either have to fix it or buy a new one.

 

** Top 7 Feeders On Amazon We Recommend & Why **

 

Grandpa’s Feeders Automatic Chicken Feeder

Considered one of the best chicken feeders. Boasts a grill that stops chickens from throwing out food. Made from galvanized steel that’s built to last even during the toughest outdoor conditions. Keeps rats, birds, and mice away from feed. Can hold 20lbs of feed & can approximately feed 6 chickens for 10 days.

 

LITTLE GIANT Little Giant 17 inch Galvanized Hanging Poultry Feeder

A well-priced budget feeder that makes grain easy accessible.

 

Chicken Feeder Rainproof Outdoor -Metallic (25 LBS)

Rain proof and can hold up to 25 pounds of feed. Waterproof design, and can screwed into a wall or placed on a stand. Saves money by preventing costly feed from spilling.

 

Duncan’s Poultry 55 LB Chicken Feeder

Can hold up to 55 lbs of feed. Suitable for pellets, mash, and crumbles. Prevents roosting with a hinged gable-style lid. Made from heavy gauge galvanized metal.

 

Muddy Hill Farm Poultry Bucket Feeder for Chickens, Ducks Holds 20lbs of Crumbles, Pellet, Dry Feed.

Holds 20 pounds of feed. Includes a weather shield. Reduces feed waste. Easy assembly. Made from rubber & watertight.

 

Right Farm Products 20 lb Chicken Feeder

Can hold 20 lbs of feed. Good budget feeder. Made of heavy-duty plastic. Easy to refill.

 

Rent-a-Coop 20 lb Chicken Feeder

For chickens 12 weeks and older. (Younger/smaller chickens can crawl in the port). Weather-proof. Keeps out rats, mice, squirrels, and wild birds. 99% of feed stays in feeder. Holds 20 pounds of feed. Refill once every week for 8 hens.

 

Which is the best chicken feeder in your opinion? Leave a comment below!




Web Analytics

Alternative Feed For Chickens: Best Ideas!

If you’re looking for an alternative feed for chickens that won’t break the bank and will help support your healthy flock, then you’re in luck – there’s an abundance of surprising alternatives!

While your hens should always have a high-quality layer feed, you might find yourself without a bag one day (and the feed store might be closed) OR you might have table scraps you don’t want to toss. You also might want to make your own chicken feed.

Nutritious feed doesn’t need to come with a golden price tag, but it does need to satisfy the hunger cravings of your beloved flock and provide much-needed nutrients and vitamins.

Whether you want to craft your own chicken feed or just want to give your flock some treats, it’s always good to know what chickens eat! In this article, we’ll discuss the possible alternatives to your usual feed – and you might be surprised at our list of ingredients!

What Is The Best Food For Chickens?

The best chicken feed for laying hens is a high-quality 16% protein layer feed with a calcium supplement. For chicks (under 16 weeks), a high-quality 18% chick starter is best. The feed should have the required nutrition and vitamins for them to stay healthy and become consistent egg layers. Most commercial feeds make it easy. If you want to make your own layer feed, you can use my organic homemade chicken feed recipe here.

How To Feed Chickens Without Buying Feed

While I never really recommend this, there’s plenty you can feed chickens without actually having to buy feed. You can feed them table scraps (there’s a table below of what human food they can eat), grow food for them (we have a leafy green garden for our flock), or raise mealworms or black soldier fly larvae.

You can learn how to raise mealworms here and why black soldier fly larvae are healthy for chickens here.

If you have a “corn hookup” you can feed them dry corn as well. One of our neighbors is a farmer. One year, his crew spilled a LOT of corn on the ground. He didn’t want to clean it up, so he asked if we wanted it, LOL!

It’s best to feed a 16% protein layer feed however – you want your chickens to be healthy and lay eggs consistently. Nine times out of ten, when a reader emails me because her hens have stopped laying, diet is the reason why.

What Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can eat so many things – it’s probably easier to talk about what they CAN’T eat! Chickens especially seem to love protein – insects (alive or dead) are HUGE with backyard chickens. They also love seeds such as sunflower, wheat, or hemp seeds. Of course, fruits and vegetables are popular, too (especially corn)! As for leafy greens, it’s best to stick with lettuce, kale, and spinach.

Here’s a brief table of suggested treats for your chickens (not comprehensive):

FruitLegumesVegetablesSeedsProteinsDairy Grains
BerriesPeanutsSpinachSunflowerMealwormsMilkWheat
CantaloupeAlfalfa HayTomatoesFlaxBlack Soldier Fly LarvaeGreek Yogurt

(Plain)

Oats
WatermelonPeasSquash & PumpkinPumpkinDried River ShrimpCheeseRye
BananasCloverKaleHempEggsWheyMillet

What Can You Feed Chickens If You Run Out Of Feed?

Alternative feed for chickens if you’re out of feed are whole grains like wheat, corn, flax, cooked rice (NOT UNCOOKED!), and raw or cooked oatmeal. Protein-rich foods like cheese, plain greek yogurt, and sunflower seeds are also good choices. Most table scraps you have on hand will also be suitable as an alternative. Bugs like black soldier fly larvae (which are remarkably easy to cultivate), worms, and crickets are options as well. Just be sure to steer clear of beans!

