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!
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 neccessary
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.
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.
Don’t Leave Feed Out 24/7
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 other 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. But after this, you can start implementing additional cost-saving measures.
After The First Week
After week 1, feed the 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. Unless you have too many chicks eating from one container and the weaker ones are still trying to get in for their share, after an hour they will mostly be scratching for fun. Leaving a partially full container of feed out all day encourages them to scratch and waste.
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.
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 It Up
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.
Provide Proper Nutrition & Supplement Their Feed
In addition to providing fresh feed, make sure that you are choosing the correct feed 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. (I use a chick grit with probiotics to help establish a healthy digestive system.)
Probiotics, Vitamins, And Electrolytes
When your chicks first arrive, make sure they are getting probiotics, vitamins, and electrolytes in their water and/or feed. 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.
Vitamins and electrolytes help provide day-old chicks with nutrients added to their water. After being shipped through the mail, they need the extra boost to help overcome stress. And having all of the chicks survive to adulthood is the ultimate goal!
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.
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.
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.
It’s Not Complicated!
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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In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.
The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.