Happy chickens make great eggs! Here’s a recipe to make your own feed for smaller flocks, or supplemental scratch for larger flocks.
When you have laying chickens, they will need to be fed. The best feed for chickens, of course, is their natural diet of bugs, grass, and worms. Even free range chickens that get to run, scratch, and scrounge all day need to have supplemental food.
You can easily buy the poultry feed at the farm supply store. It can run from $15-$45 a bag, depending on ingredients and if it’s organic or not.
How do you feed your chickens cheaply, then? The last thing most of us want to do is break the budget on laying chickens, right?
If you are truly adventurous and ready to take the next step of homesteading, learning how to make your own chicken feed should be on your list. It’s not difficult to do, and the ingredients are wholesome, healthy, and not very pricey.
Most of the ingredients for poultry feed are available at local feed mills or even grocery stores. If you are unable to find them at your local store, you can purchase them online.
What Should Be in a Homemade Chicken Feed?
If you look at the ingredients list on a bag of commercial feed, you’ll find that most include some core components that are essential for a chicken’s diet.
Let’s take a closer look at what these nutrients are so that you can make sure your DIY homemade chicken feed has everything your birds need for proper nutrition.
Protein is an essential component of any chicken’s diet, as it helps to promote growth and repair tissue.
Good sources of protein include corn, wheat, soybeans, fishmeal, and animal proteins like meat scraps or eggs. Protein is essential – laying chickens need at least 16% protein and broilers need even more.
Carbohydrates provide energy for your chickens and should make up about 10% of their diet. Grains like oats and barley are great sources of carbohydrates along with vegetables like sweet potatoes or squash.
These are another important part of a chicken’s diet because they help them with growth and digestion. These can be found in legumes like peanuts or peas as well as in grains such as wheat or barley.
Fatty acids play an important role in providing energy for growth and development, so try adding sunflower seeds or flaxseed meal to their feed for an extra boost!
Probiotics can also be added to a chicken’s feed to aid digestion and keep their gut healthy; yogurt is a good source of probiotics that can easily be incorporated into their meals.
Finally, vitamins and minerals are essential for normal body functions including tissue repair, metabolism regulation, immune system support, among other things.
Calcium is especially important since it helps promote strong bones and healthy egg-laying; oyster shells are one way you can easily add calcium into your chicken’s diet (just make sure they’re crushed first!).
Magnesium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, B vitamins – all these minerals should be included in the perfect homemade chicken feed recipe!
In many cases, these vitamins and minerals are naturally present in the individual ingredients you’re adding (for example, corn is relatively high in magnesium and potassium). Otherwise, you can add a powdered or liquid supplement to your feed.
My Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe
- 3 parts soft white wheat
- 3 parts hard red winter wheat
- 1 part hulled barley
- 1 part oat groats
- 1 part sunflower seeds
- 1 part millet
- 1 part split peas (field peas also work)
- 1 part lentils
- 1 part quinoa
- 1 part sesame seeds
- 1/2 part flax seeds
- 1/2 part kelp granules
- free choice of granite grit
- free choice of oyster shell
Add all ingredients into a large plastic bucket with a tight-fitting lid. Offer as you would any other chicken food, or use it as a scratch treat. I figured the cost of making this feed is about the same as what I pay for a 50# bag at the feed store, (soy, corn, and GMO-free).
It’s pretty convenient to just make up as needed, too. It is great for a small flock, or as “scratch treats” for a larger flock, but the expense of this would probably NOT make it cost effective to feed as a sole food for them year round for many.
What Other Foods Can You Give Your Chickens?
The recipe for homemade chicken feed that I provided you with above is a great way to make sure your chickens are getting everything they need.
But since they are omnivores, there are lots of other options to consider depending on your budget and what you have available.
Here are a few more.
Soy is an excellent protein-rich addition to your chicken’s diet. It is low in fat and helps promote good digestion. You can buy soybean meal at most local grocery stores and feed it to your chickens as a supplement or mix it into their regular feed.
Just make sure not to give them too much, as it can be difficult for their digestive systems to process large amounts of soy.
In fact, this is why many chicken keepers prefer not to include soy at all (or start making their own chicken feed to begin with – they want to avoid the soy found in most commercial blends).
It’s up to you, just know that soy can be an affordable source of protein for your chickens’ diets when fed in moderation.
Chickens love alfalfa meals, which are loaded with protein and calcium. It’s also a great source of fiber and vitamins A, B, D and K. Alfalfa meal is especially good for growing chicks and laying hens.
Mealworms are a great way to add variety to your chickens’ diet, as well as extra protein. They’re high in fat (though mostly healthy fats) and minerals like magnesium and zinc. You can buy freeze-dried mealworms online or at pet stores.
Oats are another great source of protein for your chickens, as well as being high in fiber and low in fat.
Oatmeal is also an excellent treat for them; just remember not to give them too much or it could lead to obesity. You can also mix oats into their feed or simply offer it as a snack on its own!
You may not have known this, but eggshells are actually very nutritious for chickens! They contain calcium, which helps strengthen bones and improve eggshell quality when eaten in moderation.
So don’t throw away those eggshells – crush them up and offer them back to your chickens in small amounts every now and then!
Fish oil is a great way to get more Omega-3 fatty acids into your chicken’s diet, which helps promote healthier feathers and skin.
You can buy liquid omega-3 supplements from most pet stores or pharmacies and add it into their feed on occasion — just make sure you don’t overdo it!Fish meal is another great way to ensure your birds get the nutrients they need, as are black oil sunflower seeds.
Your kitchen scraps are actually filled with nutrition for your chickens! Fruits, vegetables, grains, breadcrumbs – all these things can be given to your birds as treats occasionally (just make sure they’re cooked first!).
Not only will they enjoy the taste, but they’ll get some essential vitamins and minerals out of it too!
How Much Does it Cost to Make Your Own Chicken Feed?
The average cost of making your own chicken fee will vary widely, since it depends on which ingredients you choose to include and how much you are able to source those ingredients for.
On average, though, organic layer pellets tend to cost more than $0.70 per pound. Make your own feed, and you can pay much less – typically around $0.60 to $0.65 per pound.
That may not sound like much, but when you’re making chicken feed in bulk, it adds up.
Remember, making your own chicken feed gives you complete control over what goes into it. That means that if there is a certain food or supplement that would benefit your flock, then you can include it in the recipe.
You could also make seasonal adjustments depending on the weather — for instance, adding extra protein during winter months when natural sources of food are scarce.
Whatever you choose, know that you may not need to meet your chicken’s nutritional requirements 100% through the feed alone – if you raise a flock of birds who are active foragers, they will likely pick up a lot of what they need in the nearby environment, too.
Ultimately, making your own chicken feed, whether it’s for broilers or laying hens, is a sustainable and affordable way to keep your birds fed and happy.
How do you feed your chickens cheaply? Let me know in the comments!
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
Learn more about Heather and the rest of the writers on this page.