Making Your Own Chicken Feed
A Healthy Layer Feed for Your Flock
A balanced poultry feed is essential for healthy chickens. Some chickens free range and they add to their foraging by eating a poultry feed with the needed nutrients. When your flock is confined to a coop and run, a good quality feed is the most important thing you can give to your flock. Is making your own chicken feed possible? How do you balance nutrition when mixing your own grains? Read on and find out how.
Before you start buying bags of bulk grain and nutritional additives, investigate the formulation necessary for laying birds. The primary goal in mixing your own feed is providing optimal nutrition in a palatable combination. There’s no sense mixing up expensive grains if they don’t taste good to your chickens!
What are the Nutritional Requirements of Chickens?
Just as with any animal, chickens have certain nutritional needs that must be met by their food. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins combine in a balanced formula so that the nutrients are available to the chicken’s system. Water is the other essential nutrient required in all diets. On the bag of commercial poultry feed, you see a tag stating the nutrient ingredients using percentages.
Protein percentage in a standard layer poultry feed is between 16 and 18 percent. Grains vary in the amount of protein available during digestion. Using different grains is possible when mixing your own feed. You may want to choose organic, non-GMO, soy free, corn free or organic grains. When making substitutions to a poultry feed ration, make sure the protein level remains close to 16- 18%. If you purchase a bag of chicken feed the formulation has been done for you. The feed company has done the calculations based on a normal chicken’s requirements. Using a proven formula or recipe when making your own chicken feed will ensure that the nutrients are balanced and that your birds are receiving appropriate levels of each.
Chicken Ration percentages using bulk grain and nutrients:
- 30% corn (whole or cracked, I prefer using cracked)
- 30% wheat – (I like to use cracked wheat)
- 20% dried peas
- 10% oats
- 8% fish meal
- 2% Nutri-Balancer or Kelp powder, for proper vitamin and mineral nutrients
How to Make Homemade Chicken Feed
If you have a large flock of laying hens, the best way to mix a poultry feed will be buying large sacks of each ingredient from a grain supplier or feed dealer. This may take some homework and investigating to find a source for the ingredients, but you should be able to source the ingredients without too much trouble. The next issue to deal with is storing the grains. Large metal trashcans or bins with tight-fitting lids help keep the grains dry, dust-free, and protected from rodents and insects. It is important to estimate how much feed you will need for the month. Storing fresh grain for longer than a few weeks can end up wasting your money if the grains lose freshness.
An alternative to making your own chicken feed from large amounts of grain is to buy smaller quantities of the individual components. Ordering online can be a source of five-pound sacks of whole grain. Here is a sample formula you could use to make up approximately 17 pounds of layer feed. If you have a small backyard flock, this might be all you need for a few weeks of feeding.
Small Batch DIY Chicken Feed Recipe
- 5 lbs. corn or cracked corn
- 5 lbs. wheat
- 3.5 lbs. dried peas
- 1.7 lbs. oats
- 1.5 lbs. fish meal
- 5 ounces (.34 lb.) Nutri–Balancer or Kelp powder, for proper vitamin and mineral nutrition
(I have sourced all the above ingredients from the Amazon shopping site. You probably have your own favorite online source of food ingredients.)
Grit for Poultry: Offering Proper Supplements to The Flock
Calcium and grit are two supplement food products often added to the feed or offered free choice. Calcium is important for the creation of strong egg shells. Feeding calcium is usually done by either adding oyster shell or recycling the used egg shells from the flock and feeding them back to the chickens.
Grit for poultry consists of small ground up dirt and gravel that the chickens naturally pick up while pecking the ground. It is needed for proper digestion, so we often add it to the diet free choice to make sure the chickens get enough. Grit ends up in the gizzard of the bird and helps grind up grain, plant stems, and other harder foods. When chickens don’t have enough grit, impacted crop or sour crop can occur.
Black oil sunflower seeds, mealworms, and grubs are good sources of added nutrition and often regarded as treats by the flock. In addition to making your chickens very happy, these foods add a boost of protein, oil, and vitamins.
We hear a lot about adding probiotic foods to our diets and our animal’s diets. Probiotic foods enhance the gut absorption of nutrients. It is possible to buy a powdered form of probiotics, but you can also easily do this on your own. Raw apple cider vinegar and fermenting chicken feed are two simple ways to add probiotics to the chicken’s diet regularly.
When you are mixing your own grains to form a DIY poultry feed, you have the perfect ingredients for making a fermented feed. Whole grains, fermented for just a few days, have increased nutrient availability and are full of good probiotics!
Making a poultry feed from ingredients you choose is more than just doing a DIY project. You are ensuring that your flock is receiving quality, fresh ingredients in a balanced ration. What type of ingredients have you used for a poultry feed? Has any ingredient not worked out for your flock?