Garden Betty's homemade whole grain chicken feed
Backyard Chickens, Nutrition

Garden Betty’s Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed

Update: I also have a corn-free version of my homemade feed! And for easy formulating, download the Garden Betty Chicken Feed Calculator to easily manage costs, calculate protein content, and custom mix your feed on the fly.

Last year, I started mixing my own soy-free, mostly organic, whole grain chicken feed. The decision to feed a whole grain diet — versus a commercially formulated diet — is a personal one based on what I believe is best for my chickens. Luckily, it also turned out to be an economical decision and a benefit to my own diet.

Homemade feed is not as expensive or complicated as you may have thought or been told. My three chickens (a Barred Rock, Easter Egger, and Cochin) lay over a dozen eggs a week on a hippie diet of whole grains and leafy greens. Their feathers are soft and shiny, their personalities as perky as ever… so I must be doing something right!

Why make your own whole grain feed?

Commercial chicken feed comes in crumble or pellet form, neither of which looks like real food to me. Since real food comes out of my chickens, I want real food to go into them.

Crumbles and pellets are already formulated to contain the nutritional balance that a chicken needs, but the process of cracking, mashing, pressing and/or heating the grains (often times, not even quality grains) causes them to go stale and lose some of their nutritional value — even months before you buy them.

On the other hand, whole grains (which you can pick and choose) retain all of their nutrients. With a whole grain diet, I’ve noticed that my chickens eat less and poop less (as opposed to the crumble diet they started on). This leads me to believe that their bodies are processing the food better and it’s not just passing through them.

Is a whole grain diet a complete diet?

Like humans, chickens need a diverse diet and sometimes they need a different diet in winter than they do in summer.

The greater variety of grains, legumes and seeds you can provide your chickens, the healthier and happier they will be. Layers need at least 16 percent protein and the rest is common sense — not too much fat, not too many carbs, and that last piece of chocolate cake is probably not a good idea. It’s all about balance.

I imagine that people wanting to make their own feed at home are likely also the sort of chicken keepers that let their chickens forage for bugs and weeds, or give their chickens mealworm treats and kitchen scraps. So overall, yes — this is a complete diet.

Why soy-free and organic?

Because of its cheapness, availability, and high amount of protein, soy is a large part of a commercial chicken’s diet. But it’s also an incomplete protein, an unnatural source of food, and a highly processed food. As with anything highly processed, it has potentially harmful health effects ranging from vitamin deficiencies to hormone disruptions — especially when consumed in the crazy amounts that our culture does.

Soy is one of the most genetically-modified foods in the world, and it’s included in almost everything we eat. I know I can’t avoid it in my diet, but I can limit my intake of soy by choosing not to feed it to my chickens. You are what you eat. (A pro-soy study found that soy protein transferred to the egg yolks and tissues of commercial chickens — even commercial “organic” chickens — fed a predominantly soy diet.)

An all organic feed was originally not as important to me as a soy-free feed. I felt the benefits of a whole grain diet outweighed those of an organic (but processed) diet. As it turned out, my homemade feed is almost all organic, thanks to bulk purchases from Azure Standard and my local market.

What does it cost? Is it worth all the work?

My homemade feed actually costs the same as the commercial feed at my local feed store. This may not be true for everyone, but in California, a premium bag of soy-free, organic layer pellets averages $0.70 per pound. My soy-free, almost organic, whole grain feed costs $0.69 per pound (and would even be less if I purchased in greater bulk — but I have only three chickens and very limited storage).

An unexpected advantage of mixing my own feed is that I can share a lot of the grains, legumes and seeds with my chickens (even my dogs get a little taste, since I feed them a human diet). The ingredients are all human grade and mostly organic, and the fact that they can feed the whole household makes buying 10- or 25-pound bags of grains more feasible.

While there was a lot of legwork in the beginning to make my own recipe, the payoff is learning more about nutrition than I ever thought I would and knowing what goes into my chickens’ food (and ultimately, what goes into me).

I mix a new batch of feed twice a month. It feels like garden therapy. I have a strange love for running my hands through a mountain of whole grains. It’s not any more work than refilling the feeder with bagged feed, and I have the option of changing up the mix every once in a while, rather than being stuck with the same 50-pound bag of commercial feed. (This is advantageous if you have a mixed flock of chicks, pullets, and/or layers with varying protein needs, or want to alter their diet in winter or summer. I cover the nutritional needs of different age groups in this post.)

How do you find the ingredients?

Most of my grains are purchased from Azure Standard. A natural food co-op that delivers nationwide, Azure Standard carries bulk bags of hard-to-find items like kamut and kelp, and usually for a better price than local bulk bins. The rest of my ingredients come from WinCo Foods, which has some of the best bulk bins in Los Angeles (and nearly a hundred other locations).

