Stretch your chicken's feed by adding all sorts of free food. Either grow your own or salvage last night's supper!
Below are a few things to do to make feeding your chickens cheaper.
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Worm your Chickens
Keeping your chickens worm and other parasite-free will help them process food better and keep their weight up. I use my own organic dewormers. Check my other Hubs for my recipes.
Do Not Free-feed Grains
Leaving food out 24/7 will cause your chickens to waste it. They do not require food every second of the day. I feed mine once or twice a day. Their purchased feed right now is only whole oats. Nothing fancy and it is very cheap. Sometimes I cook it, most of the time they get it dry. They get only enough to fill them up once. They would require more if this is all I fed, but I feed a whole range of scraps/weeds.
I have slippery elm trees on my property. I take tip cuttings and boil them up to make a healthful gruel. This stuff has really made my oats stretch and my chickens and goats look awesome after eating it for extended periods of time!
Save ALL of Your Scraps
If you can eat it, your chickens can too. Garlic, toast, grits, mac-n-cheese, onions, noodles, rice (cooked or uncooked), raw meat scraps, chicken (yup, cannibals), turkey, and fish. Even feeding your chickens leftover peppers and potato skins is fine. We have never lost a chicken to a raw potato peel.
Raw fish (and especially their roe) is an excellent addition to your chicken's diet. I chop mine up and feed them as much as they want. My husband fishes so we get more than enough huge rock fish for the animals. You can cook it if you want but the cooked bones may become dangerous for your chickens to eat.
To get the best yolks and healthiest chickens, feed them as many weeds as you can pull up. One of the best weeds to feed is chickweed. It is full of nutrients and your chicks and adult chickens will love it. Wild garlic and onion are excellent additions, too. Too much of the garlic/onion may make the eggs taste off, though!
To combat a possible loss of calcium, my laying hens get free-fed oyster shell.
If at all possible, allow your chickens to free-range most of the time. They will feed themselves and that really cuts the food bill. Last year I didn't feed my chickens all summer because they were full of natural plants, bugs and other stuff. They did occasionally raid the scrap pile though!
If you're worried about predators, build a simple chicken tractor and move the chickens in that, all over your land. Works great and cuts your bills down a lot.
Chicken Feed Plant List
Plant one, or all of these great plant varieties! Do not forget your herbs!
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
- Mangel beets (fodder beets)
- Sow's thistle
- Brussel's sprouts
- Roses (the kind that makes great hips)
- Creeping Jenny
- Sweet violets
Sally Branche from Only In Texas! on January 13, 2012:
Chickens can eat just about anything! In the olden days, they were pretty much kept as barnyard scavengers and not really fed much of anything at all. They ate bugs, plants, grass, pecked usable grains out of horse and cow manure, cleaned up any spilled grain and did just fine and dandy! They ate naturally occurring gravel and grit that helps them digest their food since they don't have teeth! Oyster shell tossed around on the ground serves this purpose for modern-day chickens and provides good calcium, as you say. Great info! Voted up and useful! ;D
Maria del Pilar Perez from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA on January 12, 2012:
Yep. They eat EVERYTHING.
Isadora (author) from Tennessee on January 12, 2012:
Chickens are incredibly easy/cheap to raise. Especially when you can free-range them on decent ground.
One of the big deals is to not get too many for your purposes. If you aren't planning on sharing/selling eggs, just get one or two chickens per egg eater in your family.
If you don't want babies and don't need one to protect the hens, don't bother with a rooster. Roosters don't really eat much so it doesn't matter on the feed bill if you have one (I like having them).
The hard thing is, when a hen stops laying like she should because of old age/health ...its time to cull her. A lot of people don't like that part of chicken keeping, but it really saves on the feed bill.
I really need to add a plants list to this article. Maybe I can do it tomorrow!
Rebecca Long from somewhere in the appalachian foothills on January 12, 2012:
Thanks so much for this info. I have gone to the internet in the past looking for feed recipes in the hope of finding that I might be able to grow some or all of my chickens feed--cut down on the feed bill-- but most of what I found were complicated recipes. It's great to hear from someone with experience.