Homestead Finance - Poultry - The Frugal Homestead

How To Save Money On Chick Starter Feed

How To Save Money On Chick Starter Feed

Saving money on chick feed is an important part of raising an efficient flock of laying hens. Are you tired of spending more money feeding your flock than you would spend on eggs at the store? I’ve been there! I took a close look at where all of my money was going and adapted my feeding strategies to reduce the cost of raising chickens!

So, how do you go about reducing the cost of raising chickens? You need to start at the very beginning…by reducing the amount of feed needed to raise baby chicks.

Chicks don’t eat a great deal of feed for the first few weeks of their life. However, the cost of raising your own chicks certainly adds up. So how do you raise healthy chicks and still save some money on their feed? I’m happy to share some of the tips I’ve learned over the years!

For more info on caring for chicks, check out How to Care for Day Old Chicks and How to Care for a Sick Baby Chick.

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Chicks eating feed - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Although the bars across the top of this feeder prevent chicks from getting into the feed as much as an open pan, they can still scratch quite a bit out onto the floor where it’s wasted. Image credit

Basic Tips For Saving Money On Feed

Let’s start with the basic steps for spending your money wisely while keeping a healthy flock of chicks. To keep your birds happy without spending a fortune, you’ll need to:

  • Prevent waste
  • Provide clean water and proper nutrition
  • Supplement feed when necessary

These same basic tips apply to your adult flock. Let’s look at each of these points in more detail.

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How To Prevent Waste

Preventing waste might seem like a no-brainer, but just how do you go about it? First, you’ll need to identify the cause of waste. Here are the main reasons that feed is wasted:

  • Chicks spill feed
  • Improper storage of feed – feed gets old, rancid, or moldy
  • Rodents and birds eat feed

I’ve had feed wasted in each of these scenarios, and I’ve found some ways to prevent these losses.

brooder box
Providing feed in an open pan encourages waste. As you can see, I’ve learned this through first-hand experience.

Use Feeders That Discourage Waste

When feed is offered in an open pan, poultry will scratch a lot out and waste it. It’s their instinct. A feeder that prevents waste will pay for itself many times over. I’ve had pretty good luck with a hanging feeder that prevents chickens from scratching their feed out. For chicks, feeders with smaller holes help and, for older chicks, a harness (see below) for hanging 1-quart feeders prevents scratching and pooping in the feed.

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Don’t Leave Feed Out

Let their feed run out before bedtime. Chicks don’t need to have food in front of them overnight and it only encourages rodents to stop by for a snack. So let them finish their feed or put it into a metal garbage can or another rodent-proof container overnight, especially if they are in the barn or coop.

For the first week of their lives, it is important to keep feed easily accessible in their brooder all day while they learn to eat and drink.

Chicks at about 2 weeks

Reducing Access to Feed

As they get older, feed your chicks first thing in the morning and give them fresh water, but don’t give them more feed than they can finish in half an hour to an hour. Give them feed at least 2 or 3 times a day to make sure they don’t gorge themselves, which can lead to a sour or impacted crop.

Leaving a partially full container of feed out all day encourages them to scratch and waste.

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Older birds can be fed whole grains.

Feed More Often, In Smaller Amounts

Feed them 3 or 4 times a day from 1 week to 1 month of age. Each time you feed them, check back and remove any feed that hasn’t been eaten. Make sure that all chicks are getting a chance to eat…if some are still acting hungry, leave the feed for a longer period of time or provide a larger feeder or two feeders. (They should have pretty full crops at this point, a bulge on their breast area that is full of food.)

As they get older, you can decrease feedings to twice a day. Feed your flock inside the coop, where wild birds are less likely to eat feed or poop in it, which can spread disease. Older birds may be fed whole grains that cost less and have higher nutrient content. (Layers will need additional nutrients.) Make sure that your flock finishes feed before roosting at night. If they aren’t finishing it, reduce their rations.

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Keep Feed Fresh, Clean, Dry & Rodent Free

Don’t buy too much feed at a time. Ground feed loses nutritional value over time. Some vitamins break down pretty quickly, such as vitamin E (especially important for ducklings), and when the feed gets old your flock won’t get proper nutrition. This means they will need more feed, or another source of vitamins and minerals, to stay healthy. Otherwise, they may suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

Lock Up Chick Feed

Keep their feed in an airtight, waterproof, rodent-proof container and store it in a cool, dark, dry spot. Why spend money on feed and then store it in less than optimal conditions? It may get moldy, lose nutritional content, or become contaminated with rodent feces…and that’s not helping your flock or your wallet.

I use metal garbage cans with tight-fitting lids to store feed. They keep light, moisture, and rodents from ruining grain. Store inside out of direct sunlight.

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Provide Proper Nutrition & Supplements

In addition to providing fresh feed, make sure that you are choosing the correct formulation for your flock. Choose feed that provides the proper nutrients for growing chicks. Don’t give them layer feed, which has too much calcium, or whole-grain feed that they cannot digest.

