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

Would it be cheaper to just get commercial feed vs. growing your own?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Smokin Silkies, Dec 15, 2009.

  1. Smokin Silkies

    Smokin Silkies formerly browneyebuttafly

    Mar 27, 2009
    Western, PA
    I've been looking around the internet for ways to grow your own chicken food, but now I'm not so sure. It seems like alot of work to do this? I'm not sure if its worth the time. I love my chickens to be as organic and healthy as possible but..... I've read that you have to grow Alfalfa, Comfrey, Duckweed, Oats, Wheat, Barley, Rice, Vegetable seeds, Oystershell or Cuttlefish for Calcium, and herbs like Nettle, Parsley, and the list goes on. I know I can get some grains at some feed stores, but the cost?? So I guess my question is that does anybody feed there chickens homegrown food and what does it include, and also the cost? Are you really saving that much money by growing your own. Would it just be easier to buy the bagged food and TSC??? I only have about 20 chickens and plan on getting a bunch of meat chickens for spring. I'm not sure what to do and would like anybody's input, suggestions. I don't want anything too time consuming with my husband working full time, and I'll be working full time soon and we have 3 children. 2 of them under 2 yrs old. I don't have hours a day to mess with food. Thanks everybody!

  2. Katy

    Katy Flock Mistress

    I guess my first question for you is how much land do you have to do this on? We are grain farmers and unless you have several acres to devote to it, I'd say it's probably not worth the trouble for you.
  3. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Crowing

    Seconded. You will need substantial room to grow enough to keep yourself supplied not to mention care of the crops, harvesting and processing. Do you have the equipment to do this? Not trying to be discouraging, just realistic. It can certainly be done but you are looking at a lot of time and effort. If time to spend on this project is an issue then I'd look for a source of packaged organic feed if you are wanting to go organic.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2009
  4. Akane

    Akane Crowing

    Jun 15, 2008
    Things cost money because they take time or effort. If you do it yourself you expend that time or effort instead of the money you made doing something else that took those things. Technically you don't save anything unless it's something you enjoy and would do on your own anyway. Your chickens might have a slightly healthier diet if you do it right but you better enjoy spending your free time taking care of the land and growing food for them. You can supplement their diet instead of replacing it without as much effort. Pick a plot of land you don't care about and just seed it very heavily with something good for chickens. I did sunflower seeds last year which was also enjoyable for us. You may have to fence it at least part of the year to keep them off it. Then instead of harvesting and storing just let them loose on it to forage it for themselves. You might have to knock it down with a mower or something first. Once they've flattened it all and turned the soil you have good growing ground for next year. Let the chickens do the work. I let them loose on my gardens at the end of every year for that reason. This only works though if we are talking about a small area or lots and lots of chickens and not enough food for them to eat for an entire season. The weeds will take over if you have too large of plot of land and don't care for it and the wildlife will quickly eat whatever the chickens can't if you leave things in the field.
  5. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Songster

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    It would take a whole farm and lots of time just to do this...and some of those things, like rice, only grow well in certain climates, plus for rice you'd need a field you could flood, as it lives in boggy areas only. And you will need some specialized equipment to harvest grains...you'll need several acres of grainfields just to make enough to last you through the year, and you'll have to have harvesting equipment--tractors, unless you have the time to harvest all that by hand! And you'd probably have to be able to irrigate the land, depending on your climate. Which, in some areas, is difficult to do, because you have to own water rights on an irrigation system.

    You don't want anything time consuming? Growing all that stuff would be a full-time job in itself, and I mean way more than 40 hours a week. I run a small farm to feed my family as much as I can from our own land, and a few goats, a few chickens, and a decent sized garden take up hours each week to care for as it is. It will cost you way more to grow all that stuff than it would to buy bags of feed, unfortunately.

    Plus....cuttlefish and oysters? You're not going to be able to farm those at home. You'd need hundreds of gallons of salt water, plus a way to filter and heat all of that, and then you'd have to feed those animals too and wait for them to grow....it's not realistic.