You can find more exotic grains at places like Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market, and in countless other natural food grocers and bulk food markets. Your local feed store or grain mill will also carry the basics like oats, wheat, millet and corn. Oyster shells and grit are common ingredients found at any feed store or farm/livestock/poultry supplier.

Okay, now how do you store all those ingredients?

Whole grains store for a very long time in cool and dark locations. Unless you go through a lot of feed quickly, I wouldn’t suggest keeping the grains in their original bags once opened, because weevils and rodents will think they’ve scored a buffet.

If you have a lot of space or a lot of chickens, you can dump all your ingredients into a large, lidded trash can, mix them all up, and scoop out from there. If you lack space or keep a small flock, like I do, you can store the ingredients in airtight bins and mix as you go.

Whole grains stored in airtight bins

Whole grains stored in airtight bins

I scoop everything into a flexible bucket, give it a good mix, and pour the fresh food into the feeder. It’s like Christmas Day for the chickens… twice a month!

Mixing up grains, legumes and seeds for my homemade feed

Refilling the chicken feeder with homemade whole grain feed

How do you switch from crumbles/pellets to whole grains?

Start by gradually mixing in a little bit of whole grains into your chickens’ current feed to adapt their gizzards. If they don’t forage frequently, make sure you offer them grit in a separate, free-choice feeder. Chickens don’t have teeth, so they swallow a small amount of grit and store them in their gizzards to grind up food. This is especially important for whole grains that need to be broken down.

Increase the amount of whole grains in their feed each week, until eventually you’re only feeding them whole grains. It may take a few weeks for your chickens to adjust to the change, so don’t be alarmed if egg production drops off a bit. They may also start flinging grains all over the place (you’ll soon learn what they like and don’t like) or picking out certain grains first (I believe chickens know what their bodies need nutritionally, so some days they may feed on more protein, less calcium, etc.).

Because of this, it’s a good idea to start with small amounts of different grains, and see what your chickens will eat before buying in bulk.

Recipe, please!

My homemade feed is around 17 percent protein, which is in the target range for laying hens. This is a good number to know if you’re only feeding whole grains. But if you supplement their diet with pasture, scratch, mealworms, and kitchen scraps, all that food will increase (or decrease) the amount of protein they take in each day, so don’t get too hung up on the number.

The cool thing about making your own feed is being able to custom make it for your flock. Read on for my suggestions and alternatives so you can create your own recipe too.

Garden Betty’s Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed

Makes 8 1/2 pounds (fills 10-pound feeder)

Ingredients

4 cups oat groats
4 cups black oil sunflower seeds
4 cups hard red wheat berries
2 cups soft white wheat berries
2 cups kamut
2 cups millet
2 cups whole corn
1 cup lentils
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup brewer’s yeast
1/4 cup kelp granules
Free-choice oyster shells
Free-choice grit

Oats are rich in protein (around 16 percent), B vitamins, calcium and fiber. Oats are also a good (and cheap) source of energy. All oats — no matter how they’re processed — are nutritionally similar, so you can feed oat groats, steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and quick oats interchangeably.

Black oil sunflower seeds (often called BOSS) are like candy to chickens. But good candy! BOSS is high in protein (averaging 17 percent), rich in minerals and vitamins, and the high oil content gives feathers a beautiful gloss. BOSS is typically found in the bird seed aisle at pet and feed stores, but I buy mine from WinCo Foods’ bulk bins. You can also substitute striped sunflower seeds (the seeds that are typically packaged as human snacks), but they tend to be larger than BOSS with thicker shells.

Wheat is a major energy source for chickens. If you can find both varieties, buy hard red wheat and soft white wheat for the best nutritional balance. Otherwise, feed only hard red wheat, as it contains more protein (around 15 percent).

Kamut is actually a brand of khorasan wheat, but these days the grain is simply known as kamut… the way kleenex is synonymous with tissue. It’s an ancient Egyptian grain that’s nutritionally superior to other wheat in terms of protein (18 percent), magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E.

Millet (unhulled) is found in most bird seed, and in fact, the millet I buy is a mix of red and white millet sold at the store as “wild bird food.” It’s less expensive than human-grade hulled millet, but still rich in amino acids and iron. Feed stores sometimes label the unhulled white millet as “proso millet” (not to be confused with spray millet, which is a long and thin seed head).

Whole corn is a fairly large kernel, so depending on your chickens, you may have to crack or grind the corn first. You can also feed popcorn kernels, which are half the size and easier for smaller breeds to pick up. Corn is low in protein, vitamins and minerals, but it does provide energy and fat.

Lentils are very high in protein (at least 26 percent) and if your chickens take to them, it’s worth adding more to your feed. Mine don’t particularly care for lentils or any legumes, for that matter, so I only add a small portion to my feed.

