Homemade Chicken Feed Recipes: Soy-Free, Corn-Free, Fermented, Sprouted



homemade chicken feed recipes

Before we got our chickens, I spent an embarrassing amount of time researching what on earth we should feed them. I knew I wanted to use a homemade, whole grain mix, but finding recipes turned out to be difficult. Many of the more reputable chicken sources just made blanket suggestions to use store bought feed. I had to scour forums and yahoo groups to find recipes and information from random (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) people. A few years later and it seems like there are a lot more recipes out there, so I’ve decided to gather some of them together in one place. All of the recipes included are soy-free, some are corn-free as well, and some are even fermented or sprouted.

Please note, all of these recipes are for grown egg-laying chickens in the egg-production phase of their lives. Baby chicks and chickens being raised for meat require different amounts of protein and calcium, so these recipes would need to be adjusted accordingly.  

Soy-Free

elliott homestead soy free

Photo used with permission from The Elliott Homestead

Soybeans are commonly used as a [cheap, government subsidized] protein source for chickens. They have to be heated to high temperatures (roasted) for the chickens to be able to digest them. Can chickens cook? I think not, so soy is probably not a natural choice for chickens. Plus, soy contains not only isoflavones, which can mimic estrogen in the body, but also “anti-nutrients,” which can prevent absorption of  nutrients in food. For what it’s worth, I believe soy should only be consumed by humans (or animals, for that matter) if it has been fermented, and even still, it should be eaten in moderation. Think miso, NOT tofu or imitation meat.

But anyway, in the heyday of my chicken feed research, I did what any rational wife (with no children at the time) would do- I launched a full on literature review of soy in chicken feed. I even read an entire master’s thesis documenting that the isoflavones in soy-based chicken feed do indeed transfer into the eggs those chickens lay. If you avoid soy isoflavones at all costs like I do, this means a soy-free chicken feed is a must.

Here are five recipes for whole grain, soy-free chicken feed:

Homemade Chicken Feed. Organic and Soy-Free from The Elliott Homestead

Garden Betty’s Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed

TLC Organic Chicken Feed

Homemade Chicken Feed for Layers from The Field and Table

Mary’s Whole Grain Chicken Feed Recipe from Mary’s City Chickens

Corn-and-Soy-Free

corn free 2

There are several reasons people choose to avoid corn in their chicken feed:

  • Corn is not overly nutrient dense. It’s main benefit as feed is to cheaply (again, government subsidized) and quickly fatten animals.
  • Chickens in the wild wouldn’t eat a corn-based diet.
  • Corn is genetically modified (GM), so organic corn is a must if you are using corn. Even then, I’m skeptical of unknown cross-contamination turning organic corn into GM corn.
  • People with corn allergies don’t want to chance trace corn proteins in their egg yolks, and understandably so.

All that said, I have to be honest and say that I’m not 100% convinced corn-free is necessary. Corn has always been fed to chickens, at least in the recent past- many people remember their grandmothers (or great grandmothers) feeding only corn to the chickens. No fancy mixes, just supplemental corn to go along with table scraps. I definitely agree that there are healthier options out there, but I don’t feel strongly enough to avoid corn altogether. We have chosen to feed our hens some certified organic corn- sometimes cracked, sometimes whole- and I feel completely fine with that decision right now. As I do more research, I reserve the right to change my mind though.

Should you choose to avoid corn in your chicken feed, here are two corn-free (and soy-free) recipes:

Homemade Chicken Feed Without Soy or Corn from The Well Fed Homestead

Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed… Updated and now corn-free! feed from Garden Betty

Fermented

Natural Chicken Keeping fermented feed small

Photo used with permission from Natural Chicken Keeping.

Fermenting chicken feed simply involves soaking the grains in water until natural bacteria and yeasts do their thing (as evidenced by little bubbles forming at the top of the soaking water). Grains, which are the seeds from different grasses, are meant to be eaten by animals, pooped out, and then grow into new grasses, which means they have a few protective layers allowing them to pass on through the digestive systems of animals. By fermenting the feed, we can help our chickens get more nutrients from their grains by making the grains easier to digest. Plus, they get all the benefits of probiotics, which are the little bugs causing the fermentation in the first place.

Since the fermented feed is a wet mash, there will be less waste, because the chickens won’t throw it all over the place. They also eat less simply because they are getting more nutrients from what they do eat. Score for your chicken feed budget!

The recipes I’ve linked to below go into a lot more detail about why fermentation is good for your chickens and how to actually ferment your feed. This is the next frontier in chicken feed at Whistle Pig Hollow, I plan to ferment some feed and see how my chickens like it.

Fermented Feed from Natural Chicken Keeping

Fermenting Your Chicken Food 101 from Blue Yurt Farms

How and Why to Ferment Your Chicken Feed from Garden Betty

Fermented Grain: The Old Timer’s Secret from To Sing With Goats

Sprouted

sprouts sunflowerandwheat small

Photo used with permission from Natural Chicken Keeping.

