Opinions Wanted: Homemade Feed Mix


In the Brooder
8 Years

I've been doing quite a bit of research on making my own feed, as the bulk foods store is closer than the nearest feed store and also, I'd rather not feed commerically prepared food.

My hens are not here yet but I will be getting 3 this weekend, all adults.

My mix is assuming around 30lbs finished product and my calculations put it just slightly above 17% protein. They will also have greens and other treats in their diet and will free range when possible. As well, their run is to be covered in coarse sand, so that will take care of their grit. I will also be feeding them their own egg shells for calcium (I'd prefer not to do oyster shells, as I am vegetarian).

5.0lbs Sunflower Seeds
4.0lbs Lentils
4.0lbs Wheat (Hard Red Winter)
4.0lbs Oats
3.0lbs Split Peas
2.5lbs Corn
2.5lbs Spelt
2.0lbs Brown Rice
1.5lsb Barley
0.5lbs Quinoa
0.5lbs Pumpkin seeds
0.5lbs Sesame Seeds
0.5lbs Flax Seeds
0.5lbs Amaranth

I have two questions: 1 - what do you think overall? Is my grain to legume ratio looking good? 2 - As far as DE, Kelp and brewer's yeast additions - what kind of ratios should I include here? Also, considering the extra greens and treats and the provided grit and their ability to free range plus their provided egg shells, what else should I add to their diet?
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I have some suggestions:

1. You might sprout the lentils for them, so that the anti-nutrients in the lentils will not be in operation. Peas have some aniti-nutrients but at low levels. I feed peas raw.

2. You can use tums and yogurt (even milk although some disagree) for chickens as added calcium sources.

Don't put tums in their water though, as they need to self-regulate. You might crush it and mix it in the feed very sparingly. Too much calcium isn't good for them either. Yogurt would be much safer. (You can google tums for chickens.)

See this thread:

3. I would highly recommend giving them larger grit than sand (sand is good for tiny chicks) unless you free range them AND you are certain that you are free ranging often enough for them to find grit (some on BYC might free range just on weekends, for example). Here is a picture of the correct size grit:

#1 for chicks up to 4 weeks
#2 for 4-7 weeks
#3 for over 7 weeks
(This is the brand the feed store sells in my area and is on the back of the bag.)

Grit is vital when you are feeding whole grains, as they cannot get their nutrition out of the grain without grinding it. The sharp rocks in the gizzard are their teeth. Sand won't be as effective.

If feeding a commercial ration with no greens or treats, you don't need added grit.

If you can source any of this at the feed store (animal-grade) you will save some money.

Looks yummy!

I have my recipe on my BYC page if you are interested.
You might have to see how you go with that one... At a glance it's impossible to know if it's a complete diet, but I would suspect it's possibly a little low in some vitamins. Free range with help with D (sunlight), A (though there's a bit in corn) and K, but the overall protein quality won't be high even if the quantity is there.

Basically, chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians. In some seasons or on land they've picked over for a while they won't be able to obtain good quality protein. You'll very likely find they'll go off the lay and become susceptible to worms and other illnesses. (I say that as a person who's quite anti-commercial feed because of some of the additives.)

Commercial producers can make a wheat-soy diet sustainable by adding extra amino acids (typically artificial methionine). I believe artificial methionine may have long term population health consequences but I've still found that it's hard to make a full-profile feed, and I tend to think it's impossible without quite a bit of either insect or other animal protein.

And kizanne is also right: eggshells only replace some of the calcium the birds need every day; there will gradually be a loss. Calcium carbonate powder is available in some petshops but would be a bit too quickly absorbed (a sudden calcium hit) and won't be there for the bird when it's needed (shell glands do a lot of work overnight). Oyster shell calcium is slowly released and goes where it's needed.

But heck, you've done a lot in putting a ration together to get 17% crude protein, so you could give it a try. I would at least add some brewer's yeast (expensive but high in B vitamins) and a pinch of seaweed meal and about 0.1% salt.