Also, make sure that they have chick grit available after the first few days of life. A fine grit designed for chicks allows their digestive system to grind feed into a more usable form. This translates to lower feed consumption for the same nutritional benefit. (Use a chick grit with probiotics to help establish a healthy digestive system.)

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Probiotics, Vitamins, And Electrolytes

When your chicks first arrive, make sure they are getting probiotics in their water and/or feed. After 2 or 3 days, give them some electrolytes in their water. Don’t overdo it on the electrolytes or sugar as this can cause pasty butt.

Probiotics are bacteria that populate the gut and allow chicks to make better use of their feed. Along with grit, probiotics make a big difference in the ability of a chick’s body to extract nutrients…which means less feed is needed to fuel their growth.

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Feeding Scraps & Treats

It’s fine to feed your chicks some scraps and treats in moderation with their regular rations. Chicks can have very small bits of greens, such as lettuce, spinach, dandelion greens, and kale. Don’t give them long blades of grass which can cause a compacted crop.

Cooked vegetables can also be given in small amounts. Mashed carrots, beans, peas, broccoli, sweet potato, squash, and pumpkin all provide vitamins that are easy to digest after cooking. Don’t feed them uncooked dried beans, as these contain a chemical that must be cooked before being consumed.

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Protein For Strong Chicks

Extra protein from freeze-dried mealworms, finely chopped and cooked meat, or boiled eggs (peeled, mashed, and mixed with some plain yogurt) are another treat that chicks will enjoy. If you have an abundance of eggs from your hens, they are a great source of nutrition for young chicks and can take the place of chick starter for their first few days.

Make sure that chicks aren’t getting too many treats at the expense of their regular feed and never give moldy or rotten foods. Don’t give them uncooked dried beans (they may contain toxic chemicals) or long strands of grass that may cause compacted crops.

Pasture Raised Chicks

As they get older, chicks will enjoy foraging on pasture for some of their nutritional needs. Be very careful to protect them from temperature extremes, predators, and older members of the flock. Saving money on feed is worthless if your chicks die from exposure, predation, or injuries.

Keep Chicks Healthy and Save Money on Feed

The main goal when raising chicks is to provide them with the proper nutrients to grow up healthy. Whether your chicks are intended as pets, laying hens, or as a source of meat for your family, you will want to feed them a balanced diet without feeding the mice and birds, or throwing their feed out with the soiled bedding!

It isn’t that difficult to choose the best feed, prevent waste, and keep your flock happy and healthy if you follow the tips offered in this article!

Do you have tips for saving money and raising healthy chicks? Leave a comment!

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How to Save Money on Chick Starter Feed

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17 Comments on “How To Save Money On Chick Starter Feed

  1. Lisa, I have been enjoying your information on your website etc. I have been a chickem mom for about 1 year and I have learned a bunch. My girls have been well except I have 2 girls that look like they have flour spillled on their combs. the creaks all had what looked like a white substance. After much reading I found in a book that it was probably ring worm. so I have treated it with an anti fungal cram. It had been looking much better, the redness of the tissue had returned but I noticed today that their comb is looking a little greyish. Can you advice what is wrong and what should be the best approach to treat them.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      I’m sorry that your hens have been having a problem. Grayish spots could be caused by some fungal infections and grey spots that turn dark could be fowl pox. If the comb is just pale, instead of red, but looks otherwise healthy, it could just be that they are going into a molt and no longer laying eggs. If the comb looks grey, pale, and somewhat withered, it could be a low blood supply from parasites such as intestinal parasites, mites, or fleas. I hope this helps… if you can give me any more info, I will do my best to help.

  2. Nice post. Informative. Links or photos to the items you use would be a nice touch. For those of us just barely into chicken raising…..

  3. Great, very interesting . I am not always happy when birds are loosing weight with their fether dropping unable to eat . What can I do to rescue the bird in this sick condition. Thanks a lot, waiting for your reply

  4. Great post! I didn’t provide any electrolytes – may try that next time. And I didn’t give any treats or additional food. I think I will try the mashed egg with yogurt on our next bunch.
    We learned the lesson of open feeders with the Cornish Rocks. We quickly got the bottle tops to the feeders but we still had waste on the ground.
    Thanks for all the great tips!

    Melissa @ Little Frugal Homestead

    1. Happy to share, Melissa! They really do waste a lot when you have open feeders, don’t they!

  5. My family is planning to get 6 chickens in 2 weeks. Ive been trying to do all the research possible to be as ready and educated as possible. Your website has been the most helpful by far. Thank you for the stories, experiences, tips, pics and links. Were complete rookies at this but your articles are giving me the confidence I need to feel comfortable

    1. Hi Stephanie,
      I’m so glad that I could be of help with your new chicken keeping project! Thanks so much for your kind words! Best wishes with your endeavor. 🙂

    2. Great, very interesting . I am not always happy when birds are loosing weight with their ferther dropping unable to eat . What can I do to rescue the bird in this sick condition. Thanks slot, waiting for your reply

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Thank you! Just make sure you feed them pretty early in the morning. 🙂 Otherwise, they turn into little monsters.

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