Alternative Feed For Chickens: Best Ideas!

Alternative Feed For Chickens: Best Ideas!

If you’re looking for an alternative feed for chickens that won’t break the bank and will help support your healthy flock, then you’re in luck – there’s an abundance of surprising alternatives!

While your hens should always have a high-quality layer feed, you might find yourself without a bag one day (and the feed store might be closed) OR you might have table scraps you don’t want to toss. You also might want to make your own chicken feed.

Nutritious feed doesn’t need to come with a golden price tag, but it does need to satisfy the hunger cravings of your beloved flock and provide much-needed nutrients and vitamins.

Whether you want to craft your own chicken feed or just want to give your flock some treats, it’s always good to know what chickens eat! In this article, we’ll discuss the possible alternatives to your usual feed – and you might be surprised at our list of ingredients!

What Is The Best Food For Chickens?

The best chicken feed for laying hens is a high-quality 16% protein layer feed with a calcium supplement. For chicks (under 16 weeks), a high-quality 18% chick starter is best. The feed should have the required nutrition and vitamins for them to stay healthy and become consistent egg layers. Most commercial feeds make it easy. If you want to make your own layer feed, you can use my organic homemade chicken feed recipe here.

How To Feed Chickens Without Buying Feed

While I never really recommend this, there’s plenty you can feed chickens without actually having to buy feed. You can feed them table scraps (there’s a table below of what human food they can eat), grow food for them (we have a leafy green garden for our flock), or raise mealworms or black soldier fly larvae.

You can learn how to raise mealworms here and why black soldier fly larvae are healthy for chickens here.

If you have a “corn hookup” you can feed them dry corn as well. One of our neighbors is a farmer. One year, his crew spilled a LOT of corn on the ground. He didn’t want to clean it up, so he asked if we wanted it, LOL!

It’s best to feed a 16% protein layer feed however – you want your chickens to be healthy and lay eggs consistently. Nine times out of ten, when a reader emails me because her hens have stopped laying, diet is the reason why.

What Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can eat so many things – it’s probably easier to talk about what they CAN’T eat! Chickens especially seem to love protein – insects (alive or dead) are HUGE with backyard chickens. They also love seeds such as sunflower, wheat, or hemp seeds. Of course, fruits and vegetables are popular, too (especially corn)! As for leafy greens, it’s best to stick with lettuce, kale, and spinach.

Here’s a brief table of suggested treats for your chickens (not comprehensive):

Fruit Legumes Vegetables Seeds Proteins Dairy Grains
Berries Peanuts Spinach Sunflower Mealworms Milk Wheat
Cantaloupe Alfalfa Hay Tomatoes Flax Black Soldier Fly Larvae Greek Yogurt

(Plain)

Oats
Watermelon Peas Squash & Pumpkin Pumpkin Dried River Shrimp Cheese Rye
Bananas Clover Kale Hemp Eggs Whey Millet

What Can You Feed Chickens If You Run Out Of Feed?

Alternative feed for chickens if you’re out of feed are whole grains like wheat, corn, flax, cooked rice (NOT UNCOOKED!), and raw or cooked oatmeal. Protein-rich foods like cheese, plain greek yogurt, and sunflower seeds are also good choices. Most table scraps you have on hand will also be suitable as an alternative. Bugs like black soldier fly larvae (which are remarkably easy to cultivate), worms, and crickets are options as well. Just be sure to steer clear of beans!

What Do Chickens Eat Naturally?

What chickens eat naturally (and that will cost you next to nothing) is food you can produce in your backyard, such as green plants, vegetables, fruits, and seeds. Chickens will also naturally hunt for insects such as earthworms, slugs, grubs, black soldier fly larvae, and other creepy crawlies. This alternative feed for chickens is cost-effective, full of protein, and can be found in their natural habitat.

However, before attempting to use any of the above as dinner for your flock, you should be aware of what food can harm to your flock if you’re considering an alternative feed for chickens. Bad food such as salt, sugar, coffee, or liquor and any uncooked raw or dried beans, raw green potato skins (which can contain a poison called solanine). Onions also are a poor food to give to chickens.

What Scraps Not To Feed Chickens?

