Whether you have decided it’s time to cut down on your flock’s food bill, or your chickens need a change in their diet, making your own chicken feed is a wonderful way to start.
Making your own chicken feed is one of the first steps you can take to become more self-sufficient.
It can save you a lot of money in the long run and mixing your own rations also makes sure that only natural ingredients are being fed to your flock.
Homemade feed also helps to make sure that your chickens are fed a balanced and nutrient rich diet in order for them to regularly lay eggs.
Are you trying to find a homemade chicken feed recipe, or looking to learn how to make chicken feed? Keep reading to learn all this and more…
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What To Know Before Making Your Own Chicken Feed
Before you make your own feed there are a few things you need to consider.
The first thing to consider before switching over to homemade chicken feed is if you have fussy eaters.
Non picky eaters like Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, and Easter Eggers won’t make a fuss if you decide to change their feed from commercial to homemade one day. However some breeds (like Silkies) can be picky and may take some time and encouragement to eat homemade feed.
The second thing to consider is your chickens’ nutritional requirements.
An imbalanced diet can be fatal and is one of the most important things to consider before making your own chicken feed.
Broilers are exceptionally easy to create a homemade ration for as their main requirement is protein, whereas the rest of the mix’s composition does not need to be as exact.
Egg laying breeds are similar although additional vitamins and minerals are required.
The third thing to consider would be their age.
It is very tricky to mix feed for young chicks. It is important to keep in mind that your chicks are growing and will require more protein in their diet.
The fourth would be to take into consideration the environment in which your chickens are kept– that includes both free range or not, and their physical geographic location.
Homemade chicken feed is particularly beneficial to those who do not keep their chickens free range at all times as supplements can be easily administered, and diet changes can simply be altered. Diets should also be altered depending on the physical environment they are exposed to and the amount of energy they expel in these environments.
The final consideration is understanding common mistakes.
Two of the most common mistakes are mixing the wrong quantities of feed and including toxic foods. This will lead to an imbalanced diet and cause health issues.
Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe
Homemade chicken feed needs to meet the following basic nutritional requirements: grain for energy, a protein source, a calcium and phosphorus source, and a vitamin and trace mineral source.
A basic chicken feed recipe for layers is:
- 56% corn
- 25% whole soybeans
- 8% limestone
- 5% sunflower seed meal
- 3.5% oats
- 1% vitamin-mineral premix
- 0.7% dicalcium phosphate
- 0.5% alfalfa meal
- 0.3% salt
How To Make Homemade Chicken Feed
The most important part of making your own chicken feed is putting together the correct amount of each ingredient for your chickens.
Make sure you weigh out each ingredient carefully. Below is a recipe for 10lbs of homemade feed.
|Sunflower Seed Meal||0.5lb|
Once you have all of your ingredients together you simply mix it together. I normally mix my feed together in a standard 5 gallon bucket.
After you have prepared your feed you can serve it as either mash, pellets, or crumble.
Although processing your feed into some of these forms can be expensive, there are advantages that you should consider. Feed packed into a condensed pellet stops some of your pickier chickens from picking out certain ingredients and ignoring the others.
Such machines are pricey and range from $90 to over $1000.
If you are worried about the price tag keep in mind that pelleted food is also easier to handle and reduces waste. If the price of pelleting is not worth it to you, then just scattering your well combined and mixed feed will be fine. Read our article on Chicken Feeders for more advice.
Regardless of how you package your feed, proper handling and maintenance will impact the nutritive value. The older the feed then the more the nutrient value gradually decreases.
Storing your feed in a clean, dry, and vermin free space will help slow this process. You should pay special attention to moisture storing feed bags. It is also recommended that feed bags are stored in a way that allows air to circulate underneath.
In addition to your feed you will need to give your chickens insoluble grit. This helps them grind and digest their grains properly. Also, laying hens specifically should be offered an extra source of calcium. This is often offered separately, as a free choice in the form of ground oyster shell or limestone.
Finally, you need to make sure your chickens always have access to water. This is one of the most important nutrients of all in the diet and maintenance of poultry.
Water is especially important for egg production as 78% of an egg is actually water.
A chicken will need twice as much water as they do feed. For reference each hen will drink a full cup of water every day.
