Want to give your chickens the highest quality nutrition with the best ingredients? If so, you’ve probably considered making your own chicken feed. However, you’ll have many questions about how it can be done.
Join us as we’ll take a look at a great DIY chicken feed recipe along with looking at how to get the right ingredients, what chickens need in their diet, and whether DIY chicken feed is worth it. Let’s get started!
Why Chickens Need High-Quality Nutrition
They’re just chickens, right? Surely the quality of their food isn’t that important? Well, that’s not true. There are many reasons to give chickens high-quality feed. Just like us humans, chickens need a nutritious and balanced diet to be at their best.
Along with improving their quality of life, there are a few other key reasons for this:
- Egg Production – Do you want to collect beautiful and tasty fresh eggs each day? If so, a great diet goes a long way to aiding egg production. An excellent diet will ensure a nutritious egg, one that doesn’t have any defects, and also a strong shell.
- Health and Immunity – As with any animal, a chicken can get diseases and infections. A weak chicken may not be able to fight them off but one in great health has a much better chance. If you want a strong flock, a healthy diet can help.
- Stronger Feathers – Chickens are beautiful creatures with many breeds having beautifully colored feathers. A balanced diet will help to ensure those feathers provide the right level of insulation in winter and protection.
- Growth and Development – Do you want your chicks to grow up healthy and strong? If so, they need the right food. Diet is especially important for chicks due to how rapidly they grow. Even if you plan to use chickens for meat, the right chicken feed with ensure fast growth and healthy meat.
Your Chickens Nutritional Needs
Now we know why a good diet is so important, what exactly do they need? Again, chickens are just the same as us! The main food groups that we need to eat are the same for the chicken.
- Carbohydrates – Many human diet plans seemingly hate carbohydrates, but any athlete knows how vital they are. Carbs give you long-term energy that you need to power you through the day. For chickens, this will mostly come from grain such as wheat or corn.
- Protein – If you need carbs for energy, you need protein for growth. This is vital for your rapidly growing chicks and egg production in hens. In store-bought chicken feed, this protein often comes from fish meals.
- Fat – We all need some fat! It plays a vital role in insulation from the cold but also as energy storage. Added to that, fat will aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals. While fat has a terrible reputation, it’s very healthy in the right amounts.
- Vitamins and Minerals – These are vital for a wide range of reasons. Vitamins and minerals aid in basic body functions such as metabolism, immunity, bone health, and egg formation, among many, many other benefits.
When creating your own chicken feed, it must have all of these groups above and in the right quantities. And to make an obvious point, your chickens will also need a plentiful supply of fresh water, especially on hot summer days.
DIY Chicken Feed Recipe
Enough of the chicken diet lessons, let’s get right to the recipe! In reality, there isn’t one magic DIY chicken feed recipe that you need to follow. Instead, you’ll want to make sure that you’re giving your chickens the right balance of different foods.
You want your chicken feed to be approximate:
- 50% Carbohydrates
- 25% Proteins
- 10% Fats and oils
- 10% Vitamin-rich ingredients
- 5% Mineral -rich ingredients
Before we get into the specific makeup of your chicken feed, it’s important to note that many ingredients cover more than one item on that list. For example, corn has a high carbohydrate content but also contains a good amount of protein, fat, and vitamins.
For the most basic chicken feed recipes, we can break this down into:
- 70% grains
- 30% High-protein source
If you follow these percentages, then you’re not going to go wrong. But exactly what grains should you be using and what’s be best protein source? Those are the questions we’ll answer right now.
You’ll want to use a variety of grains in your chicken feed. This is going to provide the energy that your chickens need along with being a source of many other nutrients. Using a mix of grains allows you to find a better balance.
The more commonly used grains are corn and wheat. Having 30% of your feed made up of each of these grains (60% overall) is a great starting point. Added to this, you can add 10% of other grains, with great options being sorghum, barley, rye, and millet.
As stated above, there is a protein in grains but not enough for your chickens. You’ll need to find another food source that is high in protein and there are plenty of options. Fish meal is used in commercial feed, so feel free to use this too.
For DIY chicken feed, split peas are often seen as the best option as they are easy to get and contain a high level of complete plant-based protein. Dried mealworms are another high-protein and tasty treat.
It’s also a good idea to supplement the above with additional ingredients that will either give them added minerals or aid their digestive system.
For example, if you have prolific egg layers then you may want to add extra calcium in the form of crushed oyster shells. You can use chicken eggs for this, but you’ll want to make sure they are baked and crushed up properly.
