Poultry - The Frugal Homestead

12 Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed

baby chicks

Save Money on Chicken Feed!

I’m always looking for ways to save money on chicken feed. Chicken feed isn’t cheap and the cost of keeping chickens keeps increasing. There are some ways to increase production, but in our northern climate, I know we will pay more for eggs in winter. However, I really wasn’t prepared for the sticker shock when I actually added up the feed bill and divided it by the number of eggs they are producing.

Update: With egg prices increasing due to the avian flu, more people are keeping laying hens. The increased demand and rising feed costs are causing home-raised egg prices to increase, too. However, I pay less for my farm fresh eggs than I would pay at the store.

Find out How to Sell Your Farm Fresh Eggs!

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So I’m on a mission to save money on chicken feed even more than before! I’m guessing that most chicken enthusiasts would like to cut back on their feed bill too. So here is my list of 12 ways to reduce the cost of feeding your chickens. Not all of these ideas will work for everyone, so choose the methods that make the most sense for you.

How to Save Money on Chick Starter Feed

12 Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed

  • Keep breeds that need less feed.
  • Try mixing your own chicken feed.
  • Raise sprouts and fodder for your flock.
  • Keep a compost pile in the chicken pen.
  • Feed table scraps, but don’t give moldy or rotten foods.
  • Cook damaged eggs and feed them back to the flock.
  • Keep a garden and feed the extras to your birds.
  • Let your flock turn the soil in your garden in the spring and fall.
  • Raise your chickens on pasture or let them free range.
  • Grow your own grains, sunflower seeds, and field peas.
  • Don’t overfeed your birds.
  • Reduce the size of your flock by culling old laying hens.
  • Bonus tip…provide grit and probiotics to keep their digestive systems working efficiently
  • Bonus tip…reduce waste with feeders that prevent chickens from scratching feed out into the bedding
Save Money on Chicken Feed and still get eggs!

Are These Methods a Fool-Proof Way to Save Money on Chicken Feed?

I’m not really sure that anything is foolproof, but many of these ideas will at least help to reduce your feed bill. When you combine methods or use all of these ideas, you can reduce your chicken expenses considerably. Let’s take a closer look at some of these methods.

Feed Efficient Breeds

Dual-purpose breeds generally consume more feed than laying breeds. If you don’t intend to eat your laying hens when they are past their prime, consider keeping a more feed-efficient breed such as White Leghorns, California White, Red Star, or another laying hybrid.

You can also raise breeds that are active foragers. These birds will find more of their own feed when given good-sized pasture or allowed to free-range. In my flock Americaunas and Easter Eggers actively forage for their own grub, making them one of my favorites.

Mix Your Own Feed

If you have a source for whole grains, field peas, and supplements for your chickens, you might be able to mix your own and save some money. Whole grains are more nutritious than feed ground in advance and might be less expensive.

I began mixing my own feed last year and found that my hens would not consume enough crushed oyster shells on the side to supply the calcium necessary for strong eggshells. I started using Fertrell Poultry Nutri-Balancer mixed in with the feed to supply my flock with calcium and all of the micro-nutrients they need to lay well.

Sprouting Seeds and Raising Fodder

I recently began sprouting wheatgrass for my flock in an attempt to reduce the feed bill and give them green feed for deeper-colored yolks in the winter. The ducks go crazy for the sprouts and most of the chickens like them too. I haven’t been feeding them sprouts long enough to come to a conclusion about feed costs and nutritional value, but everything I’ve read points to increased production for a decreased cost.

Compost, Table Scraps, and Cracked Eggs

I recently watched a video produced by permaculture guru Geoff Lawton about a gentleman who raises his chickens on nothing but compost. I’ve been tossing all table scraps, cracked eggs, eggshells, and garden ‘waste’ into my chicken pen since I started keeping a flock. I can definitely say that the chickens make the best use of my compost. They eat what they like, plus the bugs that are attracted to the leftovers. I just wish I had more compost!

Chickens Love Fresh Veggies from the Garden

The chickens eat a lot less feed in the summer when my garden is in full swing. Anything that has been ruined by bugs, is overripe, or we just can’t use fast enough goes to the flock. The ducks are crazy about cucumbers too. Of course, the peelings, etc go to them too when I can, freeze, or dehydrate my produce.