What Do Chickens Eat Naturally?

What chickens eat naturally (and that will cost you next to nothing) is food you can produce in your backyard, such as green plants, vegetables, fruits, and seeds. Chickens will also naturally hunt for insects such as earthworms, slugs, grubs, black soldier fly larvae, and other creepy crawlies. This alternative feed for chickens is cost-effective, full of protein, and can be found in their natural habitat.

However, before attempting to use any of the above as dinner for your flock, you should be aware of what food can harm to your flock if you’re considering an alternative feed for chickens. Bad food such as salt, sugar, coffee, or liquor and any uncooked raw or dried beans, raw green potato skins (which can contain a poison called solanine). Onions also are a poor food to give to chickens.

What Scraps Not To Feed Chickens?

What foods are toxic to chickens? Well, plenty. For starters, chickens should never consume anything moldy or rotten because it can make them sick. The chart below lists various foods and scraps that chickens shouldn’t eat:

VegetablesFruitLegumesGrainsOther
Potato skinsAvocado skins & pitsDried beansDry riceSalt
OnionsApple seedsUncooked beansChocolate
ChardsPeach pitsLots of sugar
Rhubarb leavesCoffee

What Is The Cheapest Way To Feed Chickens?

The cheapest alternative feed for chickens would be using table scraps that don’t include anything moldy or rotten. Other free chicken feed ideas are insects such as grubs, mealworms, or black soldier fly larvae (or crawfish, if they’re in your region). Mixing your own non-gmo organic chicken feed is another option, especially if you can bulk buy ingredients at a lower cost. We have an article about making your own homemade chicken feed here.

Do Chickens Need Food And Water At Night?

Chickens typically only eat food and drink water when they are awake during the day. At night, chickens prefer to roost and get some sleep. However, there’s nothing wrong with leaving food and water in the coop overnight (especially water) if you don’t have a rodent problem. You should always make sure the feed won’t attract predators. A chicken feeder that automatically closes at night is always a good option.

What Vitamins Are Good For Chickens?

Like people, chickens need all the vitamins they can get. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can produce numerous health problems for chickens (including poor egg production), so it’s important to feed them a balanced poultry diet enriched with vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, Biotin, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin, Choline, Folic Acid, and Pantothenic Acid. Also, minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, phosphorus, and, manganese are important. Most commercial chicken feeds have all the vitamins and minerals your hens need. To ensure your flock has enough calcium to produce good eggshells, you can offer an additional supplement like oyster shells.

What Can I Grow For Chicken Feed?

You can grow garden cover crops such as alfalfa, clover, buckwheat, and annual rye. In your garden, you can grow tomatoes, leafy greens like kale or spinach, wheat (can be sprouted into fodder), bell peppers, sunchokes (boil and mash to feed), corn, and herbs. Just remember that you will need to feed your chickens year round, so if you want to grow feed for your chickens, have a plan to preserve some. Other chicken feed ingredients you can grow are wheat and millet.

If you’re wondering what to feed chickens to lay eggs, it’s important to give your flock plenty of protein. So, if you really want to grow your own chicken feed, it’s a good idea to also raise mealworms or other insects so your hens have plenty of protein.

How Much Should I Feed My Chickens?

Ideally, you should feed your chickens about 1/4 pound of feed per chicken per day, or, 1.5 pounds of feed per chicken per week. Environmental conditions, such as whether it’s very hot or very cold, can also effect how much you should feed your flock. In the winter, you’ll likely want to increase their rations so they can produce enough body heat. If your flock isn’t laying eggs consistently, you’ll want to increase their diet, as well. Typically, chicken feed 50-pound bags are sold at stores to make it easier.

Are Oats Good For Chickens?

Yes! You’ll read varying opinions about this, but oats are perfectly fine to feed your flock. You can feed them dry or made into a mash. Quick oats and instant oats are fine as well – just make sure they’re plain, and without any extra preservatives or ingredients. During very cold nights, many owners make their chickens oatmeal to give them extra energy at night. In the summer, you can mix oatmeal into frozen suet cakes.

Will Chickens Eat Roaches?

A great alternative feed for chickens are bugs – chickens love them! While there are many critters hens love to eat, cockroaches are one of them! If you raise cockroaches, then you’re in for a treat. Chickens love chasing them, and they’re full of protein.

Is Peanut Butter Good For Chickens?

While peanut butter (natural, no salt, no added ingredients) is okay for chickens to eat, it’s not the best for them. A high-quality layer feed is better. However, there’s nothing in peanut butter that will hurt them, as long as it’s 100% natural with no salt or added ingredients. Honey is also healthy for chickens, so you can mix it with honey if you want!

Summary

There’s a lot of alternative feed options for backyard chickens. However, it’s important to make sure your flock has the right amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals in their diet. Otherwise, you might not get as many eggs!

What’s your favorite alternative feed for chickens? Leave a comment below!