Another way to get the most bang for your chicken feed buck is to sprout your grains and seeds. When you sprout a grain (or seed), you are essentially turning it into a vegetable, and with that you drastically increase the nutrients it contains. In the book Beautiful Babies (that would be human babies, not chickens, but this is still applicable…), Kristen Michaelis sites a study comparing sprouted wheat with unsprouted wheat on a calorie-per-calorie basis. The sprouted wheat contains four times the amount of niacin, twice the B6 and folate, five times the vitamin C, and significantly more protein and fewer starches and sugars than the unsprouted wheat. Wowza.

To sprout your grains, soak them in water overnight, then drain and rinse them daily to allow the grains to sprout. Again, the recipes linked below go into detail on how to actually do this. It’s a great way to add more nutrients to your flock’s diet.

Sprouting Grains for Animals (Video) from The Promiseland Farm

Sprouted Grains for Chickens from A Life Unprocessed

Sprouting Seeds For Your Chickens from Natural Chicken Keeping

Fodder

You can also let your little sprouted seeds go a few days longer and they’ll grow into fodder. Your chickens will benefit from the grass, sprouted seed, and roots of the original grain, as well as the enhanced nutrient content that you get from sprouting.

Foddler Tutorial! AKA: How To Sprout Grain for Livestock from To Sing With Goats

Growing Sprouted Fodder for Livestock from Peak Prosperity

Growing Sprouted Fodder for Your Chickens Plus Chick Fodder Cakes from Fresh Eggs Daily

egg

If you are interested in feeding your chickens organically but don’t have access to an organic pre-made mix (or don’t want to spend $$$), making your own whole grain feed can be a great solution. If you don’t happen to have an organic grain mill or other source of feed-grade grains nearby, check around for bulk grains from local food co-ops. I know many people (us included when we first started) order their bulk grains from Azure Standard, a co-op that delivers. They have drop off points all over, so check to see if they deliver to your area.

When transitioning chickens from a highly processed store-bought feed to a whole grain feed, I’ve read that you’ll see a temporary drop in egg production as they adjust to their new diet. They should get used to it pretty quickly and start laying as normal again shortly.

Do you have a homemade chicken feed recipe? Please share it in the comments. If you have a blog, I’ll update my post to include a link to your recipe.

-Ashley

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: To support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for supporting our efforts at Whistle Pig Hollow!

Comments

  1. If you’re looking for organic without spending $$$ and aren’t up for mixing your own, Azure is another fabulous resource! Their Rouge brand feeds are fantastically priced organic and my girls love them!

  2. Excellent blog post! Thank you! I love it when I find a post that links back to so many good articles/ideas. Kind of like a “one stop shop”… LOL.

    I have a couple feed recipes, if you’re at all interested in adding them to your post. :)

    One is one growing fodder (sprouting barley): http://www.tosingwithgoats.com/2012/10/fodder-tutorial-aka-how-to-sprout-grain.html This is probably my top favorite way to feed my chickens; it’s cheap, they love it, and I find that the hens lay really well on it.

    Second recipe is fermenting grain (which I see you already have a few neat links to!): http://www.tosingwithgoats.com/2013/03/fermented-grain-old-timers-secret.html

    Last year I also tried raising some broilers on only sprouts and milk, and it worked really well! I managed to journal that experiment at: http://www.tosingwithgoats.com/search/label/basic%20broiler%20challenge

    Thanks again for the great post!

  3. I’m getting day old chicks in June so could I just start hem directly on this when they reach laying age? Then we would avoid the drop off transition period? At what age would I start them on that? And as a newbie, I thought I would just get chick starter crumble for them at the start. Is there a better option?

    • April, I’ve been meaning to write a post on the chick starter feed recipe we use. We’ve always made our own. At first we googled for a “chick starter feed” recipe and used that, and then with subsequent flocks we just used the same few grains we feed our older girls, but were sure to supplement with extra worms from the compost bin for protein. It has been our experience that chicks do not require the precise nutrient requirements we are led to believe by the chicken feed manufactures…. http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/298666/homemade-chick-starter-updated

  4. Jeanett Kinder says:

    Thank you ever so much for all the efforts you’ve put into the search presented here. I’ve on the search myself for this information regarding food for both our hens and pigs.
    Love Jeanett

  5. Hi!
    I was just reading your article cause my husband and I are wanting to start raising chickens and ducks right before next spring starts. I absolutely loved this!! It’s so clear, and straight to the point! I have this on my Pinterest so I can come back and keep checking out all the recipes for feed.

  6. Hi, I randomly found my chicken in the middle of the road. I have taken her in for about 4 months now and she’s doing great, but I have never found out her breed. She looks exactly like the very first picture on this post where it says “Chicken Feed Recipes”! I was hoping you could tell me her breed??

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