This spring I plan to fence in my garden so that the chickens and ducks can work up the soil and eat some of the grubs before I plant my seeds. I will ban them from the garden before anything is planted.

If you have the space on your property to raise wheat, oats, barley, field peas, and sunflower seeds you can really save a great deal on your feed bill. Of course, there is the cost of seed, fuel, and equipment but you should still come out ahead. You can reduce the expenses further by raising heirloom grains by hand instead of buying seeds each year and keeping a tractor for planting and harvesting. Keep in mind that you’ll be putting in a lot more sweat equity to save cash.

Pasture vs Free Range

If you live in an area where your chickens can safely free-range during the day they will search for seeds, grass, bugs, and weeds. This variation in their diet will keep them healthy, happy, and well-fed with crushed oyster shells and layer feed on the side. Not everyone can let their flock free range due to space limitations, predators, or neighbors. Our property is not set up for free-ranging the flock so I have a large pasture that keeps them out of the neighbors’ yard and the road but allows them plenty of room to forage.

Don’t Spoil Your Chickens

This will be a tough one for many chicken enthusiasts who view their birds as pets rather than livestock. Too many treats will increase the cost of keeping a flock, and so will keeping older hens that aren’t laying well anymore.

Hens that are overfed get fatty tissue in their abdomens which leads to decreased egg production. Ensure you aren’t overfeeding your flock or giving them too much corn, sunflower seed, or other high-fat foods. They also need daily exercise to stay healthy and in good laying condition.

This last tip may not work for everyone! Once your hens are past their prime laying years, cull them from the flock and make a nice pot of chicken soup. When you first get your chickens you need to make a decision about whether or not you are willing to keep feeding your hens throughout their retirement years. Keep in mind that a hen can live to be 10 years old when properly cared for. But they will only lay really well for about 2 or 3 years. If you don’t want to feed non-productive hens consider them livestock from the very beginning. Make sure the whole family understands that these chickens will be eaten at some point and don’t get attached!

Do you have ways of reducing your feed costs that aren’t mentioned here? Leave a comment!

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43 Comments on “12 Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed

  1. When I was growing up in NJ, my father raised turkeys for sale. We had a huge wood stove and he would put a huge metal tub on it. In it would go potato peels, rice, onions, old veggies from the garden, wild killed meat, and also commercial mash. Water would get mixed in and he would slow cook that for a while. And it stunk to high heaven! When it was cool, we had to scoop it into the troughs for the birds. They loved it. Dad had Broad Breasted Bronze and Holland Whites I have a photo of a huge 50# Holland he raised. They were raised in wire runs about 3′ off the ground. Their feet never touched the ground.

    1. Sounds like a great way to supplement their feed, if not replace it altogether! Thanks for sharing, Eleanor!

  2. There are a number of insects that can easily be raised…not needing dead animal carcasses…has anyone tried those to supplement the feed, and give chickens the “thrill of victory”?

  3. Maggot Buckets, not for the faint of heart, but very effective. Can use any roadkill, or dead animal parts, or if you are slaughtering your own animals, you can add the offal or other parts you don’t have a use for.

    Take a 5 gallon bucket and drill holes about 1/4″ or so, just big enough for maggots to crawl out. Put dead animal in bucket, hang from a branch about 3-5′ off the ground in the chicken area. Wait about 2-5 days depending on outside air temp (must be warm season, doesn’t work in the depth of winter). You’ll start to see maggots fall out of holes.

    I deliberately shake the bucket once a day and maggots fall out in piles. Chickens and ducks love them. Very high protein and will boost egg production immediately.

    1. Thank you for sharing. I have read about this and considered trying it, but we are pretty close to the neighbors and I was concerned about the scent!

    1. Hi Valerie,
      Look at the packages for eggs, chicken, etc that has been fed a vegetarian diet. I do see that label at the store sometimes, but I don’t know if they are available in your area.
      Best wishes!