9 Ideas To Feed A Flock So Every Chicken Gets Food

A chicken’s gotta eat, right? Especially if they’re layers. They must have the calcium required to put the shells on their eggs. The trick is making sure that every bird in your coop is getting exactly what they need. How can that be done? 

In this article, you’ll discover some ways you can make sure each and every one of your chickens eats enough so they’re healthy. Here’s our best tips to help ensure that each chicken is filling their belly!

How Much Food Do Chickens Need?

For reference, one adult hen or rooster eats roughly 1/4 pound of feed per day. This amounts to about 1.5 pounds per week. For hens, you’ll want to provide a high-quality layer feed (this is the feed we use). It should be a complete feed, meaning it has the right amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals so your chickens stay strong. For pullets (female chickens that aren’t laying eggs yet), you should feed a 16% grower feed or you can continue feeding their 18% protein chick starter feed (this is the chick starter we feed because it has herbs).

For layers, it’s also very important to provide a calcium supplement. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “laying birds require 3.5%–6% calcium because of the nutritional demand for laying eggs (a typical egg requires ~2 g of calcium).” You can easily provide extra calcium with oyster shells, or even eggshells. 

Keep track of how much your chickens are eating. If you go to check on them, and there’s significantly less feed being eaten by the flock, it could indicate a problem. You can learn more about feed here.

Signs Your Hens Aren’t Eating Enough

Some obvious signs your chickens aren’t eating enough include:

  • Low weight/Easy to feel bones
  • Pronounced keel bone
  • Reduced egg production
  • Abnormal eggs
  • Disheveled feathers
  • Depressed personality
  • Keeping eyes closed

Low weight/Easy to feel bones

If you’ve noticed your hens have lost weight – maybe you pick them up, and they feel lighter, or you suddenly notice you can feel their thigh bones through their skin – it’s possible they aren’t eating enough. 

You might wonder how much your chicken should weigh. Truthfully, it depends on the breed. For example, Mille Fleurs weigh about 2-3 pounds, while Jersey Giants can weigh 10 pounds. In this article, you’ll discover the average weight for most chicken breeds. You can print it out and keep it handy. It’s always a good idea to keep records of how much your chickens weigh (to make it easy, we’ve created these downloadable sheets). Assuming they’re in good health, weighing your chickens monthly should be enough (if they’ve been sick, and you’re trying to get weight back on them, then you might opt to weigh them weekly.)

Pronounced keel bone

I personally use the keel bone (also called the breast bone) to keep an eye on my flock. If I pick up a hen and notice her keel bone is pronounced, she goes on a high fat/high protein diet (for example, black soldier fly larvae) until her weight is ideal. 

The keel bone is a good indicator of whether your poultry are underweight. Image is an illustration of a turkey skeleton.

How should the keel bone feel? Like there’s some padding on each side of it. You should still feel the bone itself, but it shouldn’t feel like there’s a dramatic dip on either side. If my hen “just feels bony” in that area, I get concerned. It’s a quick and easy test to check if your flock is getting enough calories. 

This is also an easy test regardless of breed. Every chicken, whether they’re a tiny Serama bantam or a huge Brahma, should have some substantial muscle on each side of their keel bone. 

Reduced egg production

Sure, this is something that comes with age. And for some chicken breeds, this happens as days get shorter. But if you can’t identify any other reason why your hens might have stopped laying (you can learn about all the reasons here), then she might not be getting enough calories. 

Imagine going to collect eggs from your hens on a beautiful summer day, only to find that one of them hasn’t produced anything. If it is a one-time occurrence, that’s not a huge problem. It’s something to watch, certainly. But not the end of the world. If she doesn’t lay over several days, on the other hand…you might want to bump up their feed. This is especially true if most or all of your hens stop laying.

A quick and simple fix is to offer layer feed around the clock. If you want, you can also add high protein & high fat treats.

Abnormal eggs

If your hens are laying, but the eggs are abnormally shaped, such as wrinkled or soft shelled, or if your established laying hen lays “fairy eggs,” this could be a sign that your chickens aren’t getting the necessary nutrients. (Fairy eggs are common for brand new layers to produce, but your adult layer shouldn’t be popping them out consistently). 

It takes a lot of energy to produce an egg. If your hen doesn’t get calories from her feed or from free ranging, she runs a higher risk of laying eggs with shells that aren’t smooth. It’s time to increase her feed. You can learn more about what different weird-looking eggs mean in this in depth article.

Feather damage 

Feathers are durable and tough, but damage to them is often the first indication of something that might be wrong (as long as it’s not molting season). Picking at feathers, or even out-of-season molting, could be a sign that your birds’ diets are not ideal. Additionally, if your hen has a disheveled appearance, for example if her feathers are broken or ruffled, she might be lacking important nutrients. 

Don’t confuse this with molting (although you should definitely provide a feather supplement during a molt). Chickens who lose their feathers and then regrow them can definitely look disheveled. However, this is expected, and occurs in the fall/winter. If your hen has an unkempt appearance at other times of the year, her diet might be the reason.

