Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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How much to feed chickens

Chickens in grassMost homesteaders I know allow their chickens access to unlimited food, but this method is really only appropriate for situations where you're raising broilers and want them to bulk up as quickly as possible.  With laying hens, you'll run into several problems when providing unlimited food.  First of all, many chickens will pick through the trough to choose bits they like best (generally corn), which means you waste a lot of food and the chickens don't get the right proportion of protein in their diet.  Meanwhile, your chickens will overeat, which means they put on body fat and lay larger (but fewer) eggs.  In the end, you've got overweight, unhealthy hens and have spent a lot of money to get there.

The solution is simple --- give your chickens a measured amount of food each day.  I like to feed the flock first thing in the morning, scattering the pellets in a wide arc across the ground of their pasture so that everyone gets a chance to eat.  If you're doing it right, the food will be all gone in fifteen minutes or less...except for just enough lost kernels that the flock stays busy scratching for the rest of the day.  You'll also get the side benefit of chickens that comes running when they see your face.

Chickens eatingThe amount of food your chickens need for optimum health will vary based on your individual birds (especially based on their body type), but one suggestion for layers is 0.25 pounds per chicken per day in the summer and 0.33 to 0.40 pounds per chicken per day in the winter.  Assuming you don't heat their chicken coop, your flock will need the extra food in the winter so that they can stay warm.  You'll also want to reduce the protein content to about 15.5% during the cold months (easy to accomplish by throwing in a bit of plain corn.)

When I started raising our chickens, I decided to test them out and see how much food they needed to lay well.  I started by providing more food than I thought the flock required, then reduced their rations until I started to see a decline in egg production.  It just so happens that my experiment matches up with the recommendations above --- I'm currently feeding my flock exactly 0.25 pounds of food per chicken per day.  When they're on new pasture with lots of weeds coming in from the garden and plenty of scraps coming from the kitchen, I feel like I might be able to reduce that amount further, but I haven't been brave enough to try yet.

Round out your chickens' diet with clean water from our chicken waterer.

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I don't have chickens just researching getting ready for them. You said "You'll also want to reduce the protein content to about 15.5% during the cold month".. Why would I do that? I would think without them hunting for bugs cuz there are none they would need more protein from me.
Comment by Angie Friday afternoon, July 27th, 2012
Angie --- Good question. The reason you lower the protein percentage in winter is that you're often feeding the chickens a larger amount of feed so they can keep themselves warm. So, your birds get the same total amount of protein due to a larger ration, but they get a lower percent protein since the chickens are getting more carbs than in the summer.
Comment by anna Sunday evening, July 29th, 2012

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