  4. I have about 60 chickens the last 3 weeks my production is down to one or two a day. I tried feeding more than I use to I keep fresh water for them I built a nice coop for them and I put hay in each coop and they clean it out I noticed some of them roost I put a light on a timer I don’t know what else to do
    I even mixed 26% feed with there regular feed still nothing if you have any idea that would help please let me know thanks Jon COLLETTI

    1. Hi Jon,
      If you just put the light on a timer in their coop, you may have to wait a couple of weeks for the increased light to affect their production. The earlier in the fall that you increase their light, the less time it takes to trick them into laying more.

      You don’t mention how old your hens are or if any of them might be going into a molt. If they are somewhere in the range of 1 – 1 1/2 years old, they could be getting ready to molt. During molt they stop laying eggs and put their energy into growing new feathers. The higher protein feed is helpful, but you may want to give them a little cracked corn or some black oil sunflower seeds in the evening to help them stay warm at night.

      Best wishes! I hope this helps.

    2. There is a lot of info about adding protein to the chickens diet. All meat scraps and veggie scraps go to my chickens. Mine were not laying for 2 months. I was away for a month, and they stopped laying so I increased the light in the coop, just a regular led bulb, and they have had the leftovers from our suppers, like ham and duck. Out of 16, I’m up to 5 eggs a day now. That being said, I have 6 birds that exceed 3-4 years old. They were my first so pets. The others were more for eggs. I was raised with having chickens, and we never did anything special with our chickens, but seems I have more struggles keeping them laying than my mom did.

      1. Hi Connie,
        Some of it depends also on what time of the year your hens hatched out and grew up. I recently read that pullets hatched in winter for summer laying often stop laying their first winter, whereas pullets hatched in spring are more likely to lay through the winter. I haven’t done a lot of research into this or compared notes to see if my experience has been the same.

        Right now I have zero chickens…so I’m actually buying eggs for the first time in ages.

  5. OK this probably goes against everything else on here, but my chickens were not laying for about a month. I heard from an old timer to feed them some dry dog food. I tried this yesterday. I ended the day with 7 eggs. I tried them on my boys this morning, and they loved them. I can not eat eggs currently or I would have tried the eggs myself.

    1. Hi Flagrancher,
      I’ve heard other folks say they give their chickens cat or dog food. Yes, not cheap, but maybe there is a higher protein and/or fat content that helps to jump start their laying. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    1. Great ideas, Lilaeve! Thanks for sharing! We used to pick up bags of old bread for our pigs when I was a kid…they loved it. 🙂 I used to get the old produce from a grocery store nearby, but the owner got mad when he found out…I had no idea that he didn’t even know. That was a sad day 🙁

  6. Great article as usual Lisa! I really appreciate your posts. One other idea that I’ve seen but haven’t yet had the opportunity to try for producing your own chicken feed is just to have a few boards or small sheets of plywood that you lay down on the ground in your chicken yard, then every few days or so you flip the board over to reveal all the worms and potato bugs and other critters that have congregated under it and the chickens go crazy. You can move the board to another spot and keep rotating the bug buffet around your chicken yard!

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      Excellent suggestion! I have done this in my garden, but the flock isn’t allowed in there very often. So putting something down in their pasture is a great idea. I have been thinking about putting my pumpkin patch in their pasture, but I need to kill the grass and get a new bed started. The best way to do this is with cardboard, plastic, tarps or something of that nature. Then I can flip them over and let the birds do the munching!

      Thanks for sharing this great idea!

    2. Great idea Elizabeth, I frequented this blog exactly because he is filled with ideas interesting. A small idea, more another small idea, more another small idea, that becomes a brilliant find. Thank you!

  7. I love articles like this. Keeping feed costs down and doing it without buying the GMO junk is a passion of mine.

    Two things.

    Thing one: With those dead possums (or any other dead critters), you may want to look into doing some fly “conversion.” Rig up a 5 gallon bucket, line it with straw, and drop the carcass into the center. Drill small holes around the bottom and some slightly larger ones up top. Flies come and lay eggs, the maggots feed on the carcass, then , when they’re ready to pupate, they drop out the bottom of the bucket and into your chicken pen (or you can set up a collector to make sure none go to waste). There are a ton of tutorials around the net on making your own fly composter or even a black solider fly bin. I’d also recommend Harvey Ussery’s book on the Small Scale Poultry Flock. It’s chock FULL of good ideas for reducing feed costs.