Sesame seeds have one of the highest amounts of protein in a seed (around 25 percent), so they’re especially good for picky chickens that won’t eat legumes. They’re also one of the more expensive ingredients in my feed, so I add them sparingly.

Flax seeds boost omega-3 fatty acids in eggs, and are also rich in protein (37 percent), B vitamins, and minerals.

Brewer’s yeast (animal grade) can be found online or at local feed stores. You can buy human-grade brewer’s yeast too, but you’ll end up paying double (at least). It’s an important source of B vitamins and protein (around 35 percent) for chickens. (On a side note, I’ve also read that feeding brewer’s yeast to your dog will repel ticks and fleas, in addition to providing all the other good stuff.)

Kelp granules (or kelp meal) are basically little bits of dried seaweed. Kelp contains essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and salt that your chickens need. It promotes healthy growth, increases egg production, and darkens yolk color — an overall superior supplement.

Oyster shells provide the necessary calcium to strengthen your chickens’ eggshells. Feed this free choice, and they’ll take what they need each day. You can also feed them clean, crushed eggshells to put all that calcium back into their bodies.

Grit is typically limestone or granite gravel that aids the gizzard in grinding food. If your chickens free range, they’ll probably pick up little stones on their own and won’t take as much from the free-choice grit.

Other good sources of protein include triticale, field peas, and split peas (or any peas in general — many soy-free commercial feeds rely on peas to provide sufficient protein). If money is no object, you could also add quinoa, spelt, wild rice, amaranth seeds, nyjer seeds, hemp seeds, or shelled peanuts as excellent protein sources. Feeding lower-protein grains like rye, barley, buckwheat and sorghum (milo) in small amounts will balance the higher-protein (and usually higher-cost) grains.

Try not to make your feed too heavy on any particular grain. The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture offers good information on the pros and cons of common feed grains on their Poultry Extension site.

At the end of the day, if you feed a balanced meal of grains, greens and garden pests — with a little treat here and there — numbers are not as important as a diverse diet.

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  • Hi Linda, thanks for the recipe, I’ve been looking for a corn-free chicken feed recipe for my chooks, great article and very informative…

  • Chris

    Thank you for the recipe. I was so excited to try and bought all ingredients in small amount at Whole Foods. TThiught the girls would love. Unfortunately they are barely touching it. They free range all day but when they see us they run to us to feed them. I switched about a week or so ago to just boss and cracked corn when layer feed finished. Now wondering if I should go back to a later feed but would rather not. What are your thoughts?
    Thank you

    • When changing your flock’s diet, it should be introduced gradually. I suggest mixing some of the new grains with their old feed, increasing the amount of new grains each week until they are only eating those grains. If the chickens are especially stubborn, you might want to keep them inside an enclosed run for a couple of days so they’ll have no choice but to eat the grains.

  • Katie C

    Hi Linda! I have recently discovered I am allergic to corn(one of my favorite foods) and most of the poultry feeds on the market that I have access to are pretty pricey for a single income household and are so far away from us that the freight costs are insane, although I find the products to be awesome. Is there something that I may substitute in this recipe for the corn, or can I increase some of the other ingredients while not interfering with the nutritional content too much? I like that 17% protein target you hit. I think it is perfect considering I also have 2 roosters in my flock.

    I am a member with Azure and I love it. Recently they were out of stock on the feed that I was going to switch back to, and it looks like I will be delayed a bit. Which now buys me some time to weigh options.

  • Aljaž Plankl

    Hello Linda.

    A lot of thanks for you calculator. I just bought whole grains and it helped me a lot to mix my own. Thank you so much!

    I translated it and converted it into metric data, so it’s easier to work with. I would like to share with Slovenian chicken community, if you don’t mind? Lots of people don’t know English and translated calculator will help them a lot. I will give them the link to your website and give you all the credits for making the calculator!

    A question though. Where did you get the data for crude fat content for your ingredients? For example, Oats have
    6.9% crude fat in your calculator? Probably you are referring to oat groats or naked oats? It’s really hard to get the data for whole
    unhulled oats, which are mostly available and used as feed in our
    country. They have a lot of fibers and I’m sure the numbers are quite different. In most cases data on web says unhulled oats are low in energy which is not the case in your article and in calculator.

    Thank you!

    • The crude fat content is mostly pulled from the nutrition data label on my own ingredients, as well as general data online (from US sources), so there will be some variation among manufacturers. If that’s something you want to keep an eye on, I suggest using your own figures for accuracy, rather than mine. Best of luck, I’m glad it’s helping you and your community in Slovenia!