Depressed personality/Keeping eyes closed

Sometimes our hens seem “off.” They’re usually bright and cheerful. But if you enter their coop, and they just seem depressed and low energy, you might have a problem on your hands. Similarly, unless she’s trying to take a nap, your chicken should be interested in her environment. But if your chicken keeps her eyes closed – even after you rouse her – she might be sick. You’ll have to rule out illness first. If the vet clears her, then try increasing how much feed you offer, especially if you feel her keel bone (using the test above). It’s possible she doesn’t feel well because she’s hungry!

How Can I Help Every Chicken In My Flock Get Food?

Observation

This is kind of a bizarre tip. But it is nonetheless important. In fact, it’s pretty critical! Before you can figure out how to help chickens who aren’t eating enough, you need to know why they’re not eating enough! So, watch your chickens for a few hours. Figure out their social structures, and diagnose the problem that’s preventing some hens from eating. If you notice there’s some flock members who aren’t able to get to their dinner, you can troubleshoot ways to ensure that everyone is fed. 

For example, if you notice a very bossy hen keeps your little bantams from the feeder, you can add more feeders (more on this below).

Or, maybe you think you’re providing enough feed, but really aren’t. Maybe they run out after 10 minutes, and there’s nothing left for the weaker flock members.  But you won’t know unless you observe.

You’ll also get a better understanding of the eating habits of your birds. Pay attention to the amounts of feed that you’re putting into their feeders, or distributing on the ground, and you’ll get a sense of the amounts being eaten – or worse – not being eaten. 

I’ve found that observation is very important in my own coop. For example, my bantam Cochin hens love staying up in the loft in their coop. They don’t really like coming down. We used to have a lot of roosters in the coop. Staying above the crowd was safer! 

Now that there;s fewer roosters, they still prefer to stay above the fray at mealtimes. They just don’t like being overwhelmed. However, they don’t always eat as much as their flock mates. So, I take extra care to put a bowl of feed where THEY can access it. 

Similarly, my frizzle bantams are lower on the pecking order. They can’t really fly, and will crowd into a corner at mealtime. Having multiple feeders – and strategically placing them – keeps them full all the time. But if I hadn’t watched how each individual chicken acts at mealtimes, I would never know!

Only Keep As Many Chickens As You Can Reasonably Care For

This seems like an obvious thing, but chicken math is a real issue. If you suddenly end up with 100 chickens, you’ll probably have a hard time keeping an eye on all of them. Little problems can creep in and become big problems. For example, if you have a large flock, you probably have a pretty well-established pecking order. Your alpha chickens eat first, and the more passive hens eat last. It’s also possible your bossy brood won’t allow the weaker flock members to eat at all. Yes, it happens!

Only raise as many chickens as you can reasonably keep an eye on. This goes double if you’re a busy person who doesn’t spend a ton of time at home! You must monitor their health, and do a physical check regularly.

Money is another concern. The more chickens you have, the more money it costs to feed them. If you’re on a budget, just get a few hens. You’ll have an easier time making sure everyone gets enough to eat. Nothing is worse than stressing about how to pay for a ton of chicken feed every week! In our area, if we had to purchase a ton (literally 2,000 pounds) of feed, it would cost $200-$300 each week. And that’s from a grain mill (which typically charge a lot less), not a farm store like Tractor Supply. 

Hand Feeding

Hand feeding is a fantastic way to make sure that your birds are eating, especially if you have a friendly flock. By being in control of the dispensation of grains, pellets, and goodies, you can manage exactly which chickens get what. It’s also a great way to bond with your flock! Some treat options are layer feed, black soldier fly larvae, or other treats

Hand feeding chickens is an easy way to give them extra calories. It’s also an easy chore for kids, and a great way to teach your children about raising chickens.

The biggest drawback to this method of feeding is time. Hand feeding is incredibly time-consuming, especially when we’re talking about large flocks of hundreds of chickens. This idea is probably best with small flocks of 3-5 chickens. 

Multiple Feeders

Having multiple feeders is critical if you have a larger flock OR if you have bullies in your coop. I personally install 2 feeders for every 6 chickens. You can hang the feeders or simply use a bowl (we use a LOT of bowls because they’re easy to clean). For wall feeders, I personally like Duncan’s feeders because they’re durable and hold a lot of feed. I also use large dog bowls, rubber livestock bowls, and feeders that hang from the ceiling. If you’re interested, you can check out our complete list of recommended feeders. 

Look out for chickens who feel overly possessive and decide that the feed trough is theirs. These chickens will peck away any other birds (ducks included). In this case, a long trough or multiple dishes can certainly make it a challenge for the possessive chicken to peck everyone away.

I just distribute their layer feed among each bowl (this is the layer feed we use).

It’s also important to include some feeders that can be accessed from all sides. For example, if you use feeders that hang on the wall, your hens will only be able to eat on one side. But if you also have feeders that hang from the ceiling, your layers have multiple opportunities to eat their grain. It’s also harder for bossy chickens to chase away flock mates, because they’ll probably be too busy eating their own meal.

Trough style feeders make it easy to feed multiple chickens. Flock members can access the feed from both sides.