Good luck! I'd love to hear how you go; maybe the other grains I know little about supply some of the vitamins needed for vegetarian birds...

best wishes
I forgot to mention that if you add grass clippings to their diet (at the longest 2-3 inches in length to avoid impacted crop because it will ball up if long) daily it will really decrease your feed bill.

I do this with yard scissors or pull the grass, clover, and dandelion leaves with my hands and it is quite obvious that they consider it part of a good diet!!!

They LOVE their grass clippings. (Treats shouldn't comprise more than around 10% of the diet though.) I have noticed with too many greens my girls the next day will have thinner eggshells.

I wouldn't go over about 1% DE and 1% kelp or thereabouts.

Also you might want to see these threads too if you haven't already:

Also- I wanted to mention that I would NOT feed that many split peas.
Here's why:
"Peas are particularly low in methionine (a component of protein that is important for normal feathering and growth) and should not be used as the sole protein source for young birds."
from this website:

Another reason is that I believe you are going to have to grind them in order to get them to eat them at that rate. My chickens have a "dose" of split peas, flax, pumpkin seeds (and that above which, they will simply not eat them anymore and I find them left at the feeder- a big pile of them).

This is just my experience and it may well work for you!

Have fun with it! I love to change my recipe around and I'm so glad you are doing this for your chickens. They will absolutely LOVE your food.
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If you're ever interested in looking at the science, I found a nice roundup of what's needed and at what percentages in a layer diet at: http://www.poultrypro.com/poultry-articles/layers/feeding-programs-for-laying-hens-nutrition-and-shell-quality/

if you do go to read the Tums links beware of this quote: "A total dietary percentage of 0.3% for egg-laying birds is generally sufficient to prevent calcium deficiency." No, no, no. Surely that's a typo. It should be 10 times that amount, i.e. 3% going up to 4% if necessary.


Hey guys,

Thanks so much for the input!! I have taken your advice and have literally spent all day making a massive spreadsheet comparing the info from http://www.poultrypro.com/poultry-a...-for-laying-hens-nutrition-and-shell-quality/ and other sources with the provided nutrients in the ingredients I will be feeding (http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/ is a great resource). I have adjusted my ratios and added a couple of things. (And yes, I apparently have a lot of time on my hands.)

The results:

Parts Ingredient
3.0 Sunflower Seeds
2.0 Lentils
2.0 Oats
2.0 Wheat (Hard Red Winter)
1.5 Corn
1.5 Spelt
1.0 Split Peas
1.0 Brown Rice
1.0 Quinoa
1.0 Pumpkin seeds
1.0 Sesame Seeds
1.0 Flax Seeds
1.0 Amaranth
1.0 Barley
1.0 Celery Seeds
1.0 Tofu

+ Their own egg shells, and about 1% Brewer's Yeast, 1% Kelp and 1% DE.
+ They will be free-ranging, so they will get grass and bugs.
+ I will be providing additional greens and vegetables as treats.
+ They will be receiving a #3 grit.

So, the base diet, minus all of the "+" items listed, provides about 17.28% protein and 2.26% Calcium. Once approx. 60 egg shells are factored into the diet (therefore, about 60 a month, as this recipe will make about 30lbs, which will last be about a month), the available Calcium climbs to 3.6%. They will also receive some from the greens in their diet.

As far as Phosphorus, Iodine, Sodium, and all of the other essential vitamins and minerals - the diet far surpasses the recommended percentages and requirements even without the added Brewer's Yeast and Kelp

So, I guess I'll try them out on a month's worth of this diet and see how it goes. I'll let you know if I end up adjusting it to meet their needs.
Sounds pretty good, especially if the birds can find bugs.

In case you're curious, my diet is sprouted wheat, corn and peas, black sunflower, sweet lupins (which resemble soy in protein terms but don't need cooking), alfalfa soaked in molasses water, shell grit, yeast, kelp and salt.

I can't free range due to goshawks so I also feed an afternoon treat of pet mince (washed and/or cooked to remove preservatives) with oats and kefir, about a dessertspoonful per bird. This keeps the pullets in lay during winter. And I feed lots of chopped grass, dandelions and chickweed.

There are many ways to do this, I'd love to hear how your birds fare.

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