  • Marina Rosa

    Sure, that is a real self sufficient tip. We could include some sushi and shiitake mushrooms and why not some french truffles.
    To all those that have not been brain damaged by retards advising on blogs, here is what you need to feed chicken or laying hens:
    80% cereal (corn, wheat, sorghum, barley) any you can get a hold on.
    20 % soaked for 24 hrs and boiled soybean, or raw peas beans or any legume that you can have around, alfalfa would be like caviar to them. Table spoon of salt, table spoon of limestone or any other calcium carbonate source per 25 kg.
    It pisses me of this city morons or pseudo hippies that think they can give advice to those that are really fighting to be independent.
    Love to all that think they can make it on their own….

    • Surely you can contribute a helpful comment without resorting to name-calling. Your “recipe” works as well, and is very similar to the one suggested in this post. I don’t really see how one is more “pseudo hippie” than the other as they both contain cereal, legumes, salt, and calcium.

  • Cynthia

    What are the benefits of using a homemade recipe such as the above over using an all organic and GMO free premix like Scratch and Peck’s feed lines? For me the total cost on either is about the same however using Scratch and Peck gives the advantage of using an all organic product where as the homemade feed wouldn’t be.
    I’m a bit torn on which to use!

    • I considered buying Scratch and Peck in the beginning, but ultimately decided to mix my own so I could include a greater variety of grains and seeds. If you read their nutrition label, you’ll see that their feeds rely on a vitamin and mineral premix (all the ingredients after sesame meal) to create a complete feed. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I prefer a custom feed that I can tailor to my chickens based on their needs. For example, in the fall I increase their protein a bit while they’re molting to help with feather growth. I also swap out ingredients once in a while if I see them start to prefer some over others (with a whole grain feed like this, it’s easy for chickens to pick out what they like or don’t like – and that includes the ingredients in Scratch and Peck feed). You might not be able to find everything organic for your custom feed, but I feel the benefits outweigh that fact. (If you live near a grain/feed mill, you might have better luck sourcing ingredients. Sometimes grains aren’t certified organic but are still raised according to organic principles.)

      • Cynthia

        Linda thank you! I appreciate the perspective and insight. I did notice that Scratch and Peck relied on vitamin and mineral supplements which I was disappointed about. At this point I’m either considering adding ingredients to Scratch and Peck or mixing/creating the entire feed like yourself. I do like the idea of having a variety for the ladies.

  • elaine Ritasdaughter

    Have you thought about fermenting your chicken feed? It makes the nutrients in the food more bio available, and the chickens don’t scratch through it, so none is wasted. And it’s really good for the gut health of your chucks!

  • Sheri Thomas

    Great article. I am going to be purchasing some of these items (i have some already on hand that I feed my chickie babies) but I verified my email but am not able to get the download. Help please

    • Hi Sheri, I checked your email and it appears you did receive and click on the download, so I’m going to mark this message as resolved. Please let me know if you have any other issues.

  • Shirley Richey

    Please help me with a recipe for baby chick feed. Thank You

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  • carol jo

    If I just added one item to my chickens diet what would give me the most bang for my buck? My chickens used to be free range but we have a puppy and until she is big enough to leave the chickens alone, they have a run that is about 12×25 feet. My boys also work at a custom meat shop where I could probably get free livers. Would that be a good thing to give them a couple times a week?

    • I’m assuming you already give them commercial bagged feed, and just want to supplement with something fresher? Since they’re already getting all the protein they need from the bagged feed, I’d say leafy greens are your best bet. You could give them liver as an occasional treat, but be sure to feed it in a dish and remove the dish each day when they’re done, so as not to attract unwanted critters at night.

      • carol jo

        Thanks, Yes I meant to supplement the bagged feed. We have long winters in Montana, so hard to get greens. We had to resort to a feeder that opens when they step on it because of the unwanted critters…..

  • Debbie

    Do you use hulled or unhulled sesame seeds in the chicken recipe?
    Thank you.

    • You can use either; chickens do not need any of their seeds or grains hulled before eating them. I go with whatever’s cheapest at the time I buy it!

  • Hannah

    how much do you feed them? It just says to “I scoop everything into a flexible bucket give it a good mix, and pour the fresh food into the feeder.”

    • I leave the grains out for my chickens (to self-feed) and refill as needed. With the size of my flock and the size of their feeder, I usually refill every 2 weeks.

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  • Ashley

    I love your recipe and have purchased all my grains through azure standard. How much of this feed do you give per chicken each day? And I saw in the posts that you suggested Fertrell’s Nutri-Balancer….my chickens roam the pasture but I wondered if I used that balancer do you think it could replace the brewers yeast and the kelp in your recipe? It seems like it might cost less to do that?
    Thank you!

    • I fill a feeder and let my chickens eat as much as they want. They also roam a pasture, so it’s hard to say how much to feed your chickens since it depends on what they eat throughout the day. I only recommend Fertrell if people aren’t able to source a wide variety of grains, as the supplement can fill in the remaining nutrients that may be missing from a more limited grain-based diet. It’s also a good idea for chickens that don’t get to graze on grasses, weeds, bugs, etc. You can add it to your feed if you can’t find some of the other ingredients, but it’s not necessary otherwise.

