Feed is way too expensive to waste these days, but try telling that to the chickens! How can we keep our chickens from wasting feed?
The biggest culprit is feeders that are too shallow. One of the old rules of thumb was to never fill a trough or feed pan more than one-third full. This is harder than it looks, because most of the readily available poultry equipment consists of glorified chick feeders — way too small for grown (or even half-grown) chickens.
Here are some tips:
- If you build feed troughs out of boards, use 1×6 or even 1×8 boards for the sides. That oughta do it.
- Buy the big tube feeders with the deep feed pans. The little tube feeders are basically chick feeders.
- Tube feeders often have adjustments that let you vary the distance between the tube and the pan. Set these to the narrowest gap they will allow. Open up only if the feed doesn’t flow.
- You can start using bigger equipment earlier if the trough or pan is mostly full, but let the level fall as the chicks get bigger
- Feeders that are low to the ground encourage waste. The pan or trough should be roughly level with the chickens’ backs.
- Never use a feeder that’s so low that broilers can eat from it while sitting down. It’s disgusting.
- If you scatter scratch feed outdoors or in the litter, use whole grains. The hens won’t miss these, but finer particles will be lost.
- Really low-grade feeds, moldy feeds, and other stuff that has inedible or unpalatable ingredients will force the hens to rummage around looking for the edible portion. Don’t bother with such feeds unless they’re nearly free. Even then, have a separate feeder of good feed, so you don’t accidentally poison or starve your chickens.
You might also want to look at my Feeding FAQ.
One of the books, I’ve reprinted, Feeding Poultry by G. F. Heuser, has everything you’d ever want to know about feeding.