Long time lurker, first time poster.
This is my first year raising chickens and it's gone pretty well. I admit that I might have gone a little overboard last spring... I think y'all might call it chicken math, but who can resist a sale right? I bought 25 chicks at a discounted price and got a free bag of feed. Luckily I've got some awesome neighbors and they hate bugs as much as I do, so the girls have been free ranging all summer. I'd let them out early and they'd forage all day, judging by the size of they're crops in the evenings I rarely supplemented any feed. But it's getting cooler, I've had to mow less often, and I've noticed fewer and fewer bugs so I've started giving feed in the evenings to hold them overnight. They started laying a few weeks ago so I'm keeping them penned up until they catch on that I want them to use MY nests... so now I feed them in the mornings too. All this to say that winter is coming, and I have a feeling they're gonna flog me in the wallet for feed.
So on to the questions.
I want to start mixing my own feed. I think it'll be cheaper, I'll know what's in it and I'll be able to tweak the ingredients for other animals as I expand the homestead. But all I can find are recipes with percentages of various ingredients. Does anyone have a source as to what the ingredients contribute (other than protein)? Or maybe what you mix and why you chose those ingredients? I'd like to go organic someday, but right now this is more about saving money...
I'm planning to feed sprouted grains, but is there a reason I haven't heard of sprouting these mixed rations? Seems like it could gain digestibility and nutritional value, reduce costs and maybe soften up larger pieces so they can be kept whole. Like sprouting whole corn vs feeding cracked or meal.
Until I start mixing rations, I plant to ferment the feed I'm already using. I'm not sure why I ever stopped. It was easy and efficient.
I admit, I'm kind of umm... unconventional. Yeah, that's a nice way to explain why, for the past 3-4 months, I've have a stack of containers raising Darkling beetles and their mealworm offspring. So far I've converted store-bought mealworms from pupae to beetles. Those beetles have given me a batch of larvae that are almost as big as the ones I bought originally, another batch roughly half that size, and a third batch that are barely visible. (I move the beetles to fresh feed/substrate every month). They're pretty low maintenance, so that's nice.
Small scale silage is definitely something to remember for next year. I've been mowing my grass with a bagger for composting, I'll add the chickens to the cycle, save on feed and add a decomposition step to my compost, win-win. Still need to find suitable airtight and appropriately sized containers. I'm thinking about 13 gallon trash bags this year, just for their small/useful size. But I don't like disposable bags, can you still recycle plastic bags that have stored wet organic matter for a year or more? Maybe if I can find a source for cheap open-top 30 gallon barrels...
Speaking of compost, I found a large number of Black Soldier Fly larvae in my pile when I turned it last. I'd been watching for those buggers all year and apparently I missed out. There's another food source I plant to exploit next year. I think I might even start a second compost pile in their run (keeping an eye on potential toxins of course).
If I didn't distract you from my questions please help me out. Feel free to add any other ideas you've found to feed your flock on the cheap and healthy.