Producing your own chicken feed. Is it really that complicated?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Demidog, Sep 6, 2014.

  1. Demidog

    Demidog Chirping

    May 16, 2014
    Tell me if this is OK for hens for eggs:

    We've grown corn and sunflower for the chickens, and we swapped some bags of corn for wheat. I'm mixing 3 cups corn, 1 cup sunflower and 2 cups wheat and crushing it all together in an over sized pestle and mortar (we desperately need to invest in a mill!). I'm filling their feeder and refilling it when it goes down every couple of days, they have free access to it. I let the chickens out to free range in the garden everyday and they've gone to town on my kale and perpetual spinach [​IMG] I've got a compost pile on the go with all the fallen fruit raked up from the fruit trees and I'm throwing all the kitchen scraps on top. Is this enough? Should i be adding anything else to the grain mix? Am i even mixing it in the right concentrations? Does it have to be an exact science?
  2. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

    Jun 1, 2009
    What your mixing is just a grain mix not much different than scratch grain.

    I would say that your mix is at best a 10 to 12 percent protein at best and even after free ranging your chicken ain't getting the proteins, vitamins, minerals and energy they need.

    Chicken needs to have the correct amount of proteins, energy, fat, vitamins, minerals etc. If any of the ingredients are off it can and will affect your birds. Yes it can and be a science.
    1 person likes this.

  3. Yep, you pretty much made them the equivalent of a Happy Meal treat, it's far from the balanced daily diet they need to be healthy and thrive... The fact you are supplementing it with free range and other stuff helps, but they are likely to fill up their stomachs with the 'junk food' first...

    A balanced diet is going to have to have A LOT of variety and/or supplemented with vitamins, minerals and proteins just like it does for humans...

    IMO until you mixing in upwards of 50 or more different ingredients chosen based on them supplying the dietary needs of the chicken, you are going to be nowhere near a balanced feed diet...

    A chicken in the 'wild' that is free ranging as mother nature intended is going to eat several dozens of species of bugs each day, a boat load of misc trace vitamins and minerals in the dirt and what not as well as several dozens of other items including grains, fruits and vegetables...
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  4. pdirt

    pdirt Songster

    May 11, 2013
    Eastern WA
    I enjoy and respect Chris09's input on chicken nutrition. He sounds like he really knows his stuff, from the scientific level of nutrition. I always learn something from him.

    Then there are folks who knew grandpa that never fed his chickens anything but cracked corn and he got eggs every day, the chickens got good and strong and lived a long time. And then they tried to do the same thing and their chickens stopped laying and they wondered why. The big difference is that grandpa had no coop and his chickens got most of their nutrition from free-ranging but now they keep their chickens locked up in a coop with no other option but the corn. In that case, the chickens would suffer from malnutrition. Granpda also lived in a lush countryside with lots of varied food sources rather than in a city or the desert where free-ranging for food is less optimal.

    My point is that I do believe there are aspects of nutrition that go beyond formulated chicken feed. My personal opinion is that formulated chicken feed has a lot of nutrition to offer over a single grain or legume, but it's no comparison for really good range, in addition to some formulated feed. If I knew more of the science, perhaps I could create the perfect permaculture for ideal nutrition for chickens. My personal opinion is not necessarily even based upon science...I just can't stand seeing chickens locked up being fed only formulated feed. Doesn't seem like much of a life for an animal to not have the freedom to run around. I know that will upset some folks because where they live they can't let them free range for various reasons, but I hope y'all don't take it personally.

    To summarize, I agree with Chris09 and MeepBeep...the feed you are mixing isn't balanced nutrition. You might want to read up more on what makes it balanced. In the meantime, you could force them to free range more by withholding your "scratch feed" mixture until very late in the day and then again, don't feed them too much, but as a treat. That way, they will be compelled by hunger to hunt for their own food on the range and will come with full crops before getting their treat. Similar to what MeepBeep said, if they are chickens good at free-ranging, they will find more balanced nutrition on their own.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2014
    1 person likes this.

