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Are you spending too much money on chicken feed? Maybe you’ve fallen on hard times and unable to afford feed. Or, maybe there is a food shortage and you are not able to replenish your supply. All of these scenarios beg the same question- how to save money on chicken feed.
Below are some of the ways that I save money feeding my 50+ chickens.
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When I started with my first flock of chickens, it wasn’t long before the wild birds and field mice showed up to take part in the chicken food buffet. I used to have a feeder with an open trough, so it’s wasn’t difficult for anything to help themselves to the feed. To make matters worse, the chickens would waste feed and throw it on the ground.
It was so bad that I was going through a 50 pound bag of feed every 2-3 days!
Since this was clearly not sustainable, I desperately researched solutions. And that’s when I found treadle feeders.
Treadle feeders are a step activated feeder, basically a chicken steps onto a platform which opens a door to access the feed. Since the chickens’ weight is what opens the door, a starling or mouse is not heavy enough to gain access to the feed.
Since switching to treadle feeders, I have saved so much money and feed waste has been eliminated. I use treadle feeders with all of my birds- chickens, turkeys, pheasants, and even ducks.
While they are initially more expensive than other feeders, the cost savings are immediate!
Free ranging is a great way to supplement your flocks’ diet. While the birds are exploring, they also consume bugs, pieces of grasses and plants, and weed seeds.
It’s important to note that even if you free range all day, chickens will still need access to feed as they can’t forage enough to completely offset their dietary needs, but they will consume less of their feed.
Fermenting feed is my favorite way to offset feed costs. You can give your flock fermented feed as an occasional treat, or completely replace their daily feed with fermented feed.
I think everyone should give their birds fermented feed, even if you are not trying to reduce feed costs!
Fermented chicken feed is a probiotic rich, easily digestible, more nutritious feed created simply by soaking the chickens’ regular feed in dechlorinated water for several days. Think of it like yogurt for your flock.
Not only is fermented feed incredibly healthy, but it also makes the feed you have last longer. The nutrients in fermented feed are more easily absorbed in the digestive system, meaning birds can eat less while still meeting their dietary needs. Plus, the fermented feed has absorbed water so 1 cup of dry feed becomes about 1.5-2 cups fermented feed, filling birds up faster.
Learn more about fermenting feed and how to do it here.
When cooking, I always save my various kitchen scraps for the birds. These make great treats for the flock, and also adds some variety to their diet.
For the most part, if it’s good for you to eat, it’s good for the chickens to eat too.
For a full list of what chickens can and cannot eat, take a look at our Ultimate List.
Fodder or Sprouted Grains
When referring to chickens, fodder refers to sprouted grains. Some folks soak seeds in water just long enough for them to sprout, while others will grow the seeds into short grass like shoots (think wheatgrass).
The great thing about fodder is you can often buy a bag of grain seeds for just a few dollars. For suggestions on which seeds you should sprout for your birds, please read this article.
Have you ever noticed that the produce in the grocery stores are all uniform and flawless? This isn’t by accident.
Produce that is damaged, flawed, rotten or otherwise unsellable is pulled from the display and often thrown away.
Some grocery stores, especially the “green” ones, save this produce. Our local health food store often has bags of these discarded fruits and vegetables to be saved for composting. When I shop at that store I ask for their discards and they gladly share a bag or two.
There have been times that they have shared more than 20 pounds of produce that went straight to the chickens!
If you have a garden, you can also pull damaged veggies from your plants to share with the birds.
Another great way to offset some of your flocks dietary needs is by feeding them mealworms!
While buying mealworms can be expensive, raising them is almost free. All you need is a container, some wheat bran or oatmeal, and carrots. Within a few months, your mealworm farm will be ready to harvest! Read more on starting a mealworm farm.
Brewers’ Spent Grains
Spent grains are the leftovers from brewing beer, and depending on the batch, may contain a combination of barley, wheat, corn, rice, sorghum or millet. Most craft breweries will share this “waste” with individuals. When I called my local microbrewery, they said they would be happy to share, just bring all the 5 gallon buckets I wanted to be filled.
While commercial breweries have large scale feed lots and such to take their excess, it’s worth a call to your local craft brewery and see if they are willing to sell you spent grains for your chickens.
Most of us usually shop at the large chain farm supply stores, but have you looked to see if you have a local feed mill?
Often times local feed mills produce great quality feed and sell it for less than the commercial feed brands. While this may not be an option for everyone, it’s certainly something to consider!
Buy In Bulk
If you have the means, buying feed in bulk will save on the cost per pound of feed. This may be more feasible if you have a number of other chicken friends that are willing to split the order
Every now and then feed goes on sale, generally $2-3 off per bag. You could stock up during the sale, saving you money in the long run!
Sell Eggs or Chicks
If you are looking for a great way to offset the cost of feed, consider selling eggs or hatching chicks. Generating income from your flock may help make feed easier to afford.
Reduce Flock Size
Another, albeit less popular option, is to thin the flock. If you are struggling to feed your birds, it may be time to decrease the number of birds you have. Do you have any older hens that are no longer laying? Do you have too many birds in the flock? It may be a tough decision but one that could benefit the flock and your pocketbook.
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