  • Andrea Kuska

    How about some links to where I can get the kelp granules? I’d love to try making feed for my chickens. 🙂

  • braddock

    I have been searching for 2 days for a whole grain recipe for replacing turkey grower for turkeys and this is the closest I have gotten. Do you know where there is one or convert this recipe for turkeys?

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  • Ashlee

    Can I feed this to my baby chicks?

    • Yes, but you would need to increase the protein content and substitute some of the larger grains for smaller ones. Read through the whole comment thread on this post and you’ll find lots of ideas and suggestions for adapting this feed to baby chicks.

  • asia

    Hi, thanks for sharing your information. I love your site and have been using your whole grain diet for my hens for quite some time now. They are very healthy. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations on adding greens? I do give them our veggie scraps but I have a small household so we don’t generate a much. I also don’t let them free range very often because of predators. I give them alfalfa but am wondering if you have any suggestions as I would like to add more greens to their diet.

    • I give them greens every day and I do believe they’re an essential part of a healthful diet. If you don’t have enough in your garden to share, you could make friends with some of the vendors at your local farmers’ markets and ask to buy their leftover produce at the end of the day (usually at a deep discount). I also let my flock “clean up” my garden beds at the end of each season, they go wild for all the plants that are bug-ridden and starting to seed. They also LOVE weeds! So this spring, I’ve been putting them to work in the yard. 😉

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  • evy

    I like that you are concerned with the overly modified soy and corn. I also share that concern and add wheat to that list due to the fact it is not the same wheat that we had 60 years ago. My question is what would you recommend for an alternative to wheat?

  • Halley Nelson

    Just wondering, can this mix be fermented?

  • Sherry Lynn

    I saw you had an excell spreaad sheet but I can’t seem to dodwnload it…I’m on my work computer I have no home one Could you e-mail it to me swetterbeg1955@yahoo.com I just need to start feeding htem a better diet I want those gold yello yoks.. I buy all my feed either from Qc supply or TC Help is so thankful

  • Sherry Lynn

    Ok…I need to do this with my chciken Where do I start

    • I’m not sure what you are asking here. All the information you need is in this post. Please read through it, as well as the comment thread which has lots of advice for a variety of situations.

  • BittyButton

    I just found your site. I am so happy I did! Now I want to feed my chickens like this and my dogs! I will be feeding my dogs homemade food soon. The chickens feed will have to wait until I can gather everything I need. My question is…can you specify what you get from azure and which ones you get from winco? I’m willing to do all the work to give my free range girls the best, just want to make sure the cost is as efficient as yours. Thank you!

    • These days my recipe is slightly different from the one posted, as I vary the feed according to what’s available from Azure or my local store. The ingredients I DON’T buy from Azure are typically brewer’s yeast (I get this in bulk from Amazon or a feed supply store), BOSS and flax (Winco), and millet, oyster shells and grit (feed supply store). I compare costs every few months when I reorder since I can sometimes find a better price locally. It all depends on where you are. I recommend keeping a list of how much each ingredient costs per pound, so that you can always spot a good deal when you come across it.

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  • Melanie

    How did you formulate your recipe? Where did you learn the specific dietetic needs of chickens? Do you know how much of each vitamin and component that chickens need and how much is in your feed? It would be very easy to get way off on certain nutrients if you don’t know the science behind it. Vould you please give me some links to the scientific basis for your feed recipe?

    • I formulated my recipe by using a spreadsheet that I created at http://www.gardenbetty.com/2014/11/garden-bettys-chicken-feed-calculator-for-determining-your-protein-content/ (which is also linked in my post above).

      As for where I learned about the dietetic needs of chickens, I studied several cooperative extension and poultry science sites run by various universities’ agriculture departments. The best one I have found, which caters specifically to small flocks and puts everything in layman’s terms, is the University of Kentucky’s Poultry Extension, linked above in my post. Their main site, which covers all nutrition (not just grains) is at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/smallflocks/Nutrition.html and within those pages are links to other poultry sites that I’ve followed and gleaned information from.

      Do I know how much of each vitamin is in my feed? No, that kind of information would be impossible to determine outside of a lab. I can only calculate the protein value, and even then, my chickens forage and feed on bugs, weeds, and kitchen scraps, so I would never truly know how many vitamins, minerals, and amino acids they’re actually getting each day.

      Personally, I choose to provide the necessary nutrients through a homegrown pasture and the dozen-plus grains, seeds, legumes, and supplements listed in my recipe. However in the comment thread here, I’ve recommended that some chicken keepers who aren’t able to source such a wide variety of ingredients to supplement their feed with a vitamin premix, such as Fertrell’s Nutri-Balancer (which Azure Standard now carries). It’s great for filling in the gaps.

