Raising your own chickens has many advantages. They produce eggs and entertainment for days.
Feeding your chickens can get rather costly if you depend upon the local feed stores to do the job. That is why learning how to find cheap chicken feed or raising your own can be vital in raising chickens.
It also shows you one more great advantage to raising chickens: they are little garbage disposals.
Fodder is nothing more than soaking and sprouting seeds. It is so easy yet so cost effective. You can sprout many different kinds of seeds, but my personal favorite is wheat.
You can usually get a 50lb bag of wheat for around $8-$9. This will produce around 400lbs of food for your chickens.
Start by soaking wheat seeds in a container for 12-24 hours. Then place them in a tub with holes drilled for drainage. Water the seeds daily and within 7 days you’ll have
Water the seeds daily and within 7 days you’ll have chicken feed.
Soak seeds daily so the fodder stays on a 7-day cycle. Fodder can be grown outdoors in warmer temps or indoors year round. I actually grow mine in my living room.
I actually grow mine in my living room.
You can build your own fodder set up for around $30 or less. It is very cost effective and provides everything that your chickens need.
Read more about growing your own fodder here.
2. Meal Worms
Mealworms are another food that can be grown right in your living room and no one would even know it. You purchase mealworms by the poundage from local or online retailers.
Place them in oats, with a potato or carrot for water, and then they reproduce.
They can be grown in under the bed boxes or in a 3 tier plastic shelving system. Both of these methods allow you to grow food for your chickens discretely.
This is a great source of protein for your chickens and practically free for you. Check out this article on how to get started raising your own mealworms!
3. Weeds and Lawn Clippings
Yard clippings are great chicken food.
When mowing your grass, save the yard clippings and feed them to your chickens. You can also save and reuse the weeds from your vegetable garden and flower beds as chicken feed.
Chickens are the perfect animals to stop wasting anything. This is just one more way to put waste to good use.
4. Hearty Greens and Root Vegetables
Hearty greens like turnip greens, kale, sorrel, swiss chard, and leaf lettuce can be grown practically all year long. This equates to great and practically free chicken feed.
Any type of hearty greens can be grown outdoors during most of the year.
If you have a cold frame greenhouse, they can be grown during the coldest of temps without electricity.
Root vegetables are also cold resistant and can be grown throughout the year. Chickens love carrots, parsnips, onions, and other root vegetables. They especially appreciate the burst of vitamins they receive from fresh grown vegetables during the cold winter months when they are lacking the extra hours of sunlight.
Here is a great way to grow greens for your chickens so they can’t scratch up the seeds!
5. Deer Corn
When deer corn is in season we buy it locally for around $6.00/50lb bag. We then take it home and run it through our wood chipper. This gives us inexpensive cracked corn to feed to our chickens.
Corn mixed with some of the above options should give your birds a cheap balanced diet without making them overweight.
6. Kitchen Scraps
Some frown upon feeding their chickens table scraps, but my birds love them!
As soon as they see my compost pail they start running towards it. Chickens will eat almost all table scraps, but I do not feed mine meat.
Feeding your chickens from the table keeps food from going to waste as well as keeping your chickens fed with no extra cost. Just use portion control so your birds do not develop a weight problem.
7. Garden Left Overs
When gardening, you often have vegetables or fruits that go bad before they get picked or are just not what you would like to eat or can.
That’s okay! Feed these seconds to your chickens.
Chickens will eat most any vegetable or fruit out of your garden. Since they are foragers, they will not only eat the fruit of your plant but if you have weaker plants you can feed them to your chickens too.
8. Their Own Egg Shells
Your chickens can give you eggs but don’t waste their egg shells. Grind them up and feed them back to them! Chickens require calcium to produce eggs with hard shells.
By feeding them their own shells, it helps keep their calcium levels up.
Their egg shells can be mixed in with any of the above options for a much-needed calcium boost and once again, at no extra cost to you.
Mix in some apple cider vinegar or garlic into their water and your chickens will have all of the vitamins they need to be happy, healthy layers.
Jill has a few tips on feeding eggshells to your chickens.
Feeding egg shells to chicken won't bring any negative effect, but you still have to feed them with other source of calcium like oyster shell from time to time. Diatomaceous earth can also be a good supplement.
Chickens love sunflowers and their seeds.
I never knew this until I experimentally grew sunflowers next to the chicken coop last year. My sunflowers grew amazingly well because of all of the natural fertilizer and my chickens had fun trying to jump and eat the sunflowers as they drooped over from their size.
Feeding your chickens sunflowers can be accomplished in two ways: by growing sunflowers or buying oiled sunflower seeds. You can buy oiled sunflower seeds in 50lb bags.
They can be sprouted and used as fodder or fed to the chickens straight.
If you choose to grow your own sunflowers, you can cut off the heads of the sunflowers when full grown.
You then can hang them somewhere dry (i.e. barn, covered shed, building) and then toss the whole sunflower head to your chickens each day.
10. Fermented Grains
Fermenting grains is the first step to growing fodder. However, if you don’t want to create your own fodder system, you don’t have to. Instead, you can still buy wheat seeds (or any other inexpensive grain) and soak them in water overnight.
That is all there is to fermenting your own grains.
There are many health benefits to feeding your chickens fermented grains. Just as importantly, this method saves you money.
When feeding chickens scratch grains, they do just that…scratch…all through the grains. A lot of your feed ends up on the coop floor. When you ferment your grains they also are less likely to scratch through it and waste food.
Purchasing wheat seed to ferment can usually be purchased locally for about $2-3 less per 50lb bag in comparison to store bought scratch feed.
Fermented grain is also known to strengthen chicken’s egg shell consistency.
So now that you know how I feed my chickens for practically no cost, how do you feed your chickens on the cheap?