Homemade Chicken Feed for Layers
February 7, 2012 § 8 Comments
A few months ago I started augmenting my hens’ layer mash diet with sprouted whole wheat, to give them something fun to eat. As time went on, I noticed they went for the whole grain over the mash. I began to add other grains: whole corn, barley, oats. The chicken certainly seemed to prefer the new feed, and on the days I fed it, consumed less feed overall.
Chickens, like any other creatures, need specific nutrition to be their healthiest. A laying hen needs plenty of protein and calcium for example, to lay a big old egg every day. Commercially produced chicken feed has the right level of nutrients, but it is highly processed as well as cooked, leaching a lot of the nutrition per volume. That is, a chicken must eat more of her feed to get what she needs to keep clucking.
Of course, with a little gumption, a good local feed store, and a lot of metal trash cans, a person can mix up a chicken brew that has the right stuff to keep the ladies happy, and in my opinion, healthier. When you consider that chickens are most often kept for meat and egg production, you realize you are also consuming the questionable ingredients of the commercial mash, especially in winter when the chickens’ foraging for fresh food is limited. While the bags of mash do not even list ingredients, a homemade batch is fully transparent.
Here is the mix we made for the layers:
20 lb whole corn
30 lb whole wheat
5 lb crimped barley (I would have got whole if they had it at the feed store)
5 lb whole oats
5 lb black oil sunflower seeds
4 lb millet
2 lb kamut
10 lb lentils
4 lb sesame seeds
3 lb flax seeds
2.5 lb kelp meal (ordered in a 50lb sack from Neptune’s Harvest in MA)
2.5 lb crushed crab shell (also from Neptune’s Harvest)
2 lb alfalfa pellets
.25 lb livestock salt
2 lb crushed limestone
I also feed oyster shell free choice and kitchen vegetable and meat scraps.
This is a blend of several different source’s recipes, and certainly not the most economical. The total mix is 97.25 lb (no wonder it was such a pain to get back into the chicken house!) and cost $54 to make. A typical bag of layer mash around here would cost $30 for the same weight, so my mix is significantly more pricey. However, the chickens eat less of it, so perhaps there is a minor savings there. I also bought in small amounts for the experimental mix. If I were to be mixing large batches, I could probably get a bulk price that would shave off a few more dollars.
This is also a soy free concoction and is probably a bit low in protein. I would like to add fish meal to the blend (and therefore take out some of the pricey legumes) for more protein. When the goats start milking and I make cheese, I will also add whey to the chickens’ diet.
While it may seem silly to knowingly pay more for chicken feed, and to go through the work of measuring and mixing, I do feel better knowing what is in my animals’ food, and also what is going into the eggs I eat and sell.