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.

This week, with all of these considerations in mind, we decided to dive into the grain mix and see if it was worth the extra work.

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.


§ 8 Responses to Homemade Chicken Feed for Layers

  • lvaletutto says:

    Is there really no disclosure on what’s in the layer mash? Unfortunately animal feed seems to be far less regulated than it should be. That’s cool that you’re making your own feed! I wonder if you will see or taste a difference in the eggs…
    Oh, btw do you sprout the grains yourself?

    • haleyfox says:

      They usually list the nutritional percentages but rarely a breakdown of the ingredients. You can call the companies and find out but that’s a pretty big hassle.
      Yes I have been sprouting the feed, as some of the seeds are whole. That increases the protein content and the chickens seem to appreciate the freshness. Generally, it is just the wheat that sprouts. More on that in my next post about chick feed!

  • I’m new to chickens. About how much oyster shell and store bought feed does one chicken average per day?

    • haleyfox says:

      Well, I’ve never done the math out, but I feed 2 small handfuls of oyster shell (not too much) each day for 20 chickens, and I fed 2 coffee cans of feed each morning and evening (so 4 cans/day) for the same number. I went through about 50 lbs every 2 weeks (in winter) for 20 chickens, if that’s more helpful. Cheers!

      • Definitely helpful! I recently inherited 3 chickens, so, my numbers are a little different. I’d like to make this homemade feed, it looks so much better! Maybe when my flock gets a little bigger. 🙂 Thanks!

  • Babette Bach says:

    So if this the grains are sprouted, how long can you keep it b4 it sours? I too have only 4 chickens & a couple of ducks. I’m looking for something with no GMO’s (trying to stay away from soy, corn & alfalfa). I was thinking that I could come up with a healthier home made for comparable $$ of store bought. Thank you so much for your info – yes it’s helpful, but more importantly it’s inspirational!!!!

    • haleyfox says:

      Hi Babette,
      The grain won’t last too long before souring, perhaps a couple days and it will continue sprouting. Once you figure out how much your animals are eating per day, you’ll be able to tailor your amounts to match. Thanks for the compliments, too!

  • grace says:

    Enjoyed your article. I too treat my hens with what they prefer: raw and whole foods vs processed grain (byproducts) pellets. I give them earth worms winter and summer from the bottom of the compost pile, greens (free) from the grocery store, and left over buckwheat pancakes and/or cooked oatmeal. The grain sits waiting to be eaten! They also have an earthen floor outdoor pen (now enclosed like a cold frame) so they still can dig around in dirt. If we feed our hens well and we can enjoy the eggs!

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