As a chicken owner, it’s important to feed them the food every day. Like any other living thing, chickens need food for energy and to keep the body healthy and strong. When feeding your chickens, you may wonder how much to feed them and if they know when to stop eating.
Yes, chickens know when to stop eating. Their digestive system is designed to prevent the bird from overeating. Chickens have a crop that’s part of the digestive system. This is the place where food is stored before it is processed. Once the crop fills up with food that they eat, the body will send a signal to the chicken to stop eating.
How Does a Chicken Know When to Stop Eating?
You won’t have to worry about how much your chicken will eat. Their body will naturally tell them when they are full.
A chicken has an area of the digestive system called a crop. It’s located at the front of the chicken’s chest. The crop is where the food will be stored before it moves down further in the digestive tract for processing.
The crop is like a pouch and when there is enough food in there, there will not be any more space left. This will let the chicken knows that they are full and not to eat anymore.
A chicken that overeats will likely have impaction and other digestive issues. This is dangerous for them and could be fatal.
Chickens usually don’t have a problem with overeating, provided that they are eating the right types of food.
How to Feed Chickens the Right Amount of Food
When it comes to feeding your chickens, they will usually eat until they are full. Then they’ll just walk away and do something else.
However, some chickens will continue to eat even when they are full. This is bad for their health as it could lead to obesity.
The right amount of chicken feeds to give them is enough for them to eat in 5 minutes. If are still hungry, give them some more food to eat. After the second time, it should be enough for them to eat. Most of them will become full and walk away. Those who are still hungry will continue to look for any remaining food.
Chickens that are free-ranging should be fed a small amount of food at each feeding. They will usually forage for natural food such as insects, worms, seeds, and vegetation.
Chickens Getting Full By Eating the Wrong Food
If the chickens are fed the right type of food, it’s unlikely they will overeat. This includes fresh vegetables and chicken feed.
However, when they are given the wrong food, problems can arise. Many foods that are for human consumption are not typically for chickens. The food they eat can swell up once it’s in their digestive system, which will put the bird at risk of a compacted crop.
Below are some of the foods that have the potential to cause issues for them:
- Bread products – Bread, cereal, and baking goods
- Dried foods – Rice, pasts, and pulses
- Junk foods – Potato chips, French fries, and cookies
A crop is an excellent place for foods to swell up, since it’s warm and moist. While the chicken may not be full right away, but after a couple of minutes, once the food starts to swell, they will feel full. Unfortunately, some chickens that ate too much will have an impaction. If it’s really severe, it could be fatal for them.
The foods listed above are safe for chickens to eat, but only give them in small amounts. Doing so will help prevent overeating and lead to health issues.
Why Do Chickens Eat So Quickly?
If you watch your chickens often, especially during feeding time, you will notice they eat really fast. They’ll peck and eat the food as they’ve never been fed.
Chickens eat this way because of their instinct. In the wild, there are predators all around them, and they need to eat fast to avoid becoming prey. As they put their heads down to feed, they won’t be able to see anything around them, and this will make them vulnerable.
Once they are done eating, the food is then digested over a period of time.
Another reason why chickens are fast eaters is to prevent the food from being eaten by other birds in the flock.
Will a chicken starve themselves?
It’s highly unlikely chickens will starve themselves. Once they are hungry, they’ll start foraging for food.
For broody hens, they will usually sit on the eggs for 21 days. During this time, she will not get off the eggs much. She will only leave the nest a few times a day to drink and eat, but in small amounts.
Should chickens eat all day?
If your chickens are kept in the run all day, I recommend feeding your chickens “free choice”. This means leaving the layer feed out all day for them to eat. The chickens will eat until they are full, and once they are hungry, they’ll eat again.
For free-ranging chickens, only give them food that they can finish within 15 minutes. This will prevent leftover foods that could attract pests and even predators such as minks and raccoons to the coop.
Besides chicken feeds and other food you give them, free-ranging chickens will naturally go and forage for food.