Chicken feed can be expensive, especially if you don’t have much money to raise your chickens. However, your chickens don’t have to be malnourished due to insufficient resources. If you look carefully, you can find free, healthy chicken food sources. Below are some do-it-yourself chicken feed ideas you can try.
One common DIY chicken feed idea is to grow fodder for your chickens. You don’t have to invest much effort in growing it; besides, it’s very nutritious as it’s rich in fiber and protein content. You can grow fodder from grains such as barley, oats, wheat, etc.
To grow fodder, get a shallow tray and drill holes in the bottom. Ensure the grains aren’t infested or decayed; use only quality grains. Soak your choice grains overnight before you transfer them to the perforated trays. Spread the grains evenly on the tray and water regularly. Within a week, you’ll have some food for your chickens.
2. Homemade feed
Not all commercial feeds are completely organic or necessarily safe for your chickens. Some contain dangerous fillers, and the ones that don’t are very expensive. However, you can make your chicken feed using items from your kitchen.
You can always get the necessary items you don’t have from the local stores as well. For the feed, you need wheat, corn, fish meal, oats, and peas. Mix everything and feed the grains to your chickens whole.
If you feel the seeds are too big for your chickens to swallow, you can break them into pieces. Ensure you use organic grains to avoid any side effects for your chickens.
3. Leftovers from restaurants
Often, restaurants and bakeries have daily leftovers. These leftovers can be supplementary feed for your chickens if you lay your hands on them. You can rest assured that you’re getting healthy foods for your chickens as most restaurants and grocery shops are careful of what they sell to people.
Also, with the leftovers, your chickens will have access to a wide range of food. However, if your chickens are allergic to certain foods, be careful with the type of leftovers you feed them. You can ask the person in charge if the leftovers contain the ingredients your chickens are allergic to before you give them to your flock.
4. Kitchen scraps
Kitchen scraps are suitable for your chicken, but you can’t feed them every leftover from your chicken. For instance, don’t give your chickens salty, processed or spoiled foods. It’s a rule of thumb that you shouldn’t give your chickens what you cannot eat.
Chickens love popcorn, salad greens, vegetables, pork or beef fillets, yogurt, cheese, etc. Ensure that you don’t give them uncooked fish or meat. However, even though kitchen scraps have the necessary nutrients, they shouldn’t replace your chicken feed.
They should be moderately fed to your chickens. If you’re giving your chickens eggshells, ensure you grind and mix them with their diet.
5. Edible plants
Another homemade and affordable chicken feed idea is to feed your chicken with edible plants. Plants prevent your chickens from getting obese and suffering from hormonal imbalances and inflammation.
They also contain high fiber content, which promotes gut health and prevents constipation. In light of this, some of the edible plants you can give your chickens include plantain leaves, clovers, chicory, dandelion flowers and leaves, chickweed, etc.
You can grow these plants in your garden. Take note that not every plant is edible for your chickens. Azalea, nightshades, foxgloves, ferns, lupine, periwinkles, ivy, hyacinth, etc., are some of the plants chickens shouldn’t eat.
Mealworms are chickens’ favorites. It’s unusual to see a chicken breed that turns up their noses when served mealworms. You can find mealworms in dry, dark places; that’s why they’re quick to infest dry grains.
However, you can’t get enough mealworms for your chickens by searching in dark places only, and buying from stores is ridiculously expensive. To minimize cost, you can grow your mealworms. You need to invest some time, but their nutritional value is worth it. For instance, they contain high protein content, which is beneficial to molting, sick, or egg-laying chickens.
If your chickens are excellent foragers, you’re lucky. Some breeds such as Penedesencas actively get most of their food from foraging. Therefore, you shouldn’t confine your chicken always. Allow them to peck at things in your backyard.
Sometimes, they’ll dig out grubs to eat or even prey on smaller animals, depending on the abilities of your breed. You can also plant a forage mix in your backyard for your chickens. If you properly maintain the mix, your chickens will get good all-year-round.
8. Leftovers from farmer’s markets
If you have a farmers’ market around you, ensure you go there near the closing hour. Most times, the vendors in the market have unsellable produce, which they’ll probably dispose of or feed to their animals.
If you’re lucky enough, you may get some of this produce for your chickens at no cost. Besides, the farmers’ market foods are primarily organic, so there is no harm to your chickens if they eat them.
9. Sunflower seeds
If you check the list of ingredients of the commercial feed you buy, you’ll likely find sunflower seeds on the list. Sunflower seeds are beneficial to your chicken. You’ll find their feathers firmer and glossier and their skin healthier if you give your chickens sunflower seeds.
You’ll likely notice an increase in the quality of eggs they lay, bringing more profits your way if you sell eggs. Besides, chickens love eating sunflower seeds but don’t be extreme in giving them the seeds.
10. Peanut meal
If you’re looking for a good source of energy and protein, peanut meal is an excellent option. To make a peanut meal, dry peanut flakes and finely blend them into bits, which are easier for your chickens to carry in their mouth.
