Want to feed your backyard chickens without buying a commercial chicken feed?
It's certainly possible, and you can end up providing your chickens with a more natural, healthy, diet that doesn't have to cost much and is a load of fun.
Here's a look at some of the ways you can feed chickens without buying feed:
How to Feed Chickens Without Buying Feed
Chickens are omnivorous creatures, which means that they will eat just about anything. This includes insects, plants, and even small animals.
If you're going to provide your chickens with a healthy diet, the best way is by letting them free range in addition to you providing food.
This means that they can roam around your yard and eat whatever they find. Chickens are experts at finding things like bugs, grubs, and other insects that we wouldn't even know were in our yards.
They will also eat any greens they can find like grass, weeds, and leafy greens.
You can supplement their diet by providing them with kitchen scraps as well. Things like vegetable peels, leftover pasta, rice, and oatmeal are all great options.
Just make sure that whatever you're giving them is cooked and doesn't contain any spices or seasonings.
Grains also make up the staple of a chicken's diet. You can either grow your own grains or buy them in bulk from a feed store.
Understanding a Chicken’s Nutritional Needs
Chickens need a few key things to stay healthy and thrive, this includes:
- Protein: This is important for chickens of all ages, but especially for growing chicks. They need protein to build strong muscles and bones.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates provide chickens with energy.
- Vitamins and minerals: Chickens need vitamins and minerals for overall health and well-being. This includes things like calcium for strong bones and feathers, and vitamin A for good vision and a strong immune system.
- Water: Water is essential for all animals, and chickens are no exception. Make sure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Protein, in particular, is very important. Laying hens need a diet comprising of at least 16% protein to lay eggs at their best.
If you are unable to provide this through foraging and kitchen scraps, then you will need to supplement their diet with protein-rich foods.
Some good options for protein-rich crops include peas, beans, and lentils. Or you can give your chickens cooked eggs, fishmeal, gather up more bugs for them like worms, or even give them a little cat food!
What Is the Cheapest Thing to Feed Chickens?
If you’re working to a tight budget, some of the cheapest foods you can give your chickens are:
- Grains like oats, wheat, and barley
- Beans like lentils and split peas
- Parts of vegetables you don't eat, like carrot tops, skins, etc
- Kitchen scraps and your leftovers
Of course, the cheapest way to feed your chickens is by letting them free range.
This way they can forage for food and you won't have to spend anything on chicken feed.
If you do have to buy chicken feed, then the cheapest option is usually buying a generic brand in bulk from your local hardware store or supermarket.
Some Foods You Should Never Give to Chickens
Chickens aren't little dustbins, even if they act like it sometimes.
There are some human foods that you should never give to your chickens. This isn't an exhaustive list, but some of the more common foods that you should avoid giving to your chickens are:
- Avocado skins and pits
- Junk food
- Anything moldy or spoiled
- Any type of uncooked beans
If you're unsure, always ask someone knowledgeable and check first before giving a new food to your chickens.
It's better to be safe than sorry. As chickens are so small and seemingly willing to eat just about anything, even a small amount of bad food can be harmful.
Can Chickens Survive on Grass Alone?
If you intend on letting your chickens feed on the grass in your yard, chickens cannot survive on grass alone.
They need a varied diet that includes other things like grains, protein, and key nutrients.
While they can get some nutrients from eating grass, they will eventually become sick if that's all they eat.
A chicken's diet is very important for their overall health and well-being, so it's important to make sure they're getting everything they need.
This is why it's so important to allow your chickens to free-range, but also to make sure they will find a variety of things to eat while scratching around.
While chickens can eat grass, they need more than that to survive and thrive. Especially laying hens that need between 4-5 grams of calcium a day, and 16% of their diet to be protein.
It's possible to feed chickens without providing a commercial feed, and it can be done on a tight budget.
However, chickens need a varied diet to stay healthy and happy. This includes good sources of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and water.