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.
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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.
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
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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