almost free chicken feed

Almost Free Chicken Feed | Reducing Feed Costs

How to get free chicken feed is something anyone raising chickens will be curious about. After all chickens spend almost their entire day eating or hunting for something to eat. With creatures that eat constantly costs can certainly add up. Here are a few ways that I combat the costs while providing my flock with lots of inexpensive food.

Many backyard chicken enthusiasts will tell you how much they love their flock. Chickens are a ton of fun to raise after all. For many of us our Chickens are more than just a source of food but rather they are pets that earn their keep. Just like any pet or animal most of us want our chickens to be happy, feel well and overall have the best quality of life we can give them.

Chickens Need a Varied Diet

Chickens are true omnivores. Being truly omnivorous means they need a varied diet of plant matter and animal protein, like bugs and such. They could live on one or the other but that isn’t the recipe for the healthiest chickens on the planet. Ultimately, this means the best diet a chicken can have is that of a free range chicken. For many reasons though free ranging your chickens may not be a viable option for you. This is probably most people for one reason or another. I personally live in an area where we have a lot of random roaming dogs and all kinds of predators like coyotes, mountain lions, hawks and owls. That doesn’t change my feelings on the health of my flock though. I still want them to get a nutritious healthy varied diet.

Feeding Time is Bonding Time

Nothing motivates chickens like food. My flock knows where the easiest food to get comes from and that is me. I can’t walk outside without the entirety of my flock running and flying to the corner of the chicken run closest to me. First thing to understand is proper chicken nutrition starts with a good quality balanced feed. For that I swear by Scratch and Peck and so do the ladies. This is the one food that I have available to them at all times of the day for them to free feed.

Tossing Some Chicken Scratch to The Ladies | Almost Free Chicken Feed
Tossing Some Chicken Scratch to The Ladies

Check out Scratch and Pecks Story Here

This doesn’t stop them from greeting me every morning and evening for fresh food I bring them. The bag feed is definitely the most expensive part of raising chickens but eggs have value but even then it isn’t that much really. Generally my flock of 13 goes though about one 40 lbs bag of the Scratch and Peck Layer Feed a month. My wife and I go through a ton of eggs but there will always be a surplus and people want high quality eggs. We plan to start selling our surplus eggs once the chicks start laying. Which should be any day now. That’ll cut down on costs as well.

Supplementing chicken food is also a great way to cut down on the costs of feeding them the bag stuff. Anything I grow and throw in the run cuts down on the amount of the bag food I they eat.

Fodder for Almost Free Chicken Feed

Fodder is a great thing to add in to your backyard chickens diet. Sprouting grains has long been known to provide more nutrients than just eating the seed straight. If we are going to be feeding out livestock grains why not sprout some of them and give that to them as well? Some information I have read online gives the impression that you are multiplying the amount of food from 5 lbs to 25 lbs but they don’t seem to really see why fodder is so great. One reason that claim can be misleading is that a lot of that weight gain is actually water.

The main benefits come from the live food aspect as well as the how much higher the vitamin content is. There are different kinds of Fodder out there as it is pretty much any seed you mass sprout and serve as a sprouted grain. Barley is one of the most common and that is what I use.

Learn More about Fodder Nutrition Here

As you can see the vitamin content skyrockets when spouted. These numbers are based on 6 day sprouts. The Beta-Carotene is especially great and sought after for more than just the health benefits. It also plays a pivotal role in getting those deep orange yolks we all want so much.

Fodder is Super Inexpensive

While not free Fodder is quite inexpensive once you have your system up and running. After spending hours and hours looking for a decent price on Fodder seed I decided I would check around town. Seed is so heavy that buying it online comes with a lot of shipping cost. Finally I found a company in town that specializes in seed and am now able to buy a 50 lb bag for $15. This lasts me a few months for my 13 birds. I haven’t crunched the numbers for the exact cost but it works out to almost free chicken feed in my books. With the added benefit oof being awesome for winter it is a no brainer for me.

Potential Problems with Fodder

While Fodder is an awesome way to get quality fresh food for livestock it does have its downfalls. It does require a decent amount of maintenance and interaction. Then there is the fact that mold is fairly easy to wind up with. You don’t want your chickens eating mold. Fodder is awesome for adding greens in to your chicken diet during winter months because it can be done in doors and for me that is where it really shines.

I am going to be doing a post on how to do a proper fodder system another time. I am currently in the process of designing an automatic fodder system but that will still require cleaning and interaction daily. Again though, for getting fresh greens to my birds in the harsh winters we get here in Central Oregon it is an important part of chicken keeping for me.

Almost Free Chicken Feed

My preferred method of work is automation. If I can automate a task and get great yield that is what I want to do. One top of that, if I can do the work once and pay once then have an abundance of quality product then I am absolutely going to go that route without question. This next method of getting almost free chicken feed is by far my favorite.

Pasture Seed

Part of my whole plan with raising chickens was for it to not cost more than buying eggs. That meant I would need to be creative on housing and feeding them. Not long after bringing chickens home for the first time I had the idea to plant some pasture seed just outside my chicken run so I could automate growing healthy supplemental food for them outside. I tilled, de-rocked and de-weeded the plot I chose. For just $15 I got enough Poultry Pasture Seed to do a 2000 sq. ft. area.

Fresh planted pasture area for free chicken feed

This is a great mix and it grows fantastic where we live.

The Mix:

  • Three Types of Clover (20% White Dutch Clover, 20% Red Clover and 20% Subterranean Clover)
  • 15% Alfalfa
  • 15% Field Pea
  • 10% Common Flax

After Planting the seed mix I set up a lawn sprinkler and connected it to a Programmable Hose Faucet Timer. Then programmed it to water every 6 hours, I live in the desert you may need it to water less often.

This is my preferred system because it requires no work on my part anymore. In the morning when I go out to greet the chickens I grab some shears and cut off a big handful then cut it up for them. They go wild and get high quality feed while it costs me about nothing at this point.

Becoming Self Sustainable

In the end the goal here is to provide our flocks with the best life we can. In my mind the best way to do that is to give them a life where they are encouraged to be themselves while getting the nutrition they need. This truly becomes a symbiotic relationship between us and our animals. For me chickens are the best pets I have every had. They are a ton of fun and provide food for the family. Having them convert what is essentially free feed into nutritious eggs is an amazing system to be a part of. The fact that the ladies seem to love me for it is pretty awesome too!

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