Hanging feeders off the ground also makes it difficult for chickens to kick dirt or mud into their food (feed that drops from the container, on the other hand, are fair game for dirtying).

If that doesn’t work for your flock, you can opt for long troughs. They’re easily accessible from front and back, which ensure that each hen has enough time with the feed.  You will probably have to clean them more often, but you’ll sleep better at night.

Even one-at-a-time feeders can promote even distribution of feed to all in the flock. Many are automatic or contain a pressure trigger that opens when a chicken steps on it. Over the course of a whole day, this ensures that feed is available to all. Whichever strategy you choose, it’s important to ensure an even dispersal of feed to all. The best feeders are those that can satisfy the needs of many birds at the same time. 

Not sure how to add multiple feeders to a smaller coop? One way to manage limited space is by going up, rather than out. If you create a triple (or quadruple) floored loft for your birds, you could set up feeding stations on each level. The chickens might develop a favorite feeding place, and refilling their feeders might required some creativity, but overall, this would be a very creative use of space. 

Scatter Their Feed On The Ground

Owners who want their chickens to have the full free-ranging experience can opt to distribute their birds’ feed right into the earth of the pen. This encourages the hens to root, peck, and scratch, all of which are very good for them. By spreading the distribution of feed all throughout the penned area, no single chicken can get all the goodies. Setting the flock loose in an exhausted garden can also accomplish this goal. Your chickens will tear up weeds, till the ground, and feast on any remaining produce. Chickens make for amazing gardeners – it couldn’t hurt to use them for a task they were built for!

One of the biggest drawbacks to this method is that can be quite messy, and your chickens might eat something gross. Chickens poop a lot, and if all of their food is on the ground, some of it is bound to get pooped on. Then, in addition to healthy bits, your layers will also get some unhealthy bits as well. Another drawback is bad weather. Not every backyard can be in lovely sunny 60 to 70 degree climates every day. Most yards will experience rain, possibly some snow, and both extreme heat and cold. All of this can create challenges. 

Separate Chickens Depending On Age & Need

Chickens need different feeds depending on their ages and purposes (for example, chicks vs. 12-weekers vs. 2-year-olds, broilers vs. layers). If you feed your chicks along with your layers, it’s likely your birds will get the wrong food. It’s simplest to keep adults and chicks separated. 

It will keep them eating the right food. Just ask any physical trainer, and they’ll tell you that what you eat is just as important as how you exercise. It is exactly the same for your chickens. It also reduces the numbers in your flock at mealtime. Smaller numbers mean more food for each individual. It ensures every bird has greater access to the feed that you’re giving them. 

Similarly, if you have some bossy hens who are overweight, and some very passive hens that are more scrawny, you might want to keep them separated at meal time. You can be sure each chicken gets exactly what they require to be healthy.

Not everyone has the space to separate their chickens depending on age. Luckily, we’ve provided an article on what to do in such a situation. The secret is balance. Ask “what’s the best feed for all the chickens in my flock?” You’ll probably decide on a 16% grower feed, as this is a decent balance between chick needs and adult needs. The hens will need a calcium supplement (which can be supplied separately), but at least everyone gets enough food. 

Variety

Just giving all of your birds chicken feed from a store can keep them eating, but it might grow old for them. Yes, this is really a thing! Imagine eating corn every day, in and out. You’d probably get bored too! 

By providing small amounts of treats, you’ll distribute all sorts of goodies and entertainment. You can try hand feeding their treats, and the variety will keep them engaged and happy. It also shows your love to them, and can satisfy certain needs that otherwise might be ignored in store-bought feed. Plus, it is just plain fun interacting with your birds this way!

Final Thoughts

While this article is designed to be preventative, rather than reactionary, a wise chicken keeper knows that their flock will need constant supervision. Chickens are incredibly social animals. Each one has their own personality, and sometimes their personalities get in the way of what is best for the flock, even in spite of your best efforts to keep them all healthy and hearty. Hopefully, it will never get to a point where your birds are visibly suffering, but in case it does get to that point, at least you’ve got these tips to help redistribute your feed to all.

Is Layer Feed Really Necessary?

Heard about this thing called “layer feed,” but not sure how it’ll help your chickens? Unsure if your chickens’ diet is the best? In this article, you’ll learn all about layer feed, and why it’s critical to raising a healthy flock!

Living things need to eat. In fact, that might be one of the biggest motivators for gathering a group of chickens in our barns and sheds. We look after them, and they provide us with collections of eggs and meat. If you read our article about what chickens can eat, you know that to produce an adequate supply of eggs for us, our hens need the right nutrients for the job.

To aid in this, industry experts created specially-created feeds called layer feed. These feeds help hens with egg production. They also some smaller bonuses to our chickens.

What Is Layer Feed?

Layer feed is a mixture that helps chickens grow strong and healthy. It offers them a balanced mix of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It’s feed specifically for laying hens, and has healthy amounts of protein and calcium. Your hens need a lot of both to lay healthy eggs!

Example of layer feed ingredients

How Much Protein Should A Layer Feed Be?

