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Are you feeling the pinch of higher chicken feed prices? Today, I’m sharing 28 easy ways to save money on chicken feed!
28 Easy Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed
Unfortunately, where raising hens used to be more cost effective then buying eggs and meat from the store, chicken feed prices have gone up so high that it’s getting harder to justify it.
Over the years, we’ve found many different ways to save money on chicken feed and lately we’ve been doing more things to help bring down chicken feed prices around our homestead. Hopefully some of these tips will help you!
1. Let your chickens be free-range.
Let your chickens be free-range if you have the space and are able. Unless you live in a very lush, fertile area (not the drought-stricken midwest!), you will still have to supplement with feed, but your chickens will be happier and healthier when they are allowed to roam free.
Our chickens love scooping up grasshoppers and other bugs and plants as they wander around the backyard. Ducks especially love being free range since they love to eat the weeds around the yard, which is fine with me!
Free-range chickens produce eggs with a higher nutritional value and less cholesterol. Not to mention, it’s great for their overall happiness. We’ve found that in the summer, our chickens hardly eat any feed at all. We aren’t able to free range in the winter which is when we supplement with feed.
2. Shop around before you buy.
Just because the local feed store down the road carries chicken feed, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best deal. One might argue that we should stick to the closest stores right now with the price of gas, but we prefer to drive to the store further away and stock up while we are there to make it worth our while.
Watch for chain feed stores’ sales to get an even better deal. It’s usually a good idea to stock up on feed in the spring when the stores bring all the baby chicks in because they have great sales! Store all bulk chicken feed in a cool, dry place away from pests.
3. Feed Chickens All Your Scraps
Our chickens are totally spoiled. Not only are they free range and have the run of our 20 acres on the homeplace side of our land, they also get all kinds of kitchen scraps from the house!
Fruit and vegetable peelings, stale bread, old food from the pantry or fridge….they love it all. Another thing they love to eat in the fall is the old garden plants. Pull them out of the garden and let the chickens have dessert! I make it a point to take out my scrap bucket each day for my chickens.
4. Try different kinds of feed.
We used to feed our chickens the nice finer grain chicken feed but then switched over to pellets. The chickens didn’t like it at first, but they got over it pretty fast. 😉
With the pellets there is less waste because they don’t fling the feed all over the ground. You could always combine this method with the fermented food method below if your flock really doesn’t like the pellets.
5. Check for locally milled feed.
If you have a local mill in town, you might be able to purchase grains and feeds cheaper than from the chain stores.
They may be able to mix up your chicken feed for you or you may be able to ask them for a special mix if you have a request of what you’d like to go in the feed. Most mills only sell feed in bulk so keep this in mind when you make the call.
6. Sprout Grains & Veggies
Just like you enjoy sprouts on a salad, you can also make sprouts for your chickens! Chickens can eat just about any kind of sprouts that you can. You can sprout seeds right on your kitchen counter, which is a great option for those with small backyard flocks. Get a Kitchen Sprouter to grow several kinds at once.
7. Make a Chicken Garden
A chicken garden consists of a few things. First, the chicken garden can be filled with plants that tend to attract lots of bugs. If this is how you create your chicken garden, you can let your birds in and give them a full bug buffet.
You can also plant a garden of fruits and vegetables just for your chickens. Some vegetables or fruits you could grow in your chicken garden could be cabbage, lettuce, melons, pumpkins, squash, or anything else a chicken would love to peck and enjoy.
8. Buy Breeds That Eat Less Feed
There are certain breeds of chickens that will eat less and still produce a good amount of eggs. Most breeds that eat less are sold for commercial use, but there are still a few backyard breeds that you can get that will have a good feed-to-egg ratio. If you are planning ahead, you might want to consider these birds:
- White Leghorns
- Red Sex Links
- Rhode Island Reds
- Isa Browns
9. Raise Mealworms or Worms
If you can raise mealworms or any kind of worms on your homestead, these can be a great protein supplement for your chickens. You can get a mealworm growing kit on Amazon.