    Thing two: The cost of your feed should be offset, not just by the eggs, but by the tillage they do in the garden, by their fertilizer, by their pest (tick) control, etc. So your actual cost for those eggs may be closer to $3 a dozen. I hope that’s encouraging. 🙂

    Keep up with the articles! I always enjoy reading them.

    1. Thanks, Jeff! I have read about the fly incubation set up. This might work well for folks who don’t have neighbors close by, or a hubby who hates the smell of ‘farming’…lol! I haven’t tried it for those reasons and had kinda forgotten about it…so thanks for sharing!

      I do try to keep in mind the benefits of our all natural manure from the chickens, their bug eating services, and just the sheer entertainment factor. It’s a good point and thanks for the reminder. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Hello Lisa, I sow every year some plans of pumpkins for my hens. Pumpkins preserve easily and the hens adore it. For the hens, my favorite variety is Dill Atlantic Giant. So I cut the costs of food of half.
    Two or three dozens pumpkins = a minimum of 1 1/2 tons of food easy to store.

    Do I have the right to put an an internet link? If no, sorry.

    If yes….A photography of me with Atlantic Giant of average size If the ground is a little bit fertile:https://www.facebook.com/650379581665022/photos/a.650385898331057.1073741825.650379581665022/650387531664227/?type=1&source=11

    Good end of the evening to you.


    1. Great photo, Pierre! My chickens don’t like pumpkins unless I cook them…picky little things. But the ducks adore them! It’s funny to watch a duck eat a pumpkin. 🙂 I should grow more pumpkins and cook them for the flock…great idea!

      Thanks for sharing the photo…awesome pumpkin! Your yard looks very productive and lush! What hardiness zone are you in?

      1. Hello Lisa,my hardiness zone is zone 4, and yes my yard is very productive. Year after year I improve or maintain the earth quality with compost, hen manure ans pig manure. Hen manure is upper to chicken, cow manuret or any to fertilize the ground intended for tomatoes and peppers. The fertilizer of hen contains much more calcium, and tomatoes and pepper love calcium.

        Your chickens don’t like pumpkin? They are too much spoiled 🙂 I cut pumpkin in two and the hens eat everything but the peel, When they ended to eat, I have something which looks like a leaky soccer ball. Anyway, pumpkin is low in protein and serves only as complement.The food for laying hens seem less expensive in Canada. I pay only $9.00 for a bag of 50 lbs. It is not certified organic but I buy directly of a local producer who makes himself his mixture of grain for her chickens.

        Tomorrow I am going to put on my page Facebook (3/4 d’acre d’auto-suffisance) of the photos of my seedlings. I am fairly moved forward. I hope that these photos will stimulate other people to have a kitchen garden. In my head and in my heart, the beautiful season is already begun.
        Mars in a few days and by April 15th I transplant a part(party) of my tomatoes in a tunnel. Thus it is for soon.

        Good day


      2. Hi Pierre,
        Too true…my chickens are pretty spoiled. Then they go in the soup pot…so maybe not so spoiled after all! But I need to train them to eat the pumpkins, I think. 🙂

        I liked your facebook page and saw all the great photos of your yard and garden…Wonderful! It does my heart good to see photos of gardens this time of year.

        I will be starting my seedlings soon. I am in zone 5, but I haven’t set up much space for growing in my little greenhouse or in cold frames yet. It’s on my to do list (which is a pretty long list). 🙂

        I’m still working on producing enough composted manure to add to all of my garden beds too. I recently switched to organic chicken feed. The manure composted before I switched won’t grow anything…I’m sure that it is due to the pesticides on the conventionally grown feed. 🙁 So I have a pile of compost in which nothing will grow! Another reason to grow organic!

        I’ll be by to check out your new photos today!

  9. This is a good article. Thanks for sharing. I just found a guy that grows grain in the area so I am buying from him. I like the idea of sprouting some, especially during the winter months. And I will be letting them free range when I get my garden fenced……which will be soon. Looking forward to that. I know they will be much happier when they can range.