How Much Does It Cost To Make Your Own Chicken Feed?
One of the biggest reasons why people make their own chicken feed is to try to save money.
But is DIY chicken feed really cheaper than commercially sold feed?
When it comes down to the ingredients, prices will depend on the state you live in and how readily available they are. Here is a general price breakdown for our homemade layer recipe:
|Ingredient||Price Range (per pound)|
A 10lb mix of homemade feed will cost $6 or $0.60 per lb – assuming you can find the ingredients for the lowest price point in the table. Also keep in mind that contacting mills directly and asking to buy supplies in bulk can mean you pay a lot less than you would from secondary retailers.
Some of the best manufactured chicken feeds can range from $1.28-$1.99 per pound or around $12-$20 per 10lb.
Homemade feed can be much cheaper, providing you can get the ingredients at a reasonable price.
Just keep in mind that you have the option of buying ingredients in bulk from mills which saves you even more money in the long run. But buying chicken feed means you do not have the ability to adjust the recipe to you and your flock’s liking. Each bag has been calculated specifically to satisfy nutritional requirements.
If you are looking to save even more money on your chicken feed then consider letting them free range.
Letting your flock free range is a great way to cut down on the cost of feed as 5-20% of their nutritional requirements can be obtained as they naturally would in the wild– from insects, grass, and more.
5 Benefits Of Making Your Own Feed
If you are considering switching over to homemade chicken feed then there are several benefits that should not be overlooked.
- Save Money: Buying chicken feed is one of the most expensive parts of raising chickens. Making and mixing your own feed can help to reduce this cost. Buying in bulk and mixing feed to the specificities of your particular flock will save you money in the long run.
- Ingredients Used: Many backyard chicken owners have recently been turning to homemade chicken feed because non-GMO commercially produced feed is expensive. Buying ration ingredients locally not only means you know exactly what is going into the feed, but you are also supporting local and often family-owned, businesses.
- Fermenting: When you make your own homemade chicken feed you have the option of fermenting it. Fermenting your feed makes it more digestible and nutritionally available.
- Flexible To Flock Needs: Depending on the breed of your chickens, you may need a variety of feeds to meet their nutritional requirements. These various diets can cost you a pretty penny (especially if your flock contains a variety of production type chickens). Making and mixing your own feed can help significantly reduce the cost and you can rest easy knowing every type of production chicken you have is getting the nutritional needs that they require.
- Very Simple: Although buying ready made feed is more convenient, it is simple to make your own feed. Once you have a recipe plan and the feed composition, you will have a perfectly constructed feed that lasts you longer and costs far less than many well-made commercial feeds. Overall the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
What Makes A Nutritionally Complete Chicken Diet?
The six nutrition categories required for a healthy and productive chicken are: water, carbohydrates, fat, protein vitamins, and minerals.
Protein should always be the first ingredient in any chicken feed. Chicks are generally fed a chick starter crumble with at least 20% protein to encourage growth until they are changed over to a layer feed of about 16% protein.
Besides protein, additional key nutrients required include vitamins and trace minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and fat. Calcium is also a key mineral found in layer feed to help optimize eggshell production.
Poultry growth specialists are often responsible for precisely formulating most of the feed produced and sold commercially so it is important you follow similar standards when mixing your own feed.
You also need to keep in mind that chickens raised in a pasture will have a digestive system suited more towards the digestion of food found outside, such as insects and seeds, rather than those found in commercial feed, such as forage and concentrates.
As a result you can expect the feed requirements of your free-range chickens to be lower.
Keeping the nutritional needs of your specific type of chicken(s) in mind when mixing your homemade feed will help the wellbeing of your flock. You can find the specific amounts of protein, energy, minerals and vitamins required for your flock in The National Research Council’s Nutrient Requirements for Poultry, all of which is dependent on age, breed, and production type.
Getting the correct ratio of feed for your flock can be daunting to some but after reading this article you now know the specific nutritional requirements of your backyard chickens.
Though altering your chickens’ diet can take some trial and error, rest assured that the time and effort you put into helping your chickens will not go unnoticed and will be reflected in your chicken’s production and disposition.
Do you make your own feed for your chickens? Let us know in the comments section below…