What foods are toxic to chickens? Well, plenty. For starters, chickens should never consume anything moldy or rotten because it can make them sick. The chart below lists various foods and scraps that chickens shouldn’t eat:

Vegetables Fruit Legumes Grains Other
Potato skins Avocado skins & pits Dried beans Dry rice Salt
Onions Apple seeds Uncooked beans Chocolate
Chards Peach pits Lots of sugar
Rhubarb leaves Coffee

What Is The Cheapest Way To Feed Chickens?

The cheapest alternative feed for chickens would be using table scraps that don’t include anything moldy or rotten. Other free chicken feed ideas are insects such as grubs, mealworms, or black soldier fly larvae (or crawfish, if they’re in your region). Mixing your own non-gmo organic chicken feed is another option, especially if you can bulk buy ingredients at a lower cost. We have an article about making your own homemade chicken feed here.

Do Chickens Need Food And Water At Night?

Chickens typically only eat food and drink water when they are awake during the day. At night, chickens prefer to roost and get some sleep. However, there’s nothing wrong with leaving food and water in the coop overnight (especially water) if you don’t have a rodent problem. You should always make sure the feed won’t attract predators. A chicken feeder that automatically closes at night is always a good option.

What Vitamins Are Good For Chickens?

Like people, chickens need all the vitamins they can get. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can produce numerous health problems for chickens (including poor egg production), so it’s important to feed them a balanced poultry diet enriched with vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, Biotin, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin, Choline, Folic Acid, and Pantothenic Acid. Also, minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, phosphorus, and, manganese are important. Most commercial chicken feeds have all the vitamins and minerals your hens need. To ensure your flock has enough calcium to produce good eggshells, you can offer an additional supplement like oyster shells.

What Can I Grow For Chicken Feed?

You can grow garden cover crops such as alfalfa, clover, buckwheat, and annual rye. In your garden, you can grow tomatoes, leafy greens like kale or spinach, wheat (can be sprouted into fodder), bell peppers, sunchokes (boil and mash to feed), corn, and herbs. Just remember that you will need to feed your chickens year round, so if you want to grow feed for your chickens, have a plan to preserve some. Other chicken feed ingredients you can grow are wheat and millet.

If you’re wondering what to feed chickens to lay eggs, it’s important to give your flock plenty of protein. So, if you really want to grow your own chicken feed, it’s a good idea to also raise mealworms or other insects so your hens have plenty of protein.

How Much Should I Feed My Chickens?

Ideally, you should feed your chickens about 1/4 pound of feed per chicken per day, or, 1.5 pounds of feed per chicken per week. Environmental conditions, such as whether it’s very hot or very cold, can also effect how much you should feed your flock. In the winter, you’ll likely want to increase their rations so they can produce enough body heat. If your flock isn’t laying eggs consistently, you’ll want to increase their diet, as well. Typically, chicken feed 50-pound bags are sold at stores to make it easier.

Are Oats Good For Chickens?

Yes! You’ll read varying opinions about this, but oats are perfectly fine to feed your flock. You can feed them dry or made into a mash. Quick oats and instant oats are fine as well – just make sure they’re plain, and without any extra preservatives or ingredients. During very cold nights, many owners make their chickens oatmeal to give them extra energy at night. In the summer, you can mix oatmeal into frozen suet cakes.

Will Chickens Eat Roaches?

A great alternative feed for chickens are bugs – chickens love them! While there are many critters hens love to eat, cockroaches are one of them! If you raise cockroaches, then you’re in for a treat. Chickens love chasing them, and they’re full of protein.

Is Peanut Butter Good For Chickens?

While peanut butter (natural, no salt, no added ingredients) is okay for chickens to eat, it’s not the best for them. A high-quality layer feed is better. However, there’s nothing in peanut butter that will hurt them, as long as it’s 100% natural with no salt or added ingredients. Honey is also healthy for chickens, so you can mix it with honey if you want!

Summary

There’s a lot of alternative feed options for backyard chickens. However, it’s important to make sure your flock has the right amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals in their diet. Otherwise, you might not get as many eggs!

What’s your favorite alternative feed for chickens? Leave a comment below!

Can Chickens Eat Grapes?

Can Chickens Eat Grapes?

You might wonder if baby chicks can eat grapes.