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  • Momtoafew

    I have a corn Q. Is whole corn the same as popcorn kernels? That is all I can find, besides various forms of cornmeal or grits. Can they eat unpopped whole popcorn kernels? is that what you use? thanks 🙂

    • Whole corn is basically dried yellow corn kernels – different from popcorn kernels. Whole corn is the whole grain version of the cracked corn sold in feed stores (typically in scratch blends). Chickens can eat either type of corn, and I used to add unpopped popcorn kernels to my flock’s feed (they loved it at first, but months later decided they no longer liked any corn… go figure).

  • jb

    I like the idea of whole foods, but I have heard that whole (rather than split) grains is hard for the chickens to digest. Thoughts?

    • Chickens have gizzards which help break down food. Free-range chickens will actually swallow little stones (grit) and store them in their gizzards (a sort of specialized stomach). The grit acts as teeth and grinds up all the seeds, grains, bugs, and anything else they eat before passing that food back to their true stomach.

      So no, whole grains are not hard for them to digest as long as they have access to grit.

      • jb

        Thanks!!

      • jb

        One more question – can you tell I am new to this – but does feeding Oyster Shell reduce the need to
        offer Grit? It would appear they serve similar functions with Oyster
        shell giving added clacium? Thoughts?

        • Oyster shells and grit are two completely different ingredients with completely different functions. Both need to be fed free-choice.

          • jb

            Thanks!!

  • Susie

    Hi Linda,
    I will be using your recipe for my day old chicks coming in about a week. I read your answer to a comment earlier in the thread saying to add 20% more protein to the recipe. Which protein should be added and how much? It may seem like a stupid question but I cannot figure it out and my chicks will be depending on this recipe for nutrition so i figured I would just ask, lol. Thanks!

    • Hi Susie, it’s not 20% MORE protein added to the recipe; rather you increase the recipe to reach 20% protein (the one I posted is around 17%, so you would only be adding around 3-5% more).

      I have a calculator that helps you figure out how much of each ingredient to add/change to reach your target protein level. Use my recipe as a starting point, and make changes based on what you have available: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2014/11/garden-bettys-chicken-feed-calculator-for-determining-your-protein-content/ (and don’t forget to offer chick grit in a separate feeder!)

      Good luck!

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  • Jamie

    Great info, thanks so much for posting this.

    I’ve read that comfrey is a great sub for kelp. Our chickens LOVE comfrey and pick our plants clean if they get the chance! LOL 🙂

    • Comfrey is a highly nutritious plant (and makes a great garden fertilizer as well) but I’m uncertain if it’s a complete replacement for kelp. As far as I know, there is no substitute for seaweed in terms of the minerals it provides. But as long as you feed a wide range of grains and seeds, and allow foraging time, your hens should be very happy!

  • Mamatoafew

    This is such great info! Thanks 🙂 I cannot source tri berries or kamut. Any suggestions for a good sub? Can I sub alfalfa pellets for kelp, and if so, do I need to add salt ?

    • I get triticale, kamut, and kelp from Azure Standard. Alfalfa is not a substitute for kelp. I use kelp in this recipe to provide some salt and trace minerals not found in the other ingredients.

  • kirsy

    would this recipe work for ducks?

    • Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the nutritional needs of ducks.

  • Sam

    Is there some type of calculator you used to make sure all your ingredients provided the correct levels of nutrients? I am interested so that I could take your recipe and change it up based on our chickens preferences without messing up the nutrients that the chickens require.

    • You have to know the weights and protein amounts of each of your ingredients. I put it all into an Excel spreadsheet, which changes each time I buy a new ingredient (my recipe changes slightly every few months based on what’s available from the suppliers).

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  • Dorothy

    I have been feeding my pet rooster, Buddy, whole grains for quite awhile and recently I notice that he has developed a preference for millet over wheat (red winter wheat berries used to be his favorite). He also favors flax. He seems healthy and happy, but I’m worried about this change. He also seems to shedding feathers (I think it is a normal seasonal thing). Any ideas on why he would go off wheat or form a preference for milliet? He also gets fresh wheat grass and sunflower sprouts, a small green salad, tomatoes, shredded carrot, etc. He is a most pampered rooster.

    • Changing appetites and taste buds are normal for chickens, and can be caused by a shift in the seasons or simply new nutritional needs. I’ve found that my own chickens adjust their diet depending on whether they’re laying, molting, hot, cold, etc. Sometimes they’ll want more or less calcium or protein, sometimes they’ll get all they need from foraging around the yard. It’s nothing to worry about unless you notice serious changes in their appearance or their poop.

