How Much Food Does a Chicken Need?

How Much Feed Per Chicken Featured Image
Growth StageFeed Volume
Baby Chicks1-2 Pounds Per Week
Pullets2 Pounds Per Week
Non-Laying Hens2 to 3 Pounds Per Week
Laying Hens3 to 5 Pounds Per Week
Roosters2 to 3 Pounds Per Week
This chicken feed table is of general nature only

Figuring out how much to feed your chickens can be a daunting task for people new to raising chickens but this article will help de-mystify the quantities and types of food you will need to keep your backyard chickens healthy, happy, and well-fed.

As with any animal, chicken feed changes based on the age of the bird, as well as what the bird’s primary activities are. An egg-laying hen will have different nutritional needs than a rooster or baby chick.

This article covers everything you need to know in this guide including the amount of feed, type of feed, type of feeder, and supplements you will need.

How Much Food Does a Baby Chick Require?

Each baby chick will require approximately 10 pounds of feed for the first 8 weeks of life depending on their breed, so plan accordingly to have plenty of chick starter on hand.

Chickens have specific needs at every stage of life. It is critical for baby chicks to have the right chick starter that is nutritionally balanced and has a protein level of around 18%.

Your baby chicks will eat chick starter feed until they reach 8 weeks old, at which point they will switch to a grower feed. Birds of both sexes will eat grower feed from approximately 9 weeks to 18 weeks of age.

A well-balanced chick starter should contain appropriate levels of vitamins, probiotics, amino acids, prebiotics, yeast, and all the minerals baby chicks need to develop well.

Commercial feed will contain everything required for your chicks and won’t go sour in their crop, but you can also choose to feed them yourself as long as you meet all of their nutritional needs.

The amount of feed you give to your baby chicks should be free-choice, meaning that you will allow them unlimited access to food and clean water.

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man feeding chicks
You’ll need to buy 200 pounds of feed for these 20 chicks who’ll consume it all within the first 2 months

You should be careful though to ensure that you don’t allow food to collect and sit if it isn’t being consumed. Clean out the feeder and waterers every day to ensure they don’t get contaminated by mold or bacteria.

Remember that chick starter should always be kept separate from adult chicken feed, as adults can get diarrhea and other digestive issues from eating too much of it.

You can feed your baby chicks out of hanging feeders or containers and they can be purchased at a feed store or you can make one yourself to save money out of household items like egg cartons or old yogurt containers that are cleaned out.

You just need to ensure that they always have access to feed and you adjust the height as the chicks grow so they can always reach their food and water.

For waterers, a chick waterer is highly recommended as they don’t spill and cause conditions in which bacteria can grow.

How Much Food is Required for Egg Laying Hens?

Layer feed is the type of feed you will need for pullets and laying hens that produce fresh eggs for your table. This type of feed typically has 16% protein, and minerals added to it including extra calcium which is required for optimal egg production.

You should begin with layer feed at 18 weeks, or when your pullet lays her first egg, whichever comes first.

A standard size hen will eat around a quarter of a pound of feed daily after she begins to lay eggs. This may seem like a lot, but it is required for her to keep up with egg production.

Once a hen is laying her eggs regularly, it will take around 3 to 5 pounds of high-quality feed that is between 16 and 18 percent protein in order to make 12 eggs.

hen eating feed
Hens require a lot of feed to lay eggs regularly

Laying hens need additional supplemental sources of calcium such as oyster shells to produce eggs with a thick shell. You can also provide broken-down, dried, cleaned eggshells to your hens as an additional source of calcium.

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You will, of course, also provide grit for your birds to help their gizzards break down food properly. Grit should always be available to chickens.

How Much Does a Broiler Chicken Need to Eat?

Broiler chickens are breeds of chicken that generally are bred to have a fast growth rate, and must always have feed available to them, during the day and even at night. Chickens do not eat after dark so you must ensure your broiler chickens have an artificial light source in the coop to encourage them to eat.

Around 2 to 2 and a half pounds of feed are needed in order to make a chicken gain a pound of body weight. As an example, if you have a meat chicken that weighs around 5 pounds at 10 weeks old, it will have consumed 10 pounds of poultry feed since it was hatched.

broilers eating
Broiler chickens eat a lot, although their typical lifespan is significantly shorter

These birds will eat less as they are smaller, but will increase their consumption as they grow, so it is important to always have a large feeder for them.

How Much Should You Feed a Rooster?

There is a lot of debate on what should be fed to a rooster.

Many backyard flock owners will provide the same layer feed to their hens as to their roosters, but the roosters truly do not need the extra calcium.

If you are concerned with providing the extra calcium to your roosters, you can provide a separate flock-raiser feed to them as long as they are housed/fed separately from your hens. This type of feed is meant for mixed breed flocks that have other types of poultry living with your chickens and provides higher protein and lower calcium levels.

The amount you feed a rooster can vary quite a bit depending on the product that you are giving to them – most will give feeding directions based on weight.

Factors That Impact Feed Rates

A chicken’s diet requires protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, fat, grit, and water. Egg-laying breeds need calcium supplements such as oyster shells as well.

There are many factors that can affect how much food you should provide to your chickens, so you will need to be aware that there is no “one size fits all” approach that works perfectly.:

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The following factors can change the nutritional needs of your chickens:


The breed of your chicken matters – some birds are much larger than others, with different activity levels and growth rates which require adjustment to the quantity of feed you will need to provide.


The age of your chicken is one of the main indicators of the type and quantity of chicken feed that you will need to provide, ensuring that their nutritional needs are met at every stage of life.


While your chickens are molting, they will require extra feed as they will need to grow back all of their feathers. Plan to refill your feeders more often while chickens are going through a molt period, which usually happens a few times each year.

Weather Conditions

Cold weather means that the body has to produce its own heat to keep warm, which in turn means more calories are burned. In cold climates, you may need to increase the amount of feed you provide to make up for the deficit caused by lower temperatures.


Chickens that are confined in their chicken coop will generally need less feed than chickens who are allowed to free-range and forage. Even though free-range chickens often eat more through foraging activities, they also burn a lot more calories and will need a little more poultry feed than sedentary birds.

The best way to ensure that your chickens are getting the right nutrition is to watch them grow, and ensure they are looking and behaving the way that they should be.

The Chicken Care Taker team are often asked if you can feed table scraps, fruit and veggies to chickens as a supplement because chickens are omnivores. The answer is yes! However, you want to ensure that they are small pieces only, and safe for chickens to eat.

Any scraps that are not immediately eaten by a chicken should be removed from the feeding area.

Chickens that aren’t being fed properly will seem tired and unmotivated and will likely become either underweight or overeat and become obese which in turn leads them to develop health problems. It is incredibly important to monitor them and if in doubt, consult your veterinarian.


A longtime resident of Southern California, Christina recently moved across the globe to Austria, where she bought land specifically to build a small house with room for a backyard chicken coop. Christina spent her childhood summers on a farm, raising and caring for a flock of hens owned by her grandparents, which prompted a lifelong love of chickens, and other farm animals. Christina is passionate about writing, having written hundreds of articles for well-known websites, and uses her English degree in service of her love for animal welfare, most recently taking on a writing position at Chicken Care Taker in 2022.

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