How to feed chickens without buying feed


10 Years
Nov 14, 2009
Kingman Arizona
It is getting so expensive to buy bagged feed here that it has quickly come to the point of either not keep animals or find alternative ways to feed them. Scratch feed is $10 for a 40 pound bag, and Flock Raiser or layer pellets are $20-ish for 50 pounds...I would probably go through about 50-60 pounds of food a week to feed the number of chickens I have to keep to provide my family with eggs and meat. $20+ a week--just for the chickens, not counting goats--is a bit out of my budget at the moment, with myself unemployed with little prospect of finding a job, and my husband in college plus only working part time. We need to raise our own meat if we are going to eat any, since we are Jewish and the nearest location to buy kosher meat is two hours away, where chicken costs $10 a pound! So, I'm working on things that I can feed my birds to cut down the amount of store bought feed they need, or even completely cut them off of it. Once I can get my birds laying it will be better, I figure if I can get a dozen eggs a day coming in, then I have 2 dozen a week for my family, and 5 dozen I can sell at $2 a dozen for an income of $10 a week that will go back into feeding the animals.

Right now:
They get at least an average of 2 hours a day to free-range, I aim for 6+ hours but I can't let them out unless I am home to watch them, because of predators. They look like they are full when they come in, though I am not sure what they are eating out in the desert...and what they can get and how much varies drastically with the season, obviously. We don't have grass for pasture either, it is too dry here.

I feed all the food scraps from our kitchen and garden, which amounts to about a gallon a day on average, but obviously that's not much split between 20-50 birds. I'm looking for a restaurant/school/store to allow me to collect scraps a few times a week, but so far no one is interested, they are afraid that I am going to take them for my own consumption and then either they would get sued when I get sick, or I would somehow make a profit off their garbage, or who knows what...I used to raise my birds that way when I was a kid, just scratch and table scraps from the elementary school, but no one wants to give up their trash anymore.

I was getting spent grains from a brewery, but my neighbors who pick the stuff up are going to either have to start charging a lot for it or quit getting it, because it's a 4 hour round trip to pick it up, twice a week, and if they miss a pick up, they won't be able to get the stuff anymore, the brewery will give it to someone else who is reliable. So, I will probably only be able to get about 50 gallons a month at the price of $15, not bad, but that stuff goes bad fast and is not a complete feed.

I'm looking at other things, and would like some input from anyone who does or knows about the following:
Growing food for them in the garden: I've got about a quarter acre of garden-able land, what would be good foods for them? I'm thinking of wheat grass/alfalfa/bermuda grass (these things readily sprout in my garden walkways from my hay that I mulch with, so it's already available and in use, I just cut it down daily and serve to the birds), soybeans, peas, and assorted salad greens, what else, especially protein foods?
Culturing some sort of edible critter like worms or mealworms or...? Could this be done reasonably to feed the number of birds I have?

The biggest thing I think is getting protein into them, what would be some good cheap/ "free" protein?
I know that crickets can be raised easily in a rubbermaid tote, and they eat next to nothing. You might do some reading up on that. Crickets have great protein and calcium percentages and would be a great supplement for your girls.

I've been waiting for that day too long! I bought most of my pullets in February and not an egg yet...

Wondering how many crickets or mealworms I'd need to feed per bird on a daily basis to really make a difference? Lol anyone know the nutritional content of a cricket?

I've been waiting for that day too long! I bought most of my pullets in February and not an egg yet...

Wondering how many crickets or mealworms I'd need to feed per bird on a daily basis to really make a difference? Lol anyone know the nutritional content of a cricket?

Honestly, not vey high depending on how well they're kept. I hate crickets for feeders. Raise roaches, Blaptica dubia, Lobster roaches, or turkistan. Note these are all exotics and will not survive in the US. Most need high temps and very high humidity. Blaptica dubia (Which I raise for my reptiles) is a largish roach at 2 1/2 inches and is very meaty, and does not climb or fly. It tops out at 36% protein, and when you have enough they breed fast. For those, is a great site. Lobster roaches breed like bacteria, and are around an inch. For many birds, these are great when you have several bins set up. The bad thing? They climb, a layer of petroleum jelly or insect-a-slip should do the trick. But if they ever got out, I doubt one would live longer than a day in your dry air. Turkistan roaches are the same really, and cannot climb, but are a tad smaller. For your numerous birds, you would need several colonies, but they are low maintence. (They need heat and humidity though, keep that in mind, 80 degrees plus and 60% humidity at least)
chicken feed up there is expensive its about 10 dollars a 50 pound bag of layers and 8 for a 50 pound bag of scratch here. i know this sounds gross but restaraunts throw everything out at night in big dumpsters you dont really have to ask lol. it was all cooked that day so its pretty safe and if you need to keep it just freeze it. i hope you find something you can do good luck.
I've thought of that, and it may happen. I was hoping to be able to provide them with containers that have lids where they will throw only food, so I'm not having to sort out paper goods and other trash and then having to throw that in my own trash can. If I had to re-dispose of that stuff, I'd have to "sneak" it back into the restaurant dumpster lol.

The humidity might be an issue on the roaches, our humidity is very low, I already have issues with the incubator. I'm sure something could be done about that though, I'll look at those. Crickets are incredibly plentiful here in the summertime, so I could probably get a breeding colony of wild-caught ones for free, if not, they are readily available at Petco. I could keep several large colonies housed outside in summer easily enough, but in the winter they'd have to be inside because it gets below 40 at night...But I'm thinking the family might be more willing to deal with crickets than roaches, for some reason I can't see my in-laws (who live here) being terribly excited about boxes of roaches in the house.
This could very well be from poor diet. If the are not getting the nutrition they need they may never lay an egg.....Most varieties start laying at around 21 weeks, some heritage varieties start later, some hybrids start sooner.


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