 

I’ve had many chickens, and with my chicks, I love feeding them treats. Over the years, I’ve gotten a number of questions about what to feed backyard chickens, as well as queries about what treats are safe for baby chicks.

 

 

A common question I get regarding treats is “Can my chicks eat grapes?” We talked about a number of things that they can eat in another video, but I specifically wanted to talk about grapes because it seems to be a very common question now.

 

Before we talk about grapes, just remember that you really want to limit treats to 10% of your chicks’ diet, at most. You want them eating that high-protein chick starter that will give them all the nutrients that they need to grow. But – if you’re like me – you’re gonna want to give treats. 

 

In this article, I’ll answer that question, as well as provide ways to safely feed grapes to baby chicks (and what to avoid).

 

Main takeaways:

  • Yes, chickens can eat grapes
  • It’s best to cut the grapes up so they’re tiny or smash them
  • Stay away from preserves, jams, jellies, or any grapes with added sugar

 

Other reading:

What do chickens eat?

Can chicks eat strawberries?

Can Chicks Eat Grapes?

Yes, your chicks can eat grapes. Always make sure the grapes are fresh – never feed rotten food to your chicks. You only want to feed them very fresh grapes.

How to Feed Grapes

To reduce the chances of choking or impacted crop, always crush the grapes. You don’t want them getting chunks of grapes or any other fruits stuck in their throats, because that can cause the chicks to choke. 

 

Similarly, you also don’t want these humongous chunks of fruit in their crop, because can lead to impacted crop and other digestive issues.

 

I try to crush them really, really well. If you don’t want to crush them, you can chop them, but crushing them doesn’t take that much effort. You put them in a bag and take a rolling pin or a can and just roll it.

 

There’s really no reason that they can’t eat it other than just the size, so as long as the grapes are crushed, mushy, fresh, not rotten in any way, your baby chicks can definitely enjoy them. 

 

Steer Clear of Jellies, Jams, & Preserves

Fresh grapes and grape jelly are not the same thing in terms of the nutritional value for your chicks. 

 

Fresh grapes have a lot of vital nutrients and vitamins. Grape jelly, on the other hand, likely has a lot of sugar in it, so it’s best avoided.

 

Your chicks don’t need sugar, and they certainly don’t need the preservatives and feed additives in commercial grape jellies. Fresh is always best!

 

So yes, chicks can eat grapes. Just be sure to follow the guidelines in this article!

 

Chicken Feed 101 For New Owners

Chicken Feed 101 For New Owners

Healthy hens and roosters don’t come in baskets from storks. It takes the right kind of chicken feed to turn them into active clucking fluffy butts in your coop.

 

What is chicken feed called?

There are several types of chicken feeds. Starter feed is a protein dense variety of chicken feed designed to meet the dietary requirements of baby chicks. To complicate matters, there are varieties of chicken food known as starter/grower feed, which is essentially a type of feed that chickens can eat from 1-20 weeks of age.

 

Generally, chickens are to be fed depending on their growth development stage. 

 

For baby chicks a day old to 10 weeks starter feed should be crumbles or mash that contain 18% protein. Don’t be confused with crumbles and mash. Crumbles look like tiny pieces of granola while mash are finely ground chicken feed pellets. Both are easier to be consumed by chicks compared to huge pellets.

 

Eventually, they’ll start laying. Chicken layer feed would be similar to the textured mixture of crumbles, mash, and pellets. However, It needs at least 16% protein minimum, with added calcium. Layers need high protein chicken feed as well for more eggs. You also need to stay away from feeding onions, and other strong tasting foods to layers. They cause and undesirable taste to the eggs.

 

What do you feed chickens for tasting the best eggs?

We try different types of chicken feeds, but we feed them high quality layer feed and supplement it with our very own blend of natural herbs, oyster shells, garlic for immune boosting, and apple cider vinegar granules to balance gut pH and introduce beneficial bacteria. You can check it out here.

 

What do you feed a chicken?

The basis of any good chicken diet is a high quality poultry feed. We feed our girls a layer mash, which provides them with the right amount of protein and minerals to keep them laying eggs! In short, you can feed chickens:

  1. Layer pellets (16% protein)
  2. Dried insects like black soldier fly larvae or mealworms
  3. Vegetables (here’s a list of vegetables you can feed chickens)
  4. Fruits such as grapes, berries, and melons
  5. Grasses
  6. Seeds like wheat or millet

 

What is the best feed for chickens?

