1. Come check out hundreds of awesome coop pages (and a few that need suggestions) in our 2018 Coop Rating Project!

How Do You Cut Costs Feeding Your Chickens?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Barry Natchitoches, Dec 12, 2010.

  1. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Songster

    Sep 4, 2008
    With the skyrocketing cost of chicken feed this winter, I got to wondering how other folks are cutting feed costs while maintaining the hens nutrition.

    So if you have some good ideas for cutting costs, why not share them with the rest of us.

    Here are a few ideas of things that I do:

    1, I have friends who live out on farms outside the city. So I am able to get some of their unsaleable produce in the summer, and feed it to my chickens. For example, one friend has a small roadside market on the road by his farm, and he sells the produce grown by a number of other farmers in the area. Because of this, he often gets locally grown watermelon that break or crack in transit, or else are oddly shaped, or have a small bad spot in them, or have been dropped, or in some other way are not perfect enough to sell. So he saves those blemished or oddball watermelon for my chickens. Do you really think my chickens care if the watermelon is not 100% pretty and perfect? I, in return, bring this farmer friend a dozen or two fresh country eggs when I go to pick up his second rate produce.

    I have a dairy farming friend who gives me old raw milk for the chickens, and who lets me clean up spilled alfalfa after the cows have eaten at the alfalfa blocks. That's more free food for my chickens.

    2, When I cut the grass, I use the bagging attachment on my mower to bag the fresh grass clippings. When the bag gets full, I throw the cut grass over into the chicken yard. The chickens eat some of the grass (and any bugs or seeds that are in with that grass debris), which helps me reduce the feed bill. The rest they scratch in, poop in, and ultimately turn into compost. After they have scratched and played in these grass clippings for a month or two, I age this manure/grass muxture for about a half of a year in a compost pile. After this manure/grass mixture has aged sufficiently, I add it to my vegetable garden bed. It's the best fertilizer you can put on a garden, and saves me alot of money when I don't have to go buy fertilizer at the gardening store.

    The chickens will eat the parts of most vegetable plants that humans do not eat -- things like the leaves of the bean plants, the huge outer leaves of cabbage plants, etc.

    Same thing with the weeds that I pull out of the vegetable garden -- my chickens LOVE fresh, green weeds and dandelions.

    You just have to make sure you don't feed them the leaves from tomato, pepper, potato or eggplants. These are called "nightshade" plants, and although their fruits are safe to eat, their leaves, stems and roots are not. Humans as well as chickens can be poisoned if they eat the leaves, stems or roots of these plants.

    And don't feed them mushrooms, because they are poisonous too.

    3, I take kitchen vegetable scraps (like the outer leaves of cabbages, the greenery off of the carrot, etc) that I cut away when cooking, and give that to the chickens too.

    4, If I have more eggs than I can use, then I boil some of those eggs, cut the boiled egg up, and give them chopped egg as a treat. They LOVE boiled egg treats.

    5, If I have whole wheat bread that has gotten stale before my family eats it, then I break it up and give the stale bread to the chickens. I do not buy, nor would I ever feed my chickens, white bread or anything that is made with white flour since white flour offers absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. But bread made with whole wheat is nutritious, and if it is too stale for my family to eat, there is always the chickens.

    6, When I can, I sell extra eggs and use that money to buy more feed for the chickens. That doesn't reduce the cost of the feed itself, but it does reduce the impact of their feed on my overall household budget.

    7, I threw some wheat seed down in the grass during late fall to provide some fresh grass for my free rangers during the winter. I also planted some turnip greens in the garden to provide both my human family and my chickens some extra fresh greens during the winter.

    8, I haven't done this yet, but you can take wheat seeds (whole wheat berries from whatever source you have) and sprout them, and feed your chickens the sprouts. It takes fewer sprouts to fill a chicken than the unsprouted wheat seed, so it is a cheap and very healthy way to extend the food.

    9, A guy on another website grows maggots for his chickens. OK, I know that sounds horrible, but chickens just see maggots as another source of protein -- and from a nutritional standpoint, it is a pretty good source of protein at that. And best thing of all, it costs almost nothing to grow maggots -- and can be done without being really gross, if you know how to do it.

    He's posted it over on another website, and I can provide a link to his work (or just copy it over here, if he consents).

    I have NOT grown maggots for my chickens myself, but I've copied the instructions on how to do it in case the budget gets tight enough to warrant it.

    That's what I've done.

    What ideas can you share for cutting the feed bill?
    2 people like this.

  2. Backyard Bob

    Backyard Bob Chirping

    Mar 1, 2013
    Good post. I am also looking for ways too cut the feed bill.
  3. Nike

    Nike Young&Beautiful

    Jul 8, 2012
    My Coop
    Those are great ideas, I'm going to subscribe to this thread.

    Some things that I do are just letting them free range as much as possible so they'll eat their findings rather than the feed. It's not possible here in winter but they will throughout the rest of the year!

    Also I use hay for my bedding and they like to get the alfalfa leaves out of it.

    And lastly I just keep a gallon bucket by our trash can and we dump our scraps in there and I give it to them. My family knows I love chickens so they set out a bucket at Christmas for me too and I take the scraps home from that too!
  4. Deerling

    Deerling Songster

    Feb 5, 2013
    King County, WA
    These are such good ideas! Thank you. You kind of mentioned these, but we are considering having a mealworm "farm" and growing some veggies (Swiss Chard, etc) specifically for the chickens. I don't know if this would help, but I've seen people make the screens that fit over grass so the chickens can eat the grass but not scratch up the roots.
  5. nickelcityhens

    nickelcityhens Hatching

    Feb 13, 2013
    Beaver Lake, Ontario
    This is an amazing post! I too am looking to cut costs. I do not have any new ideas that you did not mention above! Would be interested in the maggot/worm growing too (maybe.. if I can get over the yuck factor).
  6. Deerling

    Deerling Songster

    Feb 5, 2013
    King County, WA

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by