It’s also important to add grit to their feed. Chickens don’t have teeth and break down food in their gizzard. A gizzard is a muscle in the digestive tract that grinds food down and allows easier passage into the intestines. Grit aids in that grinding process and they may have trouble digesting food without it.
What About Fat, Vitamins, and Minerals?
You may have noticed that we’ve not included any food that is either rich in fat, vitamins, or minerals. The reason is that you’ll get these in healthy amounts from the likes of corn, fish meal, and peas. If you’re giving them high-quality ingredients, then you don’t need to worry about it.
DIY Chicken Feed Recipe Example
Now we have all that knowledge, let’s look at a sample recipe. Remember, this is just an example and you can amend it to the ingredients you can source and the needs of your chicken.
- 30% Wheat
- 30% Corn
- 10% Barley
- 20% Split Peas
- 10% Fish Meal
There are many ways you can change these ingredients around, but this is the easiest way and simplest recipe to follow.
You’ll notice that we’ve not included any percentages there for the likes of oyster shells or grit mentioned above. That’s because chickens need these in very small amounts. For example, a chicken only needs around one teaspoon of grit per week.
As for oyster shells, this is for egg-layers so older hens, chicks, and roosters don’t need it. It’s best to keep it separate from the main feed and allow hens to peck away at it as and when they want.
Pros and Cons of DIY Chicken Feed
- Potential Costs Saving – If you have sourced high-quality ingredients in high volume, then your overall chicken feed costs may be lower. This is an advantage for some who don’t like taking frequent trips to the shop to get their chicken feed.
If you can, it always makes sense to buy your ingredients in bulk as it will always work out cheaper. Just make sure that you store them correctly, so they don’t spoil.
- Customization – While there are different types of chicken feed out there, you don’t have full control of what goes into the product. When making your feed, you can add anything you want such as adding more calcium for your egg layers or more protein for your chicks.
- Quality Control – Another reason that keepers love making their own chicken feed is that they know exactly what’s going into the feed. For example, you can ensure that everything your use is organic, without the use of chemicals.
- Not Dependent – Ever gone to the store only to find that they don’t have the feed you’re looking for? It can be very frustrating. If you’re making your own feed, then you’ll never have this problem as long as you’re always stocked up with ingredients.
- Can Be More Expensive – Wait? We said that you can save money! Well, it depends. If you’re buying premium ingredients in smaller quantities, then you can end up spending more money than you would have done on chicken feed. If you can’t cut down costs on raw materials, you may end up out of pocket.
- Potential Nutritional Imbalance – The chicken feed has been refined for a long time by companies that are regulated and try to compete against each other to make the best product. As hard as you try, there is a good chance you won’t be able to produce the same level of nutritional balance.
- Time and Effort – In our recipe above, there are around half a dozen ingredients. It can take a lot of effort to source, buy, and store these ingredients while you’ll also need to mix them together. Time is money, and would your time be better spent elsewhere?
- Contamination Risk – When making chicken feed, you’ll most likely want to make a large batch at a time, so you don’t need to make it every day. When you do, there is always the risk of contamination from either pests or moisture.
- May Need to Source Ingredients – While you may not have to buy chicken feed anymore, you’ll need to purchase the individual ingredients. This can be tricky to do, especially if your supplier runs out of an ingredient.
- You Can Customize Chicken Feed – We mentioned above that a positive is that you can customize your DIY feed, but you can also supplement chicken feed with your own food anyway. For example, you can give them store-bought chicken feed and add your own crushed shells for added protein.
Is DIY Chicken Feed Worth It?
It’s hard to say as everyone is different. For example, one chicken keeper may get a lot of satisfaction from being about to have full control over what they are feeding their chickens. There are other clear advantages too, such as not being dependent on store-bought feed.
But in our list above we had four pros and six cons, which tells its own story. You need to work out whether or not the time and effort you need to put into creating your own chicken feed is going to be worth it, compared with the convenience of pellets, for example.
Many chicken owners would feel as though DIY chicken feed isn’t worth it. Instead, they prefer to provide standard chicken feed and top that up by giving their chickens treats or extra protein or calcium as they need it. The choice is ultimately up to you.
Hopefully, by now you have a great idea of what you should and shouldn’t be including in your DIY chicken feed. It can seem a little complicated at first but once you get the hang of it, then it becomes quite easy.
Is DIY chicken feed worth it? We’ll leave that up to you but why not give it a try? Just follow our simple steps and you’ll have a healthy and happy flock of chickens.