A feed with 16-18% protein is best, with the right nutrients for your chickens to remain healthy. A layer feed isn’t the same as a chick starter, which is formulated for baby chickens.

A common question we get is about how to switch to a layer feed from chick starter. For the first part of your chickens’ lives, they should be on starter and grower feeds. Then once they begin laying, you should switch them to a layer feed. It’s easiest to switch gradually over the course of a week. A sudden switch could lead to diarrhea and other gastric problems.

Laying hens will eat about a quarter pound of feed each day. Free-ranging hens need less than this, as they will be foraging for much of their own feed. Despite their foraging, they will still need a significant amount of layer feed to help maintain a proper nutritional balance.

You might wonder can roosters eat layer feed, since they don’t lay eggs. In short, yes they can. They’ll be perfectly healthy. It’s unrealistic to house roosters and hens together and feed different meals.

Can Chicks Eat Layer Feed?

Your chicks have different dietary requirements than your fully-grown chickens. They will need different nutrients. Layer feed has extra calcium, which can cause your chicks to not grow correctly. It’s always best to feed your baby chickens an 18% starter ration.

Does Layer Feed Have Grit?

No, it does not. Grit is a coarse and abrasive material that chickens can safely ingest. It helps them grind up and properly digest food. It has no nutritional value, so you should offer it separately. You can read more about grit here.

Can Broiler Chickens Get Layer Feed?

Broiler chickens need a higher protein percentage than egg layers. The best feed for them are these heavier protein content feeds. In a pinch, your broilers would not suffer from layer feed. But the lower protein content might mean your chickens are smaller than expected.

How Much Does Layer Feed Cost?

Layer feed can range in price. A budget feed at your local farm store might cost about $.50-.60 / lb. If you are looking for non-GMO or organic homemade mixes, they will be a little more expensive. But your chickens will have a better diet. This is the Non-GMO layer feed we use.

Should I Make Homemade Layer Feed?

Whether to make homemade layer feed vs. store-bought layer feed is up to you. It depends on your lifestyle, free time, and the particulars of your farms. There are many recipes available online (like this one here). The following is a list of ingredients that are most often included in homemade layer feeds.

  • Oat groats
  • Regular naked oats
  • Black sunflower seeds, 
  • Hard red wheat
  • Soft white wheat
  • Kamut flour
  • Millet
  • Whole corn
  • Crack corn
  • Popcorn
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Sesame seeds
  • Brewers’ yeasts
  • Sea kelp
  • Alfalfa
  • Barley
  • Fish meal
  • Flax seed
  • Food-grade lime or aragonite

Each ingredient brings its own value into the mix: oils, protein content, nutrients, vitamins, amino acids, calcium, and energy. The ratio of ingredients can vary, and the higher protein ingredients will probably be more expensive than the grains. As a result, the grains will usually compose the bulk of the homemade layer feeds. Seeds and supplements like peas will certainly be more expensive, but they add tons of nutrients and variety to the layer feed.

You can extra supplements depending on the season. If it’s time for a worming or mite-prevention cleansing, food grade diatomaceous earth, garlic, or cider vinegar can all be added to help with keeping your birds’ bodies healthy – both inside and outside. You can give these supplements temporarily or long-term. You can mix the ingredients into garbage pails or metal pails by hand.

One of the biggest advantages of using store-bought layer feeds is the scientific measurements of protein. Excess protein can create problems in many barnyard animals. Renal dysfunction is one problem that does occur with too extreme a protein quantity. But a low protein content can result in smaller or abnormal eggs. It can also cause your chickens to stop laying and/or to become flighty.

You also might wonder whether you should ferment chicken feed. There are many resources online that show you how to ferment chicken (here’s ours). It’s certainly not necessary, but it’s very easy. The main idea is to submerge your flock’s feed under water, and allow beneficial bacteria to grow. If you’re worried about gut health, and want to do everything possible for your flock, then fermenting feed might be for you! You can also ferment chick starter.

Do Pullets Prefer Store-Bought Layer Feeds To Homemade Layer Feeds?

This is a very specific question that requires significantly more research for a definitive answer. Current observations show that there is no preference. Picky eaters are everywhere, so there just might be one in your flock. Chickens are live creatures, and some can certainly be more picky than others. If this is a research question that you decide to pursue, please let us know! We would love to hear your results!

Is Layer Feed Really Necessary?

There will always be people who think layer feeds are unnecessary. And in some situations, they’re possibly right. But industry studies show that a 16% layer feed is the basis of a good diet. Personally, I would stick to “tried-and-true” facts.

Where To Buy Layer Feed

Layer feeds are available everywhere, and we even sell our own – and very popular – blend right here. Petco, Tractor Supply, and even Wal*Mart all stock layer feeds. Chances are good that a simple Google search of “layer feed” and “nearby” will net you a source for the feeds.

Photo of our layer feed

Layer feeds have become a single stop for your egg-laying hens. They are easy to mix, contain a good balance of ingredients for your little ladies, and help your flock produce the “butt nuggets” we all know and love. By looking after the eating habits of our girls, we are improving the quality of our own food: our eggs.