  • RobinJ

    Love this! Will definitely give your recipe a try. My dogs are on a natural home-based diet so why not my chickens!

    • I order most of these grains in bulk, and end up sharing them with my chickens and my dogs! (We all have homemade diets.)

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  • Xandra Williams

    Hello, Love your site by the way. I would like to make my own chick crumble. Do I just whizz the mix in the blender for the chicks? Or does it need to be a different mix? Also I live in Australia so I’ll have to substitute some of the grains. thanks for the recipe.

    • Yes, you can crumble everything in a blender but most of the grains and seeds are small enough for chicks to eat (as long as you provide them with chick grit). Chicks do need more protein though (around 20%) so you should adjust the feed accordingly by adding more of the high-protein grains.

  • I’d like to start fermenting whole-grain feeds, but I am curious about this mix – will I be able to ferment with this, or will the mucilaginous properties of the flax just make it into one big, jelly-like mass?

    • I ferment my whole-grain feed (see http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/05/why-and-how-to-ferment-your-chicken-feed/ ) and have never had it turn all jelly-like. The grains and seeds (including the flax) more or less retain their shape even when they’re wet. That said, we’ve had a particularly warm year this year, so I’ve been using up my fermented feed every couple of weeks before starting a new batch with fresh grains and fresh water. (At the moment, the fermentation only takes one day in my kitchen.)

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  • Jodie

    Although I LOVE the idea of feeding my 3 chickens this way, after doing the cost research, there is NO WAY the cost is similar to commercial. I can buy a 50 lb bag of quality crumble for $13-16 dollars. The cost of 50 lbs of this mix would be more like %50-60 dollars. (even using the link you provided) 🙁

    I may incorporate a few things into their current crumble but I most definitely can’t afford to go “all the way.”

    • The cost definitely depends on the area where you live and what resources you have available. Here in California (especially Southern California), quality organic feed is much more expensive.

    • LAM

      Jodie, where are you located? I am in Northern CA and a bag of Organic Soy Free pelleted chicken feed from a local supplier is roughly $0.85/lb (about $35 for 40#). With what I order from Azure and can get in bulk from the feed store, I am at about $0.60/lb (ends up costing, if bagged, about $25/40#).I am also purchasing larger amounts (25# and up) based on the number of creatures I feed with these grains. Doing a lot of cost research before starting this diet, if I were buying any less quantity, it would not be cost effective. HTH!
      Also, I purchase the brewers yeast off amazon – it’s by Thomas labs and it’s a BY + Garlic that is SUUUUPER beneficial to your chickens (and dogs too), even if that’s all you feed in addition to your commercial food.

  • Jess

    Hello,
    My name is Jess and I have two beautiful, young, sassy-pants hens who I just adore. I used your recipe to make them their first taste of whole grain food. They loved it. I will continue making it for them. Thank you for taking the time to share this recipe with your fans and their own sassy-pants hens.

    • You’re welcome, and I’m so glad this recipe worked out for your girls!

  • qqberts

    Hi, Love your site. I’m just starting this whole process and am slowly learning. I have three as well (my kids call them pets with egg benefits!). They hatched May 13, making them three months (12 weeks) today. When can I start this feed? It sounds wonderful!

    • You can start feeding them whole grains now, but their protein requirements as pullets are slightly different (they would need a little more until they start laying).

  • windward resident

    this is a great post! my hens have me well trained, i cook a mix of their grains, that has been soaking all day, in a ricepot! never a speck left!
    (unlike chicken feed)

    • Such spoiled little ladies they are!

  • Johana

    Hi, do you soak or cook the lentils or do they eat them raw? I’m reading on a lot of other websites that chickens shouldn’t eat them raw :-/

    • You do not need to cook lentils prior to feeding them to your chickens. They process dry/raw lentils perfectly fine.

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  • pat

    Thank you for the receipe, i ll try it because we like our chickens, we have 8 at the moment.

  • Julie

    Do you know if Kelp powder would work just as well?

  • Sandee Hall White

    Where is the best place to obtain the products used in the feed mix?

  • Prickers

    There’s nothing wrong with feeding chickens non-GMO soy. Saying that it’s not a complete protein as a reason to not put it in their feed is ridiculous, because no other individual item that you’re feeding them is a complete protein on its own, either. Clearly you feel that there’s a stigma associated with soy, but it’s no worse than corn.

    • Hi, I don’t claim that any of the grains or seeds in my feed recipe is a complete protein. I believe the best protein comes from meat, and a chicken’s diet should include a variety of protein sources; most soy-based feeds rely on only soy for protein. It’s also very difficult to find non-GM soy in the form of feed; you would need to buy human-grade soybeans and cook the toxicity out of them. But in my opinion, processed soy (even non-GM) pales in comparison to animal protein, which is widely available, and often free if foraging is an option.

