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8+ Ways You Can Save Money on Chicken Feed


Use these free and cheap methods to save money on chicken feed or supplement their store-bought diet, even if you can't free range.

Earlier this summer, due to some unexpected circumstances, my feed budget was nearly non-existent.

I needed to stretch the bagged chicken feed in the shed as far as I could. This made me realize that I've been lazy lately: I've been relying on the feed store to feed my chickens instead of using the resources we have here on the homestead.

So, after facing the fact that I've been lazy, I looked up the notes I'd made in past years and reinstalled some practices that I'd let drop by the wayside.


This post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.


If you're in the same financial boat - or if you want to avoid being called lazy - here are more than six ways you can save money on chicken feed. Most of these are FREE!

The cheapest way to feed chickens is to let them free-range. They'll eat up all the fleas, ticks, grasshoppers and other bugs within pecking distance, as well as weeds and grass. (They'll also eat your garden produce, so fence them out of the garden.)

But we have to keep our chickens confined due to the large number of predators in our area, so they can't free range and forage their own food. In other words, I have to forage it for them.




Food Scraps

This is the one practice I have been using all along. I divide our kitchen waste into "what the chickens like" and "what the chickens shouldn't/won't eat" containers.

The second container - the one that holds the "shouldn't/won't eat" stuff - goes to the compost pile. Chickens will eat almost anything, but I don't give them coffee grounds, tea bags, banana peels and so on that I know they won't or shouldn't eat.

They'll even eat things that shouldn't go in the compost pile, like meat scraps. Give them a plate full of bones and they'll pick off every speck of meat.

Surplus eggs are scrambled and fed back to the chickens. They don't mind if the eggs have been in the refrigerator for awhile.

I've always washed and saved eggshells, let them dry out and then powder them in the blender. I give this great source of calcium back to the hens instead of buying oyster shells.

Weeds and Plants

Any weeds I pull in the garden or yard are given to the chickens and the goats. I'm pulling weeds anyway, so it's free food for them.

In the fall I gather seed stalks from weeds such as curly dock and seedheads from the wild sunflowers for the hens.

Feeding bugs to hens to save money on chicken feed, from Oak Hill Homestead


Bugs

I discovered this one by accident a few years ago when I left a bucket with some water in it near the front door. The night-time bugs that are drawn to the porch light fall into the water in the bucket; in the morning I pour it all into a depression in the chickens' run. They love "bobbing for bugs" and chasing the ones that escape.

Of course any garden pests I pull off my plants (like those ugly tomato hornworms) go to the chickens too.

Maggots

This one is a bit gross, but most of my homesteading "job" is manure management so it doesn't bother me much. I shovel some fresh horse manure into a bucket and leave it for a day or so without a lid, but in a place where it won't collect rainwater.

Of course this bucket draws flies, which lay their eggs inside. After a few more days I dump the bucket in the chicken run. The chickens love scratching through the contents searching for maggots, other bugs and undigested seeds.

If my chickens did free range, they'd be doing this on their own anyway: chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians. This is the article that inspired me to give this a try a few years ago, from The Deliberate Agrarian.


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Fermenting chicken feed

Not quite free, but it stretches the feed I buy a bit farther. Fermenting the feed takes a few more days, but it makes the nutrients more available to the hens. This post on fermenting layer feed from Murano Chicken Farm tells you how to do it.


Sprouting scratch feed

I fill my bird feeders with scratch feed instead of pricey wild bird seed, so I also sprout some of the scratch in a half-gallon jar just like we'd sprout certain seeds for human consumption. The cracked corn won't sprout of course, but the other seeds do, giving the girls more nutrients as well as more bulk feed.


6+ ways to save money on chicken feed, from Oak Hill Homestead. #selfreliantchallenge


Use What's Cheap or Free

I've broken open pumpkins that I scored at a bargain price after Halloween; my chickens pick those clean. I've also sprouted the pumpkin seeds inside (sometimes by accident).

One year we were given bucketfuls of turnips by a neighbor; I chopped up a few of those for the hens each day.

My chickens love canning season. They know that white bucket I'm carrying is full of seeds, apple peels, tomato skins, etc. I also give them the damaged apples and plums that fall from our trees.


Gardening for Your Chickens 

This is a bit like foraging wild plants or pulling garden weeds for my chickens, but instead the plants are grown intentionally.

Perhaps you only have room to grow just a couple of extra plants for your chickens, or maybe you could devote an entire raised bed or a couple of garden rows to growing produce for your birds. From tender greens to tomatoes, and corn to melons, chickens love garden goodies.

If you'd like to learn more about gardening for and with chickens, check out Lisa Steele's book Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens.


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Which will you try?


While some of these ideas take some time and a bit of work, others are quick, easy and free. Use them all or choose the ones that are easiest for you to keep your chickens well-fed and happy for less money.


Save money on chicken feed with these cheap and free methods.



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46 comments

  1. Great ideas, Kathi! My chicks and baby turkeys are pretty young right now, but I've been gathering alfalfa that grows wild around us and I chop some up for them each day...they love it. I'm also harvesting it my the armload to dry out and store up for winter when they don't have pasture.

    I bought some watermelon and cantaloupe for a fruit salad/dish to pass...and the chicks ate most of the flesh still on the rinds. :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Lucky you, with alfalfa growing wild! :-)

      Don't you love what the chickens leave behind when you give them a watermelon? Just a super-thin, hard shell that dries out into what looks like a weird helmet. LOL

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  2. Great ideas! I give our chickens leftover meat scraps from time to time. They'll pick a ham bone clean in no time. I'm turning them out in the morning and letting...or is that making...them forage for their food all day. There's enough grass, clover, weeds, bugs, frogs and such to keep them well fed and busy. I shake a can of pellets at their door when I want them to go in. From spring until snow fall they're pretty much on their own.

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    1. You are so fortunate to be able to do that, Robin!

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  3. farmgal7:59 PM

    really great post, I have never tried the horse manure maggot trick, I like it and will give it a try..

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    1. It works pretty well, Farmgal. Let us know how it goes.

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  4. The maggot tip was thinking out of the box. Great idea!

    My chickens love harvest time. Anything veg or fruit that's been pecked on usually goes to them. As I hoe my raised boxes, I sometimes pick up grubs. They go straight into a bucket along with their favorite weeds.

    re: fermenting
    Do you take regular lay pellets and soak them? For how long?

    I discovered one trick by accident. We had mowed a small area and for some reason I had bagged the leaves. I had picked up every bag but one that had gotten left behind at the edge of the woods. The following year my hens were free ranging and found the bag. They tore into and were eating the silage like candy. In all my days, I never saw such contented chickens.

    I took it away from them thinking it was bad for them when someone told me I had inadvertently created silage.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. How interesting about the leaf silage. "Accidents" are sometimes the best discoveries!

      Yes, you can ferment layer pellets. It takes just a couple of days. Here are directions... in the comments someone asked that same question and she said YES YOU CAN USE LAYER PELLETS.
      https://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/how-to-ferment-chicken-feed-bigger-eggs-healthier-chickens/

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    2. Thanks for the link!

      Re: silarge
      I meant mowed grass, not leaves. Oy!

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  5. Love this post! Such great ideas! We use fodder all the time for our chickens because it is super easy to grow and saves a lot of money in feed too! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Annie. The June bugs have arrived so I have my bucket of water near the front door. The porch light attracts them and they fall in the water. The chickens are loving this free, live food!

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  6. Great ideas for free 'grub' for the chickens! Thanks for sharing on Farm Fresh Tuesdays, Kathi! I hope you'll share more of your great posts this week!

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  7. Lots of great information Kathi!! Thanks

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  8. Hello Kathi! I feed my chickens much the same way you do. I have not heard of fermenting the feed, however. I entered the give away, but not sure it went through...perhaps I was a bit late to the party. I do enjoy your blog though! Have a great weekend. Karen Q

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen! The giveaway begins at 8:00 am Central time on 10/26 so I think you were early to the party rather than late. I hope you'll come back and enter!

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  9. I hope to try the sprouting method this winter for both my chickens and rabbits so they can have something fresh in those cold, dark days of winter.

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    1. Sprouting is great for that reason!

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  10. Loy Leslie10:15 AM

    These are really good ideas, Kathi.
    they will help us supplement which will save us money.
    Thanks for posting them!!

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    1. You're welcome, Loy! They sure do help stretch that bagged feed!

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  11. Tha ks for the chance to enter the give away. Also for the free feed suggestions, having to keep my last 4 hens penned up now. Lost over 12 to a red fox who raided our fenced in area in a 12 hr span.

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    1. I'm so sorry that you lost so many of your hens! I can't let my chickens out, they disappear very quickly (coyotes, raccoons and more), so this is how I keep them happy, entertained and fed for cheap.

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  12. Thanks for the chance at a wonderful prize pack!

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  13. Bobbing for bugs, lol. Great ideas.

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    1. Thanks. :-) One of their favorite pastimes!

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  14. Anonymous3:48 PM

    Love the bobbing for bugs, lol! Great ideas.

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  15. I love the idea of seed sprouting. I'm going to try that one!

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    1. Mine love those fresh sprouts in winter, I'm sure yours will too.

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  16. Lots of great ideas. I recently started raising mealworms.

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    1. That's one I haven't tried yet. Good for you, Sue!

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  17. Since we have been wanting to raise chickens, everything here is a great start to making a start. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. You will enjoy having chickens, I'm sure! They're so entertaining.

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  18. I was raised with chickens and never realized that besides the feed, oyster shells and bugs (the biggest grasshoppers we could catch) you could feed them so many other things! I'm so excited! Gives me one more reason to continue to try to convince my husband to let us get chickens!

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    1. I hope your husband will agree! Chickens are great garbage disposers, and with these ideas the cost of feed can be minimal.

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  19. I didn’t not know hens could eat their own eggs, or that the shells are beneficial to them! I recently boiled grounded up some shells for my indoor plants and I’m hoping that the nutrients give them a little boost! It’s so fun learning new stuff like this! 😆

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    1. Some hens will eat their own eggs in the nest - it's a bad habit and once they've started, it's very hard to break them of it. That's why I scramble the ones I give them, and chop up the shells very fine (so hopefully they won't realize that there are shells in their nestbox too!)

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  20. I am pondering raising chickens so thank you for the extra insight into the benefits of them

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  21. Wonderful and helpful post. Thank you.

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  22. These are all great ideas. My chickens love the pumpkin seeds from our Jack O Lanterns.

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    1. Pumpkin seeds seem to be a favorite! What a great way to get extra value from a jack-o-lantern.

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  23. You're so right about the watermelon, Kathi! I harvested some extra alfalfa this summer from our walks and dried it for winter. They are loving the old cabbages that split from too much rain in the garden this year. Have a great day and thanks for sharing this on Farm Fresh Tuesdays...hope to see you today!

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