Bulk Chicken Feed, Whistle Pig Hollow Style



Bulk Chicken Feed

Chicken people are always interested in how other chicken people do things. At least I always am… So today I thought I’d share our chicken feed operation. 

Before we even got our chickens, I knew I wanted to feed them organic and soy-free, but I ran into a few road blocks.

  1. I could not find any affordable, organic, soy-free, premixed feed locally available at that time.
  2. As I looked more into the ingredients in several brands of pre-bagged organic feed (that we’d have to order online), I realized I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the ingredients. Much like organic people food, some of the mixes were full of processed ingredients, even though they were “organic.”
  3. Pre-ground feed loses nutrients/goes “bad” after about six weeks, or so I’ve read. That meant we’d need to order frequently, which also sounded like a pain.

Those challenges led us down the path of mixing our own feed from whole grains/seeds/legumes. The lovely thing about whole grains is that they can be stored for a long time and still retain their nutrition. (P.S. I’d order this brand if I was buying a pre-mixed feed.)

And so, we feed organic (non-GMO) whole grains that we purchase in bulk from a semi-local grain mill. Since the grain mill is a little over an hour away, and since their main business is the organic dairy industry (small chicken owners are not who they cater to), we have to buy our grains in bulk. Or at least bulk to us.

We store our grains (sorted by type) in food-grade drums in a little lean-to by the barn.

feed room 2

 feed room

We use the little buckets you see on top of one of the barrels to scoop out a mix of grains into 5 gallon bucket. We then keep the pre-mixed feed in the 5 gallon bucket in the chicken coop for convenient daily feeding. We sometimes grind the grains, sometimes feed whole grains, and sometimes ferment the grains, all dependent upon our level of energy and the age of the chickens.

Our feed mix also changes based on which grains we happen to have at the time (right now it’s just 1 part corn, 1 part wheat, 1/4 part barley). Here are several homemade chicken feed recipes, many of which we have used at one time or another.

(Want to know a secret? Every new batch of baby chickens that comes through Whistle Pig Hollow is started on this same. exact. feed. We’ve never used a store-bought chick starter or grower feed, and we’ve never had a sick chick. They all grow up just fine and lay eggs wonderfully. We do grind the feed for the babies though.)

I would like to note that our chickens free-range on multiple acres all day, so we have some flexibility in their feed, since they are also eating delicious bugs, frogs, mice, plants, etc. In fact, in the summer months we often don’t supplement with feed at all- they fend for themselves and work the property. Chickens who live in a smaller area may require more from their feed and in those instances it might be ideal to use a pre-mixed feed.

What do you feed your chickens?

~Ashley

P.S. If you’re new to backyard chickens or interested in learning more, Oh Lardy has a great guide for beginners.

Oh lardy

Bulk Chicken Feed

 

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Comments

  1. Thad Trier says:

    Thanks for taking the time to wrote this blog, we are beginning farmers and looking into staying chickens in town before WR move out to the farm.

  2. We are just getting started ourselves, and appreciate seeing what others are doing. I’m curious about your chick feed recipe. We got some 2 week old chicks last fall and raised them fine on our own mix. This spring we got more, and have lost several. So I’m curious to learn what works for you.

    • Josie, our first batch of chicks we used a “chick starter” recipe we found online that had a ton of whole grain/seed ingredients. It was great, but cost a lot more due to the ingredients. From that point on, we ended up just using wheat, corn, barley, and ground fava beans for our mix, plus a mineral supplement and kelp. We grind it and I think I’ll ferment it too for the next batch we get to see how they like that. From 1 to 8 weeks they need the highest amount of protein (20%), so we really try to give them plenty of worms from the compost and also even some deer meat from our freezer to be sure they are getting enough in addition to their mix. (And grit of course, especially with the coarser feed we give.) We know our mix is lower in protein than a commercial mix, although we can adjust the fava bean content to make up for it, I think it ends up being more fava beans than they want- hence the worms/meat. Here are a couple of links I like. This one tells the protein requirement of each age chicken (although I disagree with the articles that say you should feed bagged feed and limit other “snacks” to keep them healthy, but it’s good info on the nutrient requirements nonetheless): http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/11/feeding-chickens-at-different-ages.html. And I like this one for figuring out things you can add to your mix to up the protein content: http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/Protein_content_in_chicken_feed_ingredients/.

  3. Thank you for posting this! I’m trying to figure out “how much” to feed my chickens so there isn’t excess waste; live in the city, only have 3 hens (and of course right now winter in MN need I say more to that? No free ranging for bugs this time of year and nothing left of my yard in the summer for greens, the chickens have seen to that; I need to figure out how to grow plants *and* chickens simultaneously 🙂

  4. How does your mix compare in price to the organic one you recommend (which happens to be what we use)? With only the ingredients do you ever have concern they are not getting enough as the pre bagged feed has a huge ingredient list. Would love to find cheaper organic edd options! Thanks!

    • CeAnne,

      I believe all my soy-free mixes are lower in lysine than recommended for chickens (I only know this because the organic feed mill we purchase from had their nutritionist look at the soy-free mixes they were making and that was his conclusion). However, I believe it has not been a problem for our chickens- and we’ve been using these homemade mixes for multiple years now- because both our layers and our meat birds have access to pasture all day every day, so I suspect any deficiency in their feed in made up by whatever they eat in the field. If our chickens were confined to a small run area all day without regular access to pasture, I think I’d take a closer took at my recipe. But with food scraps and pasture, I think you get a little wiggle room in your chicken feed.

  5. I think I will try this with my layers come spring. I need to remove soy from my life due to health issues but love to keep chickens! I can’t afford some of the premixed soy free feed. I love to let my girls free range my vegetable garden and give them plenty of fresh veggies every day. This article gives me a little more confidence in trying a home blend with ingredients I can find at my co-op and not online?

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  1. […] reading posts of others who feed their chickens a whole grain diet to figure out our best option (here and here and here). The trick will be finding bulk grains cheaper than the feed store pellet […]

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