Chicken Feed 101 For New Owners

Healthy hens and roosters don’t come in baskets from storks. It takes the right kind of chicken feed to turn them into active clucking fluffy butts in your coop.

 

What is chicken feed called?

There are several types of chicken feeds. Starter feed is a protein dense variety of chicken feed designed to meet the dietary requirements of baby chicks. To complicate matters, there are varieties of chicken food known as starter/grower feed, which is essentially a type of feed that chickens can eat from 1-20 weeks of age.

 

Generally, chickens are to be fed depending on their growth development stage. 

 

For baby chicks a day old to 10 weeks starter feed should be crumbles or mash that contain 18% protein. Don’t be confused with crumbles and mash. Crumbles look like tiny pieces of granola while mash are finely ground chicken feed pellets. Both are easier to be consumed by chicks compared to huge pellets.

 

Eventually, they’ll start laying. Chicken layer feed would be similar to the textured mixture of crumbles, mash, and pellets. However, It needs at least 16% protein minimum, with added calcium. Layers need high protein chicken feed as well for more eggs. You also need to stay away from feeding onions, and other strong tasting foods to layers. They cause and undesirable taste to the eggs.

 

What do you feed chickens for tasting the best eggs?

We try different types of chicken feeds, but we feed them high quality layer feed and supplement it with our very own blend of natural herbs, oyster shells, garlic for immune boosting, and apple cider vinegar granules to balance gut pH and introduce beneficial bacteria. You can check it out here.

 

What do you feed a chicken?

The basis of any good chicken diet is a high quality poultry feed. We feed our girls a layer mash, which provides them with the right amount of protein and minerals to keep them laying eggs! In short, you can feed chickens:

  1. Layer pellets (16% protein)
  2. Dried insects like black soldier fly larvae or mealworms
  3. Vegetables (here’s a list of vegetables you can feed chickens)
  4. Fruits such as grapes, berries, and melons
  5. Grasses
  6. Seeds like wheat or millet

 

What is the best feed for chickens?

The best feed is high in protein, while providing all the nutrients chickens need. While there are a lot of commercial chicken feeds on the market, I still prefer non-GMO chicken feed. We’re proud to have the best chicken feed that can even give chickens fluffy feathers and produce the best eggs! Click here to know where to get chicken feed.

 

If you want to make your own homemade feed, just make sure it has essential chicken feed ingredients. You can read my favorite chicken feed recipe here.

 

How much do you feed a chicken per day?

A well known ballpark figure for estimating purpose is 1/4 pound of feed per chicken per day, or, 1.5 pounds of feed per chicken per week. Keep in mind that this is a ballpark figure, and you’ll need to watch your flock’s intake. If they gobble their feed quickly, and still seem hungry, offer more.

 

Do free range chickens need feed?

Yes. Even though they have access to pasture, you still need to give them poultry chicken feed to make sure they’re getting the right kind and enough nutrition.

 

Do chickens need food and water at night?

Chickens roost and sleep at night, and they won’t get up to eat and drink until it’s light again. However, you should always provide 24 hour access to water. Here’s a list of waterers we recommend.

 

How often should chickens be fed?

How often do you feed chickens is a very common question in growing backyard chickens. Food must be available to chickens whenever they need it. The full feeding method is a good technique to guarantee that there is constant supply of feed at all times. You can also use automatic feeders like these. We’ve also reviewed Duncan Feeder’s automatic feeders here.

 

How much food does a chicken need per day?

¼ cup of a high quality chicken feed. Best to offer free choice all day.

 

Can you overfeed chickens?

Everything must be taken in moderation. Overfeeding chicken is possible and they become obese especially if they’re confined to the coop. Free range hens however get enough exercise and are unlikely to be obese.

 

Do free range chickens need scratch? 

No. They don’t. Unless it’s winter and the ground is covered in snow.

 

Then there’s also grit. Grit is not feed, it’s rocks. Chickens need grit to help digest their feed. It’s their equivalent to teeth. Free fed chicken will find their way to grit in the form of tiny bits of stone and gravel but it would be helpful if you threw some in the coop or their feed too. 

 

Grit comes as flint and oyster shell. Oyster shell is soluble and it provides calcium which would be much used by layers in particular. It’s just like feeding chickens with eggshells.

 

What should you not feed chickens? What foods are poisonous to chickens?

While looking for alternative chicken feed, you might have considered beans. Although they look like something chickens would eat, dried and raw beans are a no-no. It contains phytohaemagglutinin which is fatal to chickens. Moldy fruits and vegetables aren’t good as Fowl feed too.

 

Caffeine is also toxic to chickens. Giving them a few pecks of chocolates would not cause too much harm but remember, chocolates are known to cause cardiac arrest in birds!

 

Other foods that are not good for chicken are:

  1. Processed food
  2. Raw potato peels and green potatoes
  3. Avocado skin and pit
  4. Raw meat
  5. Greasy food

 

You can see a list of what not to feed chickens here.

 

What scraps can chickens eat?