Contrary to what it says on the egg cartons at the store, chickens are not vegetarians, and they enjoy meat and protein sources. They will happily eat mice, rats, lizards, or other small rodents if they can. It’s also ok to feed your chickens meat scraps (not chicken meat scraps!) and fishmeal.
10. Grow Sunflowers
Chickens love sunflower seeds! If you are able to grow sunflowers where you live or have access to someone who might have extra sunflower seeds in their fields, this can be a good opportunity to save money on chicken feed costs.
Feed sunflower seeds as a hearty treat along with their food.
Fodder is probably one of my favorite ways to save on my feed bill. Not only for poultry but other livestock as well.
I have a full guide on growing fodder here.
12. Fermented Feed
Fermented feed is very easy to do and can be a great way to get “extra” feed from what you already have, make chickens eat pellets or crumble that they don’t normally like, and to boost nutrition and digestion.
To ferment your chicken feed, place the feed in a bucket or jar and cover it with water. I like adding a little apple cider vinegar to get the fermentation going. Leave it undisturbed for about 3 days. After this time, you may see some bubbling at the surface…this is just a sign that good fermentation is going on! If you keep multiple jars going of this at all times, you will have feed for each day.
Fermented feed is a great source of probiotics for your flock.
13. Utilize Your Compost Pile
Chickens can not only gain extra food and bugs from your compost pile, but they will also add to the compost and help decompose it.
If you leave your chickens in an area where they have access to your compost pile, they will happily eat the scraps that you leave on it. They will also dig bugs out of manure. While doing this, they will leave their own manure and scratch the pile around for you. This means less turning work for you and the addition of more manure. It’s a win-win!
14. Keep Pests Out of Feed
You can lose a lot of chicken feed if you allow pests such as mice to get into it. Try and store your chicken feed in a large container (like a large garbage can) with a lid so that rodents can’t get into it.
If you buy bulk feed, try to put it somewhere that won’t let mice in. We keep ours in a sealed shipping container.
15. Get Free Food From Restaurants
If you know anyone who owns a local restaurant, grocery store, or other food service establishment, ask if they will keep their kitchen scraps for you. You could also provide a container for them to fill that you can come pick up when it’s full.
This is a great way to get more scraps for your compost bin or for your chickens for free.
16. Grow Your Own
If you have enough space and resources, you could always grow your own chicken feed. If you can grow grains like wheat, barley, or corn, you might grow enough to put together some or all of a healthy, nutrient-dense feed.
17. Serve the Chickens Calcium You Already Have
Eggshells are a good source of calcium, but you don’t necessarily want to teach your chickens to peck on eggs. No need to worry; grind up some dried egg shells and place them in a free feed area or mix them in with their other feed.
This won’t help you save money on chicken feed, but it can be a replacement for oyster shells, which will still save you money with your chickens. Here are more tips on What to Do With Eggshells.
18. Maggots and Black Soldier Fly Larvae
This one might make you a little queasy but don’t worry, you don’t have to “grow” these unless you really want to.
Chickens can glean nutrition from nutrient-dense maggots, and black soldier flies larvae by being allowed to be in the pasture with cattle or other livestock. They will pull these bugs out of the manure as a supplement to their feed. Not only will they help clean up your pasture by dispersing the “piles”, you will also have less flies.
19. Feed Bargain Produce
If you don’t have a source for free scraps from a food service place, you still might be able to find bargain produce. Ask around at a farmer’s market or at your local grocery store and see what they have that is in less than perfect condition. These leftovers can be great for animal feed!
20. Make Sure Your Chickens Aren’t Wasting Feed
I mentioned above that we switched from crumble feed to pellets to get our chickens to stop wasting feed, but what if your chickens waste feed no matter what?
Consider only feeding them at certain times of the day and do not let them free feed. This way they will be hungry when it’s time for supper and should eat everything they are given. This also makes it easier to portion and control the amount of feed you give them on a daily basis.
