6+ Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed

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

This month, due to some unexpected circumstances, my feed budget is nearly non-existent. I need to stretch the bagged chicken feed in the shed as far as I can. This has 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've made in past years and have reinstalled some practices that I'd let drop by the wayside.

If you're in the same financial boat - or if you want to avoid being in that position - 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've 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 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 chop them up 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. The goats will eat almost anything, but the chickens get the plants I know the hens really like.

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 in 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 pay for a bit farther. Fermenting the feed takes a few more days, but it makes the nutrients more available to the hens too. 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. I sprout some of this 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 - 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 all the seeds, apple peels, tomato skins, etc.

Other Ideas - Many chicken keepers grow fodder or use grazing boxes for their chickens. I haven't tried either one; these would require a more-complicated and costly set-up than I can manage right now.

While some of these ideas take some time and a bit of work, other 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.

Related Posts:
How to Keep Your Chickens Happy When You Can't Free Range
Turn Free Pumpkins into Pumpkin Puree
How to Find and Buy Used Canning Jars

How to save money on chicken feed for hens, from Oak Hill Homestead

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  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. :)

    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

  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.

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

  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..

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

  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.

    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.

    2. Thanks for the link!

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

  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!

    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!

  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!

  7. Lots of great information Kathi!! Thanks


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