Some table scraps that are safe for chicken to consume are:

 

  1. Vegetables (cooked or raw)
  2. Fruits (leave the seeds out)
  3. Grain
  4. Oatmeal
  5. Corn (cooked, raw, and dried)
  6. Peas
  7. Bread
  8. Yogurt

 

Again, make sure that these foods are not moldy or spoiled. You might have also heard of feeding chicken expired yogurt. It’s not something to be frowned on. Feeding chicken yogurt helps even out chicken gut bacteria for a better digestion. You can also add a few tablespoons of yogurt when fermenting chicken feed.

 

Where can I buy chicken feed?

You can find chicken feed for sale at local farm stores. You can also find them on Amazon here.

 

How can I feed my chickens cheap?

To reduce chicken feed bill, free ranging would be a good idea. A garden can provide additional and natural feed for your chicken who sometimes don’t stop eating. Another option is to make your own chicken feed. Learn how to make chicken feed and check out my chicken feed recipe here.

 

What can I grow to feed chickens? 

Growing chicken feed is not complicated at all. Remember what was in grandma’s garden and sow them! Chickens can eat vegetables like corn, lettuce, kale, and any other leafy vegetable you usually grow. Sunflower and Millet are great seed producing plants too! These make great grower feed for chickens and organic chicken feed too.

Best No Waste Chick Feeders

When you get baby chicks, you’ll notice quickly, they’re very messy with their feed. In this article, we talk about the best chicken feeders for no waste – and they’re all easy for baby chicks to use!

 

 

We all want our chickens to group up healthy and strong, and the best time to start them off right is when they emerge straight from the incubator. The trick is knowing how to feed your baby chicks so they stay healthy. 

 

This probably prompts you to ask “What feeders should I use for my baby chicks?”

 

The answer to this question is going to depend largely on what age your chicks are. The feeders used for day-olds might not be the same feeder that you’ll use when they’re 12 or 16 weeks old.

 

As they grow, chicks have different needs. We’re going to talk about the different feeder options for each of age group: 

  • Day olds
  • 4 weeks to 8 weeks
  • 8 weeks to 16 weeks 

 

(For adults, you can read about the best feeders here).

 

Main Takeaways:

  • You always want to use a feeder your chicks can reach
  • I use something small and easy for them to find when they’re a day old.
  • I’m not a fan of long feeders because they’re harder to open and I have to teach chicks how to use them.
  • Mason jar feeders are okay, and a good way to keep your feed supply clean.

 

Day-Olds

When they’re day-olds through the first week of their life, you’ll be concerned about whether they are getting enough food and whether they have 24-hour access to food. 

 

They are really confused and fragile when they first come out of the incubator. They need certain temperatures, so it’s really important to make sure that they have consistent access to chick starter and that it’s easy to find. 

 

There’s no evidence to support this, and this is just my own observation, but the first 24 hours of chick life is like newborn humans: they can’t see very well for the first couple of days. 

 

I think baby chicks have the same issue because while finding the feeder is instinctual, I’ve noticed that they’re very confused, especially in the first few hours after hatching through the first 48 hours. I’ve noticed that sometimes they can struggle a little bit finding the feeder, so I like to make sure that the feeders are really easy to find. 

 

I use low bowls or low pie plates. They don’t have much of a lip and they’re easy to find. We have even flipped lids to yogurts upside down (this works great for day old quail too). 

 

What I use also depends on the number of chicks I have. If we have a lot of chicks, we might use something that’s bigger or if we have three to five chicks, we’ll use yogurt containers for the first 48 hours.

 

You could also use mason jar feeders. Those are really good because they act as automatic feeders.

 

You can also use those long red feeders. I found for the first couple of days of life that they sometimes can’t find food in these very easily. They have to be shown how to use it. 

 

My chicks hatch, then for through day two, I’ll use yogurt containers. Day three and on, I’ll use the red automatic feeder. Or if we have a lot of chicks, I’ll use the pie plate, which is really easy to fill. 

 

If you read any book, they’re going to tell you to use the long red plastic feeders. I use them, but I don’t like these so much because they are a little bit tougher to open. Pie plates and yogurt tops are easier to clean and you don’t have to try to open them. 

 

These will work for the first four weeks. 

 

Four Weeks to 8 Weeks

For this age range, I tend to go for pie plates because again, they’re easy to clean; they’re cheap. After probably about week five or six, store-bought automatic feeders are harder for them to get food out of. The holes in these feeders accommodate baby chicks, but don’t as they become chickens.

 

As they get older, your chicks will wander around and forage food themselves. They tend to ignore automatic feeders anyways. Pie plates let them browse easily and they are easier for me to fill up. 

 

Eight Weeks and On

By the time that your chickens are eight weeks old, they are largely looking for their own food sources anyways. So, baby chick feeders are not really necessary. 

 

I really like this automatic feeder from Duncan’s Feeders – just be sure to install it low enough that your chicks can reach it. It’s durable, looks good, is easy to clean, and so easy to fill up.

 

This is just practical advice that I’ve learned over the years, and this is just my opinion about the best chicken feeders for no waste for baby chicks.