The best feed is high in protein, while providing all the nutrients chickens need. While there are a lot of commercial chicken feeds on the market, I still prefer non-GMO chicken feed. We’re proud to have the best chicken feed that can even give chickens fluffy feathers and produce the best eggs! Click here to know where to get chicken feed.

 

If you want to make your own homemade feed, just make sure it has essential chicken feed ingredients. You can read my favorite chicken feed recipe here.

 

How much do you feed a chicken per day?

A well known ballpark figure for estimating purpose is 1/4 pound of feed per chicken per day, or, 1.5 pounds of feed per chicken per week. Keep in mind that this is a ballpark figure, and you’ll need to watch your flock’s intake. If they gobble their feed quickly, and still seem hungry, offer more.

 

Do free range chickens need feed?

Yes. Even though they have access to pasture, you still need to give them poultry chicken feed to make sure they’re getting the right kind and enough nutrition.

 

Do chickens need food and water at night?

Chickens roost and sleep at night, and they won’t get up to eat and drink until it’s light again. However, you should always provide 24 hour access to water. Here’s a list of waterers we recommend.

 

How often should chickens be fed?

How often do you feed chickens is a very common question in growing backyard chickens. Food must be available to chickens whenever they need it. The full feeding method is a good technique to guarantee that there is constant supply of feed at all times. You can also use automatic feeders like these. We’ve also reviewed Duncan Feeder’s automatic feeders here.

 

How much food does a chicken need per day?

¼ cup of a high quality chicken feed. Best to offer free choice all day.

 

Can you overfeed chickens?

Everything must be taken in moderation. Overfeeding chicken is possible and they become obese especially if they’re confined to the coop. Free range hens however get enough exercise and are unlikely to be obese.

 

Do free range chickens need scratch? 

No. They don’t. Unless it’s winter and the ground is covered in snow.

 

Then there’s also grit. Grit is not feed, it’s rocks. Chickens need grit to help digest their feed. It’s their equivalent to teeth. Free fed chicken will find their way to grit in the form of tiny bits of stone and gravel but it would be helpful if you threw some in the coop or their feed too. 

 

Grit comes as flint and oyster shell. Oyster shell is soluble and it provides calcium which would be much used by layers in particular. It’s just like feeding chickens with eggshells.

 

What should you not feed chickens? What foods are poisonous to chickens?

While looking for alternative chicken feed, you might have considered beans. Although they look like something chickens would eat, dried and raw beans are a no-no. It contains phytohaemagglutinin which is fatal to chickens. Moldy fruits and vegetables aren’t good as Fowl feed too.

 

Caffeine is also toxic to chickens. Giving them a few pecks of chocolates would not cause too much harm but remember, chocolates are known to cause cardiac arrest in birds!

 

Other foods that are not good for chicken are:

  1. Processed food
  2. Raw potato peels and green potatoes
  3. Avocado skin and pit
  4. Raw meat
  5. Greasy food

 

You can see a list of what not to feed chickens here.

 

What scraps can chickens eat?

Some table scraps that are safe for chicken to consume are:

 

  1. Vegetables (cooked or raw)
  2. Fruits (leave the seeds out)
  3. Grain
  4. Oatmeal
  5. Corn (cooked, raw, and dried)
  6. Peas
  7. Bread
  8. Yogurt

 

Again, make sure that these foods are not moldy or spoiled. You might have also heard of feeding chicken expired yogurt. It’s not something to be frowned on. Feeding chicken yogurt helps even out chicken gut bacteria for a better digestion. You can also add a few tablespoons of yogurt when fermenting chicken feed.

 

Where can I buy chicken feed?

You can find chicken feed for sale at local farm stores. You can also find them on Amazon here.

 

How can I feed my chickens cheap?

To reduce chicken feed bill, free ranging would be a good idea. A garden can provide additional and natural feed for your chicken who sometimes don’t stop eating. Another option is to make your own chicken feed. Learn how to make chicken feed and check out my chicken feed recipe here.

 

What can I grow to feed chickens? 

