Let’s say you’re a first-time chicken owner, and you’re ready to tackle this backyard chicken gig.
You can’t resist the temptation at the feed store, so you find yourself driving home with a box of chirping, fuzzy yellow chicks in your lap. At $3-$4 per chick, that’s a small price to pay for beautiful, home-raised hens that will give you your own eggs for free, right?
Here’s the problem… There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and no such thing as a free egg.
As many of you already know, those fluffy yellow chicks (aka the gateway drug to homesteading…) are actually one of the cheaper aspects of keeping chickens. Once you succumb to the magnetic draw of feed-store chicks, expect to keep opening your wallet for:
- A chicken coop/run
- Feed (if you want organic or non-GMO feed, expect to pay the big bucks)
- Heat lamps (if you use them)
- Electricity for the coop
- And any other random chicken accessories that might strike your fancy.
Of all the items on the above list, the one we chicken-addicts talk about the most is the feed. Why? Because buying good chicken feed at the store is so expensive it’s almost physically painful.
For example, this organic, non-GMO brand on Amazon is $38 for just 25 lbs. (affiliate link)
So, homemade chicken feed has to be cheaper, right?
Eh, maybe. But don’t count on it.
In fact, more often than not, by the time you hunt down all the (semi-strange) ingredients you need to build a good homemade feed, it’ll actually cost you more… And if you want to keep your flock healthy and producing well, you must make sure you are feeding them with the proper balance of protein, energy and nutrients. Unfortunately, you can’t just toss them some corn and call it good…
I’ve been ordering a custom-mixed feed from the local feed mill for 2 years now. (It’s the whole grain, non-GMO recipe you’ll find in Natural Homestead: 40 Recipes for Critters & Crops, in case you’re wondering)
Unfortunately, it’s not super easy to put together, and I could only find ONE mill in my area who would even attempt to help me with it.
So, when I saw that my favorite permaculture chicken guy, Justin Rhodes, had a favorite non-fussy homemade chicken feed formula he uses and loves, I was all over it.
I asked him if I could share it with you today, and he said YES. (Thanks Justin!)
A Few Important Notes:
- As stated above, this is Justin’s recipe. I personally use a custom-mix that my local feed mill helps me to put together. The recipe for that mix is in my Natural Homestead book. However, it is a more complicated formula (with more difficult ingredients), so I wanted to share Justin’s simpler option.
- You do not have to grind the grains– just feed them whole.
- There are no lentils in the recipe. The photos in the post (with lentils in them) were shot a while ago, and thought they’d be a good fit for this post. This particular recipe does not contain lentils.
- Since I have my feed mill custom-mix me a different recipe, I do not have price breakdowns for this particular recipe.
Simple Chicken Feed Recipe Formula
(This post contains affiliate links)
- 30% Corn
- 30% Wheat
- 20% Peas
- 10% Oats
- 10% Fish Meal
- 2% Poultry Nutri–Balancer (where to buy)
- Free Choice Kelp (where to buy kelp)
- Free Choice Aragonite
Mix together and feed as you would any other chicken feed. Since you are using whole grains, it should not loose it nutritive content as quickly as more processed feeds.
About the Ingredients:
- If you want this to be organic/non-GMO, you’ll need to source organic/non-GMO corn, etc. That may or may not be possible in your area.
- If you want to purchase kelp in larger quantities, I often get the 50 lb bags of Thorvin Kelp from Azure Standard. I also feed kelp to my cows, goats, and horses.
- The Poultry Nutri-Balancer is a vitamin/mineral supplement designed to keep your flock in tip-top shape. Even if it’s slightly more complicated for you to source, I wouldn’t skip it. Here’s a dealer locater to see if you can find it in your local area.
- Aragonite is a source of calcium, which is vitally important, especially for layers. Another calcium option is crushed egg shells.
Homemade Chicken Feed Notes:
- I like how flexible this formula is– you can make a small amount or a large amount.
- No doubt, I will get some emails over this post. There are websites/books/etc that turn feeding chickens into rocket sicence, and admittedly, you DO need to be careful in how you are balancing rations. However, I always go back to the fact that great-Grandma was keeping her flock productive long before there were shiny bags of “Chicken Chow” at the feed store, so I hesitate to overcomplicate the matter. Plus, when someone with WAY more chicken experience like Justin has consistent success with a recipe like this, I trust that.
- Over the years, I have received emails from people in an absolute panic over what to feed their chickens. GMO/non-GMO, organic/non-organic, homemade/purchased—there is, indeed, a lot of options out there. But here’s the deal—we can’t control every aspect of our lives. Even if you (or your chickens) are eating the most perfect diet in existence, you/they will still likely be exposed to toxins in the air, soil, water, etc. This is just a side-effect of living on an imperfect planet. Therefore, my conclusion is I will do the best I can, and even if I can’t source the perfect ingredient, I will be at peace knowing I did the best I could and they are still eating 100% better than industrially-farmed chickens. Seriously guys—please don’t lose sleep over chicken feed.
Cut Your Chicken Feed Costs Even More!
Not only did my friend Justin generously allow me to publish his feed recipe, but he’s teaching a special LIVE webinar this Sunday, (June 26th, 2016 at 3pm EST) and sharing 20 of his best stunts for reducing chicken-feed costs! Like I mentioned before, I always appreciate Justin’s information– it’s meaty, specific, and actionable. Without fail, he always shares tips I would have never thought of on my own!
Sunday’s webinar will cover:
- Four obvious (but overlooked) ways to reduce your need for chicken feed.
- Disgusting, but extremely resourceful, ways to turn dead animals into protein packed feed.
- Discover free foods right in front of your face (that most people call problems).
- Quick and easy adjustments to the grains you’re already feeding for 15% savings in 24 hours.
(There will be a recording sent out to everyone who registers, in case you can’t attend live)
Other Homestead Chicken Posts You’ll Like:
- 15 Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed
- Fly Control for the Chicken Coop
- 8 Ways to Use Chickens in the Garden
- Herbs for Nesting Boxes