  10. You mentioned about having to eliminate a possum recently. Did that critter go into your chicken food routine? Have seen other articles where meat was added to the birds diet to up the protein levels.

    1. Hey Dave…good question 😉 Actually, I wasn’t too sure about diseases and what not. So I buried the possum in my compost/manure pile and he has turned into bones now. So as the chickens scratch around out there, they will probably get some nutrition from the carcass in one form or another. I feed the entrails from butchering back to my chickens, unless there are signs of disease, then I compost in a hot pile. I try to recycle as much as I can and keep it out of the landfill. But I’m always a little wary of disease in wild animals. Now if hubby would let me process and cook the meat…then the chickens would definitely get some nummies! I guess he’s just not a hillbilly like me! 😉

  11. As much as possible, I cohabitate my critters. For example, my rabbit cages are in a corner of my large chicken pen. The chickens like to go under the rabbit cages to pick through the food and hay dropped by the rabbits as well as scratch through the droppings to find earthworms and other insects.

  12. Don’t forget to check out different suppliers. I was using a feed store close to me, but once our hot/ drought hit two summers ago they doubled their price, everyone did, but the price never lowered. Their being “out” for a week sent me to check a Mom and Pop feed store closer to where I worked. There the price was down, with the new growing season. I learned a good lesson, it pays to shop. My gals free range, and get lots scraps as well.

  13. What a great article! I wish I had space for some chickens, but I live in Los Angeles. Some folks do have 2-3 chickens in pens and they let them out with supervision in the back yard to peck. I visited Wild Farm in Woodside, CA (see the episode of “Late Bloomer”), and she had 20’x30′ area inside her large hen area where she grew brassicas just for the hens. I thought that was so interesting. They could feast on them fresh, and the hot compost bins are there, too. Happy hen growing!

    1. Thanks, Kaye! You might be able to have a couple of hens…they make wonderful fertilizer for your garden. 😉 Just be sure they get organic feed. I’ve thought about growing a garden just for my chickens…somehow that hasn’t happened yet! Thanks for sharing!

  14. This article couldn’t have come out in better timing!
    I keep the feeder full in the coop so my birds can eat at all times right now.
    We finally put the fence up around the area where we keep our animals so they free range.
    I’ve noticed they go around eating grass and dust bathing but they come back to the coop to eat quite often. So I’m thinking about just feeding them once in the morning when I let them out to encourage them to forage more during warm months. And maybe they will be more interested in my kitchen scrap…?

    I’m also growing black seed sunflowers this year. I have to check into growing grains too.

    Thanks for great ideas as alwasy! 🙂

    1. Happy to share!

      I think you’ll see a very big decrease when you start feeding them once, or even twice, a day. I give my flock food in the am and again in the late afternoon. The feed is usually gone in a couple of hours and I can see that the younger pullets are getting feed too…so they have enough. But they don’t have an all you can eat 24/7 buffet…which will also add to the fat in their body cavity and reduce the number of eggs they will lay.

      Best wishes with your sunflower seeds this summer! Let me know how it goes. 🙂

    2. You might want to feed them in the evening. If they are fed in the morning, they will free range somewhat, but if they are hungry, they should be able to fulfill most of their needs if there is enough.

      1. Hi Eileen,
        When it warms up and there is something to eat in the pasture, I will try that. Thanks for the suggestion! Right now I am giving them the sprouted wheat grass first and then I wait until that is gone before giving them regular feed.

  15. Great article, Lisa. We’re concerned about the high cost of feed and do all we can to supplement our chickens diet naturally. Ours are in a really large pen where they able to forage to some extent, and we feed them all of our leftovers. We gather bugs that congregate in the water troughs, etc. and feed to them, too. When we eat out we gather up everything on the table they could eat and bring it home. I know that sounds chintzy, but our hens love it just the same. I plan to start sprouting grain for them in the fall later this year. Have a great week.

    1. Hi Toni,
      That doesn’t sound chintzy to me at all! I do the same 🙂 on the very rare occasion that I eat out. I’m hoping to add to this list over the spring and summer. Thanks for commenting and sharing your ideas!

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