  5. IMO this is also very important to consider for the backyard chicken keeper... The cultured nearly weed and bug free grass in your neighborhood lawn is worlds different from a pasture of farm grass on a rural farm, both in the vegetation, soil and other wildlife...

    I live on 30 acres of 'farm' land, and I just mowed about a 1/4" of 'lawn' this morning... Not that I was really paying attention, but I saw literally dozens of toads dodging the mower, a few frogs, easily 100s of crickets and 1000s of grasshoppers, among whatever other flying bugs I disturbed that were swarming... That was just want I saw... There is no comparison to the amount of critters I saw today vs what I have seen (or better never seen) when mowing neighborhood lawns...

    I have grown up 'rural' most of my life, and it has never ceased to amaze me that when you live in most neighborhoods you can hang out at night, dusk, dawn or even midday without mosquito spray during the summer, I would look like a leper if I ventured outside my house with it for any length of time... Point is free range does not equal free range, consider your environment and surroundings because even if your chickens are 'free range' they might not be really getting everything they need...
  6. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Another point to add to all the above; grandma's hens may have produced 80 to 100 eggs in a good year, and ended up in the pot when they became less productive. Wild hens produced a clutch of eggs or two per year. Our birds are bred to lay MANY more eggs, and need balanced diets to manage what their genetics demand. Modern nutritionists have developed feeds that meet the needs of modern birds; it's complicated and not reproducible in my kitchen, not to mention the economies of scale in buying ingredients. I buy good commercial feed and am delighted that my flock can range on my weed and bug infested unsprayed farm. Mary
  7. Demidog

    Demidog Chirping

    May 16, 2014
    We don't live in a city, we're in a rural village, and my garden is overgrown with weeds.The chickens spend all day foraging in the garden and usually don't touch the feeder during the day.However, I'd like to know what types of grains should i add to my mix? Are there additional vitamin/mineral supplements that are necessary? We're trying to be as self-sufficient as possible and to keep costs to a minimum. We've got a smallholding and next year we can grow a larger variety of grains, which ones are best to grow, apart from corn, wheat and sunflower?
  8. theophila

    theophila In the Brooder

    I would suggest adding another higher-protein grain or seed (or pseudograin) such as quinoa, amaranth, or split peas. I'm definitely not a chicken expert, but I do understand nutrition, so these are what I'd suggest in terms of human foods. I also give my girls scraps from the table, which includes things such as leftover bits of (cooked) fish or beef from dinner and throw the shells of any eggs I cook in the oven whenever I roast something and then crush it and put it in a separate container for them so they can get calcium. Also, soaking, sprouting, and fermenting helps to break down the enzyme inhibitors that protect the seed and grain, which makes the nutrients a lot more available for absorption for your chickens. It's an easy way to reduce the amount of feed you need to give them (they get fuller more quickly) and a cheap way to increase the quality of their food. Once you get a batch fermented, it's really as simple as replacing whatever feed you scoop out of the current batch with some fresh feed, topping off with filtered water if necessary, so the helpful bacteria is still going at all times.
  9. vehve

    vehve The Token Finn

    @ozexpat might be able to shed some light on this subject too, he mixes his own feed.

    I agree on adding protein, and earlier discussions I've seen on the subject have mostly come to the conclusion that you need quite a large flock to make it worth your while.
  10. ozexpat

    ozexpat CocoBeach Farm

    We all talk of protein. This nutrient is critical.

    You can find almost any product, plant or grain used as feed ingredients at

    My recipe is based on ingredient availability and cost. I blend to get not only protein butthe amino acid lysiene in ideal proportions

    Adult chickens should have 15% protein and 6.2g/Kg Lyseine

    My recipe is

    100lb Rice Bran
    1lb Tuna Fish Meal
    1lb Soy
    1/2 cup Bayer Vitamin and Mineral Supplement
    2lbs Oyster Shell
    1/2 cup salt

    I save 40% over premade feed with this formula

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