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.
- I could not find any affordable, organic, soy-free, premixed feed locally available at that time.
- 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.”
- 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.
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?
P.S. If you’re new to backyard chickens or interested in learning more, Oh Lardy has a great guide for beginners.
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