It is helpful to know how much your chickens should be eating for many important reasons.
One of these reasons is to know how much feed to have on hand so you can order ahead (this is for all our feed co-op members). Another is to know how much those eggs and chicken meat are costing you.
First, let’s start with laying hens.
It takes about 16-18 pounds of feed (this is an average folks, for exact science you will need to sponsor my expensive feed study…) to raise a chick to a laying age of about 5 months.
Once your chicks reach maturity, it takes about 4 pounds of feed to produce a dozen eggs. A laying hen will eat between 1/4 and 1/3 pound of feed daily even if she doesn’t lay any eggs at all.
Doing the math, if you have a flock of 5 laying chickens you should have about 50 pounds of feed on hand for the month, or about 10 pounds per chicken.
If you are feeding your chickens good quality organic feed your feed bill will obviously be much higher than the guy down the street who buys the cheapest food on sale and supplements his feed bill with bags of (choke!) stale bread from the local grocery. But the quality of the eggs you produce are directly related to what your birds are eating.
Also, these numbers do not take into account the losses to your free range flock due to predators, etc. (naturally raised chickens live a little too naturally sometimes!). Also, be sure to add in any other costs such as supplements, pest controls, straw and bedding, etc. as these will also have to reflect into the cost of your eggs.
In the end, you may find that you could certainly buy eggs cheaper at the grocery store. But that would not be comparing apples with apples- and would be the subject of yet another article.
Raising Meat Chickens- How much feed will I need?
We raise Red Rangers here on the ranch for several reasons, the most important is that they taste better. They have a darker, richer meat on them that works well for all our favorite chicken recipes. They are also a heathy chicken that have a sweet disposition and are nice to have on the ranch. These chickens take twice as long to raise to harvest age and on the average eat about 18 pounds of food each if harvested at 10 weeks.
Calculating that out, each ranger chicken eats on the average about 10 pounds of feed per month per bird. But don’t forget that as new chicks they eat only a handful a day, with the amount increasing dramatically as maturity approaches.
We use Organic Chick Starter and Poultry Grower Crumbles for the first 3 weeks and buy about 2 pounds of feed per bird.
Then we switch them to Organic Poultry Broiler Finisher Pellets to finish which takes about 7 more weeks feeding about 2.25 lbs of food each week per bird.
Say that you have 25 new ranger chicks:
Doing the math very roughly first order a 50 pound bag of Starter Crumbles.
To finish, order about 5 of the 50 pound bags of Finisher Pellets a month (for a total of about 8 bags).
But won’t I need less feed if my chickens are free ranging?
Surprisingly, your chickens will not be eating much less purchased grain if they are out on pasture than if you kept them all cooped up. This is because the amount of calories that they use getting all that exercise mean that they have to eat a lot more than their sedentary cousins. But- your chickens will be far healthier, happier and much more nutritious!
I hope that the above information will help you. The math is a little fuzzy as each chicken will consume a different amount of feed and numbers are not my strong point.