    If you want a cheap, 'organic', less time consuming way to feed your chickens, try letting them free-range most of the day, if it is possible for you. And then supplement that with a packaged organic feed, plus food scraps from your kitchen.
  6. Akane

    Akane Crowing

    Jun 15, 2008
    Chickens don't need rice. Nor do they need cuttlefish and oyster shell. Those are just convenient and cheap things for us to buy or for feed producers to use. There are recipes out there for balanced feeds that can be grown on your typical fertile plot of land in the US without extensive changes. It still takes a lot of time and equipment to grow anything on a scale large enough to feed even a small flock. It takes a lot of plants to produce 50lbs of just the grain and many people go through that in a week. I know people in the midwest that grow all the food for their own livestock. They have few livestock and 40+ acres of land. Just the chickens will take about 10 of that to get through the winter and free range the rest of the year. We grow our own oats and hay for our horses and have 40acres of crop/hay land for 8 of them with them eating only pasture (another 20 acres) from about may to october or november. That leaves us just enough extra hay to pay off the equipment and planting costs.
  7. Smokin Silkies

    Smokin Silkies formerly browneyebuttafly

    Mar 27, 2009
    Western, PA
    Quote:Sorry, I should've explained my question further. I know I can't grow rice or 'raise' cuttlefish or oysters. I meant grow what I can like Alfalfa and buy bulk the cuttlefish/oysters and rice etc. But even the other stuff like oats, wheat and whatever, I realize it is too time consuming. I do have 5 acres, but alot is hills and I didn't realize all that acreage and you don't end up with much afterwards. I'll stick with my feed and maybe try and plant some sunflowers and edible healthy plants around my property to munch on. Thanks for all your answers. [​IMG]

  8. ziggywiggy

    ziggywiggy Songster

    May 25, 2009
    McNeal, AZ
    I personally think it's a good idea to suppliment the chickens food with certain small crops. I live in Arizona and if I didn't plant a winter grass crop, they would do without anything fresh for 8 months out of the year. I'm going to grow them alfalfa and winter wheat next growing season. It definitely cuts down on my feed bill.
    I have to agree with everyone else though. I don't think it would be cost effective to grow everything they need unless you were going to do it as a business and even then it would have to be done on a fairly large scale-and like any farming interprise it would be risky.
  9. rhoda_bruce

    rhoda_bruce Songster

    Aug 19, 2009
    Cut Off, LA
    Wow.......I put pretty much the same question on another section and then realized maybe I should look around and maybe it would have been better on feeding and watering your flock. What a bummer. Its a wonder that the farmers can even supply us with our feed. Well I pasture mine to help with the feed costs and give them table and garden scraps and pull out extra grass and rake up clippings for them, but I was planning on growing a bit of grain, if I could on an area after they wipe it out of grass, completely. I was raised on a small farm and my grandfather planted corn and grew some kind of bean to grow up on the stalks and to improve the soil. I was thinking on doing that for my chickens. I don't eat corn much to speak of, so it would just be for them. The way I see it, is one single kernel of corn grows and becomes a stalk, supporting 4 to 6 ears, each capable of having about 700 kernels, so even with a terrible yield, I should find it worth my while. Say I have room for 10 rows of 50' and I plant them 12 inches apart I can easily think I would have about 7,000 planted. I would imagine myself loosing about 2,000 for different reasons.
    Now let me back tract. When I was much younger and didn't know as much about diet therapy for humans and ate a lot of corn, Grandpa used to give me 200 ears a year, which was enough for me. So if I have 5,000 stalks and I just get a whimpy 3 ears of corn, I will still have 15,000 ears. That would be about 41 ears a day until next year, not to mention the cowpeas or soybeans I would also have in there. I only grew corn once myself, but I always have a garden growing and grandpa is still alive and well, so I can always show him this or ask him about that.
    I can easily spend 50 dollars in just 3 weeks on feed, so if I possibly can, I'm in.
  10. Katy

    Katy Flock Mistress

    Quote:Most all varieties of corn only have 2-3 ears per stalk.....mostly 2.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by