Growing chicken feed is not complicated at all. Remember what was in grandma’s garden and sow them! Chickens can eat vegetables like corn, lettuce, kale, and any other leafy vegetable you usually grow. Sunflower and Millet are great seed producing plants too! These make great grower feed for chickens and organic chicken feed too.

3 (Easy) Steps To Feeding Healthy Day Old Baby Chicks

3 (Easy) Steps To Feeding Healthy Day Old Baby Chicks

If we’re going to raise baby chicks from day-olds to layers, we may as well start at the beginning – with what to feed baby chicks.

 

In this video, we’ve got a new batch of little cuties that were just born! The problem is what to feed them from now until they’re ready for more advanced cuisine. 

 

In this video, I’ll show you what I feed my newborn chicks.

 

  1. Feed
  2. The Mess
  3. The Bowl
  4. Dried Tiny Shrimp 

 

Feed

As soon as chicks are born, we feed them an 18% chick starter with herbs in it. It’s our own special blend. And the reason we feed that is because it has 18% protein in it. It has all the nutrients that they need to grow from being chicks to healthy layers. And we like to have the herbs in there because the herbs help them grow healthy

 

We started packaging this and selling it is because people ask me constantly on my website: Where do I get my feed? What do I feed? Why do I feed that? What herbs can I use?

 

Providing our mix to people just makes it easier for their chicks to access to the same things that I use without having to go through the rigmarole of mixing it themselves. (You can view our herbal chick starter here)

 

Why Mess Is Good

One thing you might notice is that it’s pretty messy in my brooder. The chicks get feed everywhere. That’s actually a good thing because it shows that they’re eating.

 

One of the biggest concerns I personally had when I first started raising chicks was whether or not they would actually eat enough to grow. If they don’t eat, they don’t grow, which is bad. The mess tells me that they’re eating and I’m happy with that. 

 

Feeder Options For Day Olds

When chicks are day olds, I use a small, low bowl for their feed. That’s very intentional.

 

I’ve tried other feeders for the first couple of days of their lives, but with the hundreds and hundreds of chicks that I’ve raised, I’ve noticed the chicks have a hard time finding the food in juvenile feeders. Right after they’re born, they’re disoriented and tired because it’s hard hatching.

 

A bowl where they can just walk on top of the food, makes it easier for them to find the food, and – most importantly – to eat

 

As they get older, I’ll switch to their bigger feeder (like I show in this video). As day olds though, they don’t really understand how to use the bigger feeders yet: you have to teach them. So for the sake of making sure that they are eating and are healthy, I just use a little dish. 

 

So obviously they really like their feed; the bowl is easy to use and they’re healthy.

 

Encouraging Chicks To Eat

Something else I like to give chicks during the first weeks of their life and really until the time that they’re adults are dried tiny shrimp. (You can see my favorite type here).

 

I like these because they’re tiny. They’re easy to crush and they’re full of protein and they’re irresistible to chickens of all ages. 

 

Especially in the first couple of days of their life, I’m very worried that my chicks are not eating as much as they should. Treats that are full of protein, like these dried tiny shrimps, make it almost impossible for chicks not to eat. They love them so much that they just swarm. 

 

All I do to feed them is just put them right in the dish. These treats are not in place of chick starter, it’s just a supplement and it’s just really to ensure that my chicks are getting as much protein and as many nutrients into their body as possible so that they grow healthy.

 

There you have it! My little day-olds and I hope you’ve gotten a good feel for a convenient and balanced starting diet to help your chicks grow as strong and healthy as possible.

 

Got questions? Got comments? Got suggestions? Leave a comment below

Can Chickens Eat Strawberries?

Can Chickens Eat Strawberries?

 

Main Takeaways:

  • Yes, chickens can eat strawberries
  • For chicks, make sure the strawberries are very ripe and soft.
  • Make sure to squash the berries or chop them very finely
  • This shouldn’t replace regular chick starter! It’s a treat only
  • Stay away from jams, jellies, or anything with preservatives
  • If you buy berries from the store, wash them very well.
  • Consider buying berries from local sources that don’t use pesticides.

 

More reading:

Can chicks eat bananas?

Medicated vs. Unmedicated chick starter

Herbal treats for backyard chickens