      By the way, I also offer a corn-free (and soy-free) feed recipe here: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/04/homemade-whole-grain-chicken-feed-updated-and-now-corn-free/

    • Nancy Jacques Barratt

      Soy messes with the endocrine system and is not good for humans to consume (which you get through the eggs).

  • Shirley Richey

    I am having an impossible experience finding kelp granules! Can you help me locate? Thank you

    • I buy kelp granules in bulk from Azure Standard ( http://www.azurestandard.com). It’s the best price I’ve found online, and a bag lasts forever.

      • Shirley Richey

        well, I have bought alot from them in the last two months!! Cannot believe I missed that! So irritated at myself…I guess at the June drop I will have some. Thank you Linda..

  • AndreaK

    Linda, Thank you so much for your informative blog! I have just made my first batch of your non-soy recipe and have reduced my costs from $1.48/Lb. (from Scratch and Peck – wonderful and awesome – but expensive if paying $17 for shipping) to $1.09/Lb.!

    I also enjoy your level-headed and informed responses to comments.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    • You’re welcome, and thank you for reading!

  • Celina

    Will be getting my first chickens soon. They will be a couple days old? How do I go about making a feed for them? …… so glad I stumbled on your site!

    • Hi Celina, if you read through all the comments on this thread, there are lots of great ideas and suggestions for adapting this recipe to chicks. (You may have to scroll all the way down, but the information is all there!)

  • jb

    Can’t wait to get started. Do you ever grind the grains for the chickens? At what age do you start feeding it to them? Thanks!

    • No, I never grind the grains. Chickens have a built-in grinder called a gizzard that pulverizes all the food they store in their crop throughout the day. If you start feeding them whole grains early, you actually help them develop a stronger gizzard (just be sure they have access to grit or stones, as they will sometimes eat them to aid in the grinding).

      • jb

        Just realizing that you had posted quite a while ago on this. Is it too late to start now in November when my chicks were born last winter/spring?

        • You can start your flock on a whole grain feed any time.

  • This is really helpful!! Thank you! I’m a new chicken mom and have been looking for a great recipe to make myself and this is perfect!

    • You’re welcome, and good luck! Your chickens will surely enjoy it!

  • JAFMO

    Linda,

    Just wanted to say that you have some very good information here, those who feel otherwise are free to their opinion, but as a full time farmer who raises and sells, among other things, free range poultry I say you are right on. We grow our own grains on 150 AC of rotational crop land, and our layers, broilers, and turkeys all eat whole seed diets in addition to all the forage and bugs they can consume. We very much try to duplicate what mother nature does, and birds eat seed and small grains, actually they are the only animals who are truly designed to eat grains. Yes, it will take longer to raise a broiler to market size when feeding a whole seed diet that is soy free, but the results in meat and eggs speak for themselves. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you! And your free-range poultry farm should be an inspiration to others.

      • JAFMO

        Linda, I read your other blog and just a suggestion, you can also use Milo in place of corn. There is not a GMO variety I am aware of so for now it is pretty safe, many of the grain varieties have been selectively bred to be higher in tannins as bird losses were pretty high, so clearly they like it. If you can find a sorghum or sweet sorghum variety, also called “cane” in some areas but not the same as the real sugar cane, we grow Dale, they tend to be more appealing to birds as most are quite old genetics. We harvest some of our crop to press and boil for molasses an the rest we allow to go to grain for our feed.

        • Milo is a great idea! And one I’ve seen my bulk supplier carry too.

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  • LadyLucia

    I’m a newbie to raising chickens – I just received my four girls from a hatchery a few days ago. I purchased them as “started pullets” ages 15-22 weeks old. I’ve followed your recipe for corn-free feed, and have been keeping available to my four girls free choice. Is this recipe adequate given their ages, or should I be using a grower feed instead?

    • My feed recipes are appropriate for layers. For pullets, you should increase their protein a bit with extra helpings of high-protein grains (check the other comments in this thread for ideas). Free-ranging is wonderful for them, as they can also get more protein from the bugs in the ground. They also don’t need the oyster shells right now since they’re not laying, but they’re probably not eating them anyway. I’ve found that my chickens are quite intuitive when it comes to their own nutritional needs, as they won’t touch the oyster shells while they’re molting (and have stopped laying).

      • LadyLucia

        Will do on the extra protein, thanks. And, I’m waiting until they start laying to put out oyster shell. Thank you! 🙂

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  • rainbowsilkies

    Legumes need to be, must be, roasted/cooked before being fed to poultry. Chickens do not like uncooked or roasted split peas or lentils because they are not good for them; this is common feed making knowledge.

    • This is true of beans (some of which are toxic to humans when uncooked as well), but I have yet to find any studies showing that uncooked peas or lentils are not good for chickens. If you can clarify what being “not good