Also, peanut meal is tasty, so the chances that your chickens will love it are high. Even though it’s rare, don’t hesitate to feed your chickens with it moderately if you get it.
This might sound irritating to you, but since your chickens are omnivores, they don’t mind eating maggots. Maggots are both nutritious and economical. Proteins are one of the essential nutrients for chickens, and maggots have them in high amounts.
Besides, you don’t have to buy maggots before you feed your chickens with them. You can get maggots from any compost pile around you. However, eating maggots in excessive amounts can make your chickens obese. Instead of waiting to feed your chickens maggots from the compost pile, you can start a maggot farm too. Within a month of farming, you’ll have a steady supply of your chickens.
12. Mashed potatoes
Serve your chickens mashed potatoes, and you’ll see them wanting more. Potatoes contain vitamins and minerals that enhance your chickens’ growth and satisfy their hunger because of their fiber content.
Besides, your chickens can’t get over the taste. To prepare mashed potatoes, wash, cook, and then mash them. You should use sweet potatoes because they contain no toxicity. Stay away from green or potatoes with sprouts. However, don’t add salt or seasoning to the mashed potatoes.
13. Fermented grains
Fermented grains are no less nutritious for your chickens. It doesn’t involve many efforts like the sprouting of seeds; all you have to do is soak the grains your chickens eat in water overnight. Soaking the grains in water breaks them.
Do take note that bacteria cause the opening of the grains. However, this type of bacteria isn’t dangerous. It is healthy for your chickens to eat, and it also provides them more nutrients by opening the grains.
If your eggs have been rotting away because your chickens produce them in large quantities and you don’t finish them before you collect another batch, you can turn the leftovers into chicken feed.
If you’re wondering if chickens can eat the same eggs they produce, your answer is yes. However, they can’t eat raw eggs. Making your chickens eat raw eggs is shooting yourself in the leg – they’ll become addicted such that they’ll break and eat their eggs as soon as they lay them. Instead, boil the eggs and cut them into pieces before you give your chickens.
15. Corn and cobs
Feeding chickens with corn and cobs has been a tradition for chicken breeders from time immemorial. Corn is tasty and nutritious; even though its nutrients vary depending on the type, seasons of the year, location, etc., it has high amounts of starch, which translates into energy for your chickens.
It also has fiber content which prevents constipation and maintains your chickens’ gut. However, corn has a low amount of protein, so you need to complement it with another grain with high protein content. To make the corn tastier, you can cook it before you give it to them.
Allowing your chickens to graze on pasture is beneficial for their health and happiness. Pasture refers to the food your chickens get whenever they free-range. Not free-ranging your chickens means you deny them of nutrients and exercise they need.
Since chickens love to eat anything, they’ll even appreciate sourcing their food in a protected environment. When your chickens are free-range, you’re exposing them to a richer diet. Their feed won’t be their only source of nutrients. As such, they aren’t prone to some poultry diseases and produce better eggs and meatier carcasses. Besides, you get to save money on feed for your chickens.
4 Things To Look Out For When Feeding Your Chickens
Whether you’re feeding your chickens with the regular feed or improvising on their feed, there are guidelines to follow. Below are some of them.
Measure the food
To avoid waste, measure the amount of feed your chickens need daily and only give them that. Even though chickens love to eat almost all the time, they end up wasting the food if it’s in excess. You’ll find them defecating in it, contaminating the food.
However, take note that the amount of food your chickens eat daily is determined by other factors aside their appetite. For instance, chickens who free-range a lot will eat less food than chickens who don’t.
Serve every chicken
If your flock is large, you have to look out for chickens at the bottom of the pecking order because they might barely get enough to eat. Chickens usually compete for food, especially when there are many of them and if the available feed is low.
Some chickens can even bully others into backing out of eating and having all the food to themselves. To ensure every chicken is fed, you can have multiple feeders and divide your flock into groups. You can also separate the aggressive ones from the docile chickens.
Stick to the feeding hours
To ensure you don’t forget to feed your chickens when they should be fed, create a routine for feeding your chickens and stick to it. A routine will make you more committed to raising your flock, as well as control your chickens’ appetites.
They’ll get used to the feeding hours, so you can ration the portion you serve them. Besides, regular feeding hours allow you to monitor health changes, feeding patterns, how different seasons affect them, etc. If you won’t be around to feed your chickens, deputize your duty.
Deworm your chickens regularly
The chances are high that your chickens will pass out waste into their food and also eat that same food. Chickens can often create a messy environment. As a chicken owner, you have to flush out toxins from their gut to maintain their intestinal worms. Ensure you use the appropriate deworming medication suitable for your chicken breed.
You don’t have to run into debt or leave your chickens to grow hungry because there is no food; you can complement regular chicken feed with those listed above. However, take note that none of the above-named feed ideas can serve as your chickens’ diet alone. Commercial or homemade feed still stands as the main food in your chickens’ diet.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.