Organic Chicken Feed – An Experiment in Mixing My Own
Not too long ago I shared a couple of posts about switching to organic chicken feed and saving money by mixing your own organic chicken feed. When I purchased Nature’s Grown Organic Layer Feed from our local feed store, I was a little bit disappointed with it. Although the girls’ egg shells were stronger, the yolks were lighter. I also found that the feed had a high percentage of finely ground grains that the hens didn’t want to eat. I started mixing it with water and molasses to entice them…but quite a bit of the fine stuff was going to waste.
I Tried to Save Money on Organic Feed
I switched over to mixing my own layer feed with yellow split peas and sunflower seeds for protein, corn for fat, and wheat, oats, and barley to round out the grains. I added Richmond’s mineral supplement and Fertrell’s Poultry Nutri-balancer. The supplements did not supply enough calcium so I also added oyster shell to their feed. Unfortunately they turned their little beaks up at the oyster shell. Consequently their eggs shells are often so thin that they get broken in the nest boxes. I also added up the cost of all of the ingredients and it wasn’t that much less expensive, plus I couldn’t find organic sunflower seeds.
I had hoped to save some money by mixing my own feed, but the plan seems to be backfiring. Not only are the shells thin, but the number of eggs has declined steadily. Besides the fact that they don’t want the oyster shell, they also pick out their favorite bits of feed… namely, the sunflower seeds and corn. Perhaps if they could free range for more of their feed they would have a more balanced diet. I’ve also considered mixing the supplements with some cracked grains and vegetable oil. But, gosh, the cost will go up even more if I buy organic vegetable oil!
With winter approaching and less green stuff growing in the pasture, it seems like the most prudent course of action would be to resume feeding my layers the Nature’s Grown Feed with a few scratch grains on the side. I hope to start sprouting some wheat soon to give them some extra energy and greens. But it’s back to a pre-mixed organic feed for this less than self sufficient homesteader…sigh.
Have you tried mixing your own chicken feed? Did you have problems with the hens picking out their favorite grains and leaving the rest? Did you find a good solution to the problem?
I too am doing a lot of research to figure out a recipe to feed our ducks and geese, instead of buying the expensive organic premix feed in the stores. I am studying your recipe right now, and thinking of experimenting with it. I too had trouble with the powder residue spilling over on the ground and not getting eaten. 4 months ago, when our new ducks and geese arrived, I started them on fermented feed. I was buying organic feed and soaking it for a day or two. When I offered them both, they chose the fermented/soaked stuff first! The older ducks we have refused to eat anything new but their dry feed and weeds I toss to them…but once we put the new and the old kids together, they all started eating the fermented/soaked feed! I still give them the dry choice and they still spill it, but eat a lot less of it. As for the calcium, I put old crushed eggshells and oyster shells out for them and they go nuts for both when they are laying. A short while ago, I ran out of our usual oyster shell and tried a new brand cause I couldn’t get the old. They hated it! I finally found some of the old…it was a greyer colored type shell and flatter…the newer was pure white and like globs instead of flat. If anyone wants I can look up the names. I found it interesting that they were so picky about oystyer shells!
That’s interesting, Bunkie…the oyster shell I’ve been buying is flatter too. I’ve also got calcium that I bought from a buying club (Azure Standard) that they seem to eat better. I’ve gone back to a premixed feed recently and it seems to be working better than the home mixed. I gave up and opted for convenience at this point! Best wishes and I hope that this works for you! Let me know how things go. 🙂
I make my own and they seem to love it, although getting them to eat the powdery supplements I put in is a challenge…I have no desire to go back to purchasing pre-mixed feed though.
Yes, I had the same trouble with the supplements. I ended up switching back to premixed because the cost of the ingredients went up so much and the egg shells were getting so thin. But I would really prefer to give them the whole grains. Thanks for sharing!
hi, I need some ingredients to create my own feeds. Please post ingredients in your blog so that I can follow the mixing of an organic feeds for chicken. thank you.
You can visit my post…
to read more about the feed that I mixed for my chickens. Thanks!
My chickens free range in my garden but its only about an 8th of an acre. I give them their egg shells crushed back again long with the oyster shell and they eat both but prefer egg shells. I also give them wild bird seed mix (mostly millet from Kroger at $9.99 for 20lb and black oil sunflowers also from Kroger at $9.99 lb. I bought oats and red wheat and given them a dish of that too every day. I also supplement with (depending on what I have) peanuts, dried mealworms, stale bread soaked on occasion. Tin of sardines. Some additional protein source every day. They don’t have light in their coop but I have been getting a good egg supply from them all through the winter. During the winter I also give them some corn. A limited amount but just a little bit to help them. Im pretty pleased with how they look.
It sounds like you have some very happy chickens! I bet they love the sardines 🙂 I think that we get a little over concerned sometimes with giving our poultry a premixed layer ration. If they were in the wild they would be eating whatever they can find…of course, most people can’t give their chickens a nutrient rich jungle setting to forage for their food, which is where they would naturally live.
Kudos on providing a healthy diet for your hens!
I feel a little out of place commenting because I feed regular old Purina Flockraiser to my chickens. They also get Layena in their house around the clock in addition to two kinds of oyster shell. They get a grain/seed mix midday and free range for a couple of hours outside of their already large yard. The shells have been rock solid and the yolks very bright. My chickens appear to be healthy, shiny, and plump coming into winter and their first mini-molt. I feed the Flockraiser because my geese and ducks also eat it and that way I only have to buy one kind of feed.
No worries, Kelly! Until recently I was using the conventional feed mix from our local big box feed supply store. I just hated to keep buying the gmo grains that have been sprayed with pesticides…so I switched over. I know it wouldn’t work for many people.
It sounds like your birds are doing very well on your regimen!
We mix and grind our own feed for pigs and chickens. When it’s ground or cracked, there’s less chance of the chickens picking out their favorites. We use a feed grinder from Premier 1, but for smaller amounts you could use a kitchen-sized grain grinder that has a coarse setting and can handle everything you want to include (like oily seeds). I would have one machine dedicated to the feed instead of sharing it with kitchen use. Or check around and see if you know someone with a feed grinder who would let you run a batch of grains through it.
I considered looking for a grain mill to grind our feed. My biggest issue with it is the cost, and storage. I have such a limited amount of space in our house that I hate to buy another ‘kitchen appliance!’
Thanks for the suggestion…I’m hoping to have more room someday, and hopefully I’ll be able to grow and grind my own grain!
I use Scratch and Peck and do have a bit of fine to deal with. I would love to hear of a way to make use of it. Does anyone have a good way to contain it and keep it from spreading out around the feeder? I thought maybe I’d put my feeder over a square of canvas that I can lift and pour the fall out back in the can with. Mr. Squirrel’s skinny tailed cousins are starting to come around looking for it….
I have used one of those hanging feeders to help prevent the hens from scratching feed out, but went back to a pan on the ground. I’m thinking I should try the hanging feeder again. Maybe if you had one of those with a pan underneath, it might catch the dropped feed? Hmmm…the little rodents are a problem. I have mice, and I’m having trouble keeping them under control.
I can’t afford to mix my own feed so was interested in reading your post. I was concerned however about the calcium being put in the feed. that isn’t good for 2 reasons, the roos don’t need it if you have them, and it should be free fed alone so those that need it get it and those that don’t don’t have to eat it them mixed with feed. I grew sunflowers but dug alot out of my raised bed gardens. they grew one eyar and I don’t have to plant again. LOL I will let more grow this coming year and transplant out of the veggie beds. Then save and dry in my greenhouse and then save for the chickens. If you have weeds like I do collect dock seeds when brown and dry and feed them over winter too. I can’t free range but have aportable coop moved each day. If I cna get my place fenced then I want to free range part of my 5 acres. Thanks.
I’ve read that about not mixing the calcium in with the food…but they won’t eat it at all when it’s on the side! They don’t know what’s good for them! I do toss all weeds and seeds into the pen. The ducks like them better than the chickens! I haven’t had many sunflowers drop seed and start new plants. I put out a lot of sunflower seeds this year in beds and the birds dug them up…including a few escapee chickens. 🙂 Oh well! Life is always interesting!
Oh and to add – my hens always have access to free ranging, at least a few hours almost every day. So in theory, they should be finding extra protein out there, even. Wasn’t enough!
The extra protein is good for them, but probably doesn’t affect the strength of the egg shells. I bet the yolks were a deep gold color!
I have experimented with pellets vs. a lose grain mix (that happened to also be soy free). My hens did not do well at all on the grain mix. They loved it, yes. Because they picked out the good bits. And like you say, the fine stuff was left.
But egg production went down, the hens got skinny and my oldest hen actually passed away (she was cross-beaked so there may have been multiple factors at work). I have used the grain mix to entice an older egg-bound hen to eat again, which was a god-sent. But other than that, I’m back to organic pellets. Egg production is up, shells are in better shape and I have learned a lesson. If it ain’t broken, I’m not going to fix it. I’ve had an overall horrible chicken year with predators, disease brought in by new chicks, etc. I need smooth sailing and simplicity for a while.
BTW Trader Joe’s around here has organic sunflower seed but it’s probably an inefficient and expensive source. Or grow your own next year. I grew a bunch of giant sunflowers and a lot of the seed went to the chickens as treat.
I haven’t found a source for organic pellets around here. 🙁 Otherwise I would try them. My hens did do better with the mixed grain that is ground with the supplements mixed in. I just have to work harder to get them to eat it…mixing with water and molasses gets annoying!
I have grown some sunflowers and fed them to the chickens…but I don’t have a great deal of extra room to raise chicken food. Maybe when we retire and move we will have more room to grow our own chicken feed.
Thanks for sharing your experience! I hope you are done with the predators and disease!
I’m seriously considering starting a flock of laying hens again. The cost and quality of feed is our main concern, so your article was of particular interest. We raised chickens in the past, and I just loved having them here. Will be following your blog with great interest to see what answers you come up with.
Have a super day!!!!
You might want to check around to see what feed is available for sale in your area before you take the plunge. The cost of chicken feed has gone up considerably just in the last 3 years. I find that I spend more on the eggs than I would if I bought them from the store. But I also have the stewing hens for soup and entertainment. 😉
We’re still so new with chickens that I’m just not there yet with making my own feed. I use Scratch and Peck and I get it from Azure Standard. Our girls also eat a lot of scraps from the garden.
I did look at the Scratch and Peck feed, but it is more expensive than our local feed mill’s selection. Perhaps if it isn’t as fine, it would be worth the extra cost. Do you find that there is a lot of fine stuff at the bottom?
More than 1/3 of the bag gets left behind, all the fine powder and no doubt the nutritious stuff. To avoid this I think it needs to be mixed with table scraps or yogurt, or something to make the chickens want to give it a try. They ignore the powder. 🙁 It is expensive also.
I haven’t started mixing yogurt or anything in with the fine stuff. But I have found that if I withhold feed, they will finish it! And the egg shells are much harder when I use the tough love approach. 😉
I will be following this. This is something I have really contemplated doing and yet all things u bring up are very valid. Cost enough nutrients and eating just their favorite parts. I look forward to reading comments and advice
I hope that you are able to glean a lot of useful information about chicken feed! If I had a less expensive source for all of the ingredients, it would be worthwhile to grind and mix my own. But the savings just aren’t there with my current sources.
Have a great day, and Happy Chicken Keeping!