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Do Chickens Know When to Stop Eating?

The main concerns that a first-time chicken keeper has is whether they’re feeding their birds the right food and that they’re getting enough food each day.

Another concern is that they could be getting too much food because let’s face it chickens love eating. But are chickens eating machines who will carry on until they burst or do they know when enough is enough?

The quick answer is, chickens do know when to stop eating their feed because of the way their digestive system works. Chickens have a pouch (called a crop) that fills up as they eat and once it’s full they will stop eating.

How full chickens become will depend if they have access to graze throughout the day or are fed at specific times where they fill up all in one go.

Read on to find out more about how chickens know when to stop eating along with some more information on the best way to feed chickens and how eating the wrong foods can cause problems.

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How Does a Chicken Know When to Stop Eating?

When you’re feeding your chickens don’t worry too much about putting more out than they need because their bodies naturally dictate how much food they can take on board in one go.

The chicken’s crop (located at the front of their chest) acts like a pouch where the food is stored and softened before passing on to the digestive system. They know when to stop eating when their crops become full and there’s no more space for food.

Eating more than their crops can handle can lead to them becoming overloaded and compacted, which can be dangerous for the chicken, but providing they’re eating the right types of food, this shouldn’t be an issue (for more information see below).

After a chicken has eaten a large meal you can actually see its crop bulging (for crop location see the image below). You can also feel the food inside the crop if you gently touch this area after they’ve eaten.

IMage of the location of a chickens crop

Chickens Getting Full By Eating the Wrong Food

Although chickens shouldn’t overeat if they’re fed on a good complete chicken feed, problems can arise if they’re given the wrong foods.

Foods that we eat that are not designed for chickens can cause a bird to unknowingly overfill their crops.

This can happen when chickens eat food which can swell up once they’re eaten and put the bird at risk of a compacted crop.

Foods which have the potential to cause issues include:

  • Dried foods that swell, including rice, pasta and pulses.
  • Bread products.
  • Junk foods – always avoid anyway due to high sugar/fat/salt content.

A chickens crop is the perfect place for food to swell because it’s moist and warm, so it’s always good to consider this before feeding chickens anything other than feed designed for chickens or fresh veg or fruit.

For more information on which foods you shouldn’t feed to chickens, you might find the following article useful:

What not to feed chickens – the ultimate guide

How to Feed Chickens the Right Amount

If you’re unsure how much to feed your birds, then it’s better to put out more food than they need than not enough because they’ll walk away when they’re done.

This article was first published on April 1, 2021 by Pentagon-Pets.

Any remaining food can then be removed until later or left out for them to graze on throughout the day depending on your set up.

Some chicken keepers prefer to feed their chickens a few times a day or they might leave food out all day for the chickens to graze from when they please.

Chickens who are free-range will also graze for natural foods such as insects, worms, seeds and natural vegetation, but this won’t be enough to fill them.

Because the availability of natural foods varies throughout the seasons, chickens should still be provided with enough complete feed to make sure they get the nutrients they need.

Why do Chickens Eat so Quickly?

If you’ve ever watched chickens eating their feed when they come out of the coop in the morning, you’ll see that they eat as quickly as they can until their crops are full as if they’ve never been fed.

Seeing a chicken eating like this can make you think they’re eating far too much, far too quickly, but don’t worry, this is a perfectly normal way for a chicken to eat.

Chickens eat this way instinctively because if they were living in the wild, being a fast eater would help them to fill up quickly fill up while limiting the chance of being attacked by predators while their heads are down. The food is then digested at leisure over a period of time.

Being a fast eater also enables chickens to take on board as much food as possible before it’s eaten by other birds in the flock or if food were scarce.

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I hope this post has helped you to find out more about how chickens know when they’re full, you might also like the following articles too:

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Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on April 1, 2021.

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This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on April 1, 2021.

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