I am a huge fan of homemade chicken feeds!
- Ingredients can be based on considerations like local availability from growers and vendors, seasonal availability of home grown feedstuffs, preferences of the flock or the flockster, prices, ethics, and so on. I can choose the highest quality, organic ingredients rather than by-products.
- No longer reliant on milled bagged feeds that have lost some quality due to oxidation or storage conditions.
- No more partial bags hanging around. Mix and grind only what is needed. You can use up that bag of feed with the use of the Pearson's Square.
- Time saving. It's quick and easy to mix up a batch of chicken feed.
Yes! Homemade chicken feed! There's been lots of enthusiasm over the last few years about homemade chicken feed. On one hand, bagged feeds are a relatively new innovation and super easy to use: open the bag and feed animals. On the other hand there is heaps of research to help us formulate feeds to support a healthy, productive flock.
- Rely on a diverse array of grains, seeds, and legumes to avoid swift, severe ration changes. Feedipedia can help you learn more about the ingredients you are considering.
- Source from more than one supplier or know of other suppliers. Azure Standard, our local cooperative, a local feed store, and a Modesto Milling buying group offer the ingredients that we use in our rations. Or maybe it is a fellow flockster who also keeps a good supply of ingredients on hand who could help you out in a pinch.
- Consider adding supplements to ensure all essential amino acids, minerals, and micro nutrients are provided. Which supplements you ask, here are a few to consider: Fertrell's Nutri-Balancer, Thorvin kelp, Redmond's Mineral Conditioner, fish meal, brewer's yeast (Saccharomyce cerevisiae), crab meal, and so on. You might prefer to avoid fish meal or crab meal or might not have access to some of these supplements but talk to the folks at the feed store and learn what is available.
- Consider storing larger quantities of ingredients that have availability issues and/or be ready to adjust the recipe based on an ingredient being out of stock.
- Mix feeds based on weight not dry volume measurement.
- Grind a supply of feed to last 30-45 days so it's as power packed with nutrition as possible. I mix and grind once every 27-29 days and it takes less than 30 minutes to weigh out all the ingredients, grind, and mix.
- Consider grain-based rations to be a part of the diet rather than the entire diet. Consider other food stuffs.
- Consider a ration feeding strategy rather than a free feeding strategy. Read more about reducing feed costs and feeding strategies.
- Know and stick to the recommended rates for supplements. For example, Fertrell's should be added to the chicken feed at a rate of 3% (by weight). Redmond's Mineral Conditioner is recommended at a rate of 1.25% (again by weight) and so forth. Adding more than 5% of fish meal can meal eggs that taste a bit fishy...or at least that's what I've read.
- Gradually transition the flock to a new ration, especially if the change is from a mash or pellet to a whole grain ration. What does that mean? Over a period of weeks gradually increase the amount of the new ration. I usually start out with only 5% or 10% of the new ration (so 5% new ration and 95% old ration) and continue the transition by adding 10-15% more of the new ration each week.
- Grit and oyster shell can be offered free choice or as part of the ration. I prefer to offer it free choice so I can monitor intake and ensure adequate supply of each.
As you might have guessed, I am a huge Harvey Ussery fan. The Small-Scale Poultry Flock is a terrific resource if you are considering formulating chicken feeds. His website The Modern Homestead has some great pages on Feeding the Homestead Flock. Of course, there is tons of information available from university extensions and agriculture departments.
- G.F. Heuser (2003). Feeding Poultry. Norton Creek Press. ISBN: 0972177027. Note: This is a reprint of the 1955 classic.
- Harvey Ussery (2011). The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An all-natural approach to raising chickens and other fowl for home and market growers. Chelsea Green Publishing Company. ISBN: 9781603582902.