21. Feed Leftover Milk Products
If you have any milking animals like cows or goats or if you make your own cheese, you can always feed your chickens (and other animals) the milk products that you aren’t going to use.
If your chickens don’t want to drink the milk, you can mix it in with their feed to make mush. You can also make clabber. Milk or whey is a great way to get extra protein to your chickens and fill them up.
22. Make Sure Your Ladies Are Productive
If you have chickens that are too old to be productive and are no longer laying, it’s time for them to either go to a new home where someone wants them as a pet or time to go in the stew pot.
It’s hard to move through your chicken flock and make these decisions, but unless you are ok with keeping chickens as pets, flocks will need to be turned over every couple of years to keep them active and productive.
23. Get Rid of the Rooster
Unless you really need a rooster and have broody hens, there is no need to keep one. Roosters are large and consume a lot more food than a hen. Only keep your most productive birds and let someone else wake up to the rooster every morning.
24. Portion Your Feed
If you stop giving your chickens free access to feed during the day, you will be able to portion out your feed to make sure that none of it goes to waste.
Fully grown chickens need about 1/4lb of chicken feed per day. Measure this out the first time, multiply how much you will need for your flock, and only give them that amount of feed each day.
25. Let Them Eat the Weeds
We may not like them, but the chickens do! When you are done weeding your garden, take the bucket of weeds and feed it to the chickens. They will not only eat the weeds, but the bugs on them as well!
Lamb’s quarter is a great plant that is considered a weed that most of us having growing in the yard. Chickens will munch on this like it’s lettuce. Clover and dandelions are also good “weeds” that chickens love to eat.
26. Consider the Holidays for Free Food
After many holidays comes the opportunity to get a large amount of free food for your chickens. After Halloween you can find free pumpkins, after Christmas or Easter you might have friends with leftover ham, turkey, or other holiday leftovers they’ve already eaten way too much of.
Think about the foods that come along with each holiday and ask around after the holidays to see what you can gather for your ladies.
27. Feed Brewers Grains
If you have a brewery close to home, ask if they ever give away their spent brewer’s grains. These are a great supplement to your animal feed!
28. Sell Extra Eggs or Chickens
The market is hot right now for both eggs to eat and chickens to lay the eggs. In my area, a laying hen will sell for $20-$25. One dozen eggs can sell for around $4-$5. If you can sell any of these things, use the money to buy feed for the rest of your flock.
If you have broody hens and a rooster, take advantage of this and sell the chicks they produce. Or grow the chicks for a few months and sell the pullets.
We personally sell extra eggs to pay for all of our chicken feed. We never have an issue selling extra eggs!
What About Homemade Chicken Feed?
I feel that homemade chicken feed is a highly personal decision. If you feel like you want to feed your flock your own chicken feed and you have the means to get those grains at an affordable price, it might be worth the hassle of mixing your specific mixture.
Make sure that your feed contains the correct amount of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and protein for your flock, or you will have issues with them laying. It may be best to talk to your local farm vet before mixing up your own feed to make sure that you have the nutrition values correct.
Personally we’ve opted to buy chicken feed and to supplement as needed as we do not have access to low cost grains like organic barley, wheat, oats, or corn.
What are some ways you save money on chicken feed prices?
More on Raising Chickens
- Chicken Egg Production; What To Do When Your Chickens Stop Laying
- Raising Baby Chicks; A Beginners Guide to Baby Chicken Care
- Guide to the Best Egg Laying Chickens for the Backyard
- How to Keep Your Chickens Full and Healthy
- Feeding Clabber to Chickens
- 50+ Homesteading Books (Fiction and Non-Fiction Suggestions)
- What to Do With Extra Eggs
- DIY Chicken Feeder
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Merissa has been blogging about and living the simple and frugal life on Little House Living since 2009 and has internationally published 2 books on the topic. You can read about Merissa’s journey from penniless to freedom on the About Page. You can send her a message any time from the Contact Page.
This post on How to Save Money on Chicken Feed was originally posted on Little House Living in August 2012. It has been updated as of February 2024.