Chickens are incredible bio-cleaners, and can eat all kinds of table scraps, fruit and vegetable remains, and grasses/salad leaves, but there isn’t always enough of this left over from your dinner table to support your flock.
If you’re running free-range chickens they should do pretty well on their own in the summer if you have enough land for them to hunt food. For the winter you’ll need to supplement their feed with your own.
Chicken feed in the store normally contains a combination of corn, oats, wheat, barley, sorghum and other bi-products. There’s also normally a vitamin mix that is added to supply the chickens with vitamins A and B. Chickens can obtain vitamin D from the sun, and vitamin C from even light foraging.
The National Research Council’s Nutrient Requirements for Poultry specifies the amounts of protein, minerals, and vitamins chickens should have based on age, type, etc. If you want to get super scientific and technical you can visit: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=2114&page=20 for a chart with the exact appropriate recommended amounts.
Making Your Own Feed At Home
Making your own feed requires a little gardening and a grinder like this one:
You can also use a blender if you please! The ingredients we put in our blend is as follows:
- Corn – Read our article on growing and drying corn!
Nutrition Facts : Corn is rich in phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron and selenium. It also has small amounts of potassium. Corn has Vitamin B (Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Niacin, Riboflavin, Folate). It has traces of Vitamin A and Vitamin E.
- Ground Sunflower Seeds – Make sure to ground them to a fine powder as they can have sharp bits and pieces. These are easy to grow and a few plants can add pounds to your mix.
Nutrition Facts: Sunflower seeds contain lots of protein, fiber, and calories. They’re also a great source of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, selenium, vitamin b1-b2-b6–c-a-e-k, folate, niacin, and pantothenic acid. They’re a wonderful addition to your mix.
- Soybeans: Soybeans have some of the highest nutrition value you can get in something so easy to harvest.
Nutrition Facts: Soybeans contain carbs, sugars, fibers, fats, and dozens of other vitamins and minerals – it’s a great finish to your feed.
- Worms/Insects: Visit our article on Worm Composting to learn how you can get an endless supply of worms. If you’re able to get your hands on worms, a handful of worms can go a long way, don’t by hesitant to throw a handful of your red wigglers in a 5lb. mix. If you don’t have access to worms I find that hanging a sheet up in the yard during grasshopper season can normally net a few pounds of hoppers a week, just throw them in a jar and keep them in the fridge/freezer until you’re ready to use them. Grasshoppers are known to carry tape worm and other nasties – most of which won’t affect chickens, but this can be easily remedied by warming up the jars to 150-175 degrees before adding the hoppers to your mix.
Nutrition Facts: Insects and worms are a great source of protein and vitamins and will help your eggs shine and your meat birds grow!
If you’re making a lot of mix at once it’s important to add the ingredients a handful/pitcherful at a time to ensure they get properly mixed in your feed storage container.