can I feed my chickens with only food scraps?


10 Years
Oct 6, 2009
I'm about to be a new chicken farmer. My friends and I are getting chickens for our school's campus, and we're trying to make it a sustainable operation (i.e. as little outside inputs as possible). We plan on having about 3-4 chickens.

They'll be in empty garden beds, and will get a lot of tastiness from grit, grubs, bugs and weeds from the soil. We're gonna supplement that with food scraps from the kitchen, so will store-bought feed be necessary? if so, how much? if not, awesome!

I'll probably be on these boards a lot in the future. i'm a total noob when it comes to chickens.

I doubt it...

it is possible if they have enough free range space, but just think, would you be happy and healthy if all you got were scraps and never got anything especially for you? You'd survive, but you wouldnt be plump and cheerful (and laying eggs everyday).

Chickens need a proper balanced diet to stay happy and healthy (dont we all). You can supplement their proper feed with table scraps and free ranging, and they will eat alot less of it, but they should still have 24hour access to real food.

Edited to Add: I sell my eggs for $3 a dozen and it just covers the food costs and leaves me some extra eggs of my own to eat as well
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I'd offer feed at the end of the day. Food scraps are not a real good option, especially if you want them to lay well or end up in the freezer?
If you are just keeping them for lawn ornaments, food scraps might help them survive but it would have to be some pretty good scraps!

If you offer feed at the end of the day, they will have foraged all day and have found all the feed they can on their own and the extra feed will send them to bed with a full belly. If you have some left in the morning, you are feeding too much. If not, you might kick it up a notch, especially in the winter.

If you want birds who produce eggs for the family, you definitely need some feed. You can try whole grains, grow supplemental feed sources such as sunflower seeds, meal worms, earth worms, veggies and fruits if you want to be sustainable as possible.

Try clicking on the links for sister sites at the bottom of each page and visit next door at the site. Look up Freemotion, she feeds her flock on whole grains only with some home grown supplementation. She can steer you in the right direction!

Welcome to the forum!
You're going to get a lot of different opinions on this one (probably). Mine is that while feeding them completely off of scraps and garden bugs works and they will survive if you do it right, your chickens will almost certainly get much better nutrition from a good commercial feed mixed in. Especially because you admit you are new to this... it's the doing it right part that would scare me. Someone with a lot more experience would have better odds. You could probably get a bag of 8 dollar feed to last you 2 months. Secondly, if you plan on getting eggs from these chickens (didn't specify hen's or roosters) you are going to have additional nutritional concerns (calcium, additional protein, etc) Me personally I would supplement with commercial feed. It's worth the peace of mind. As your experience grows, venture off the commercial feed when you really know what they need (how to tell when they aren't getting it), etc..

good luck
thanks you guys. we were leaning towards using some store-bought feed. we could experiment with growing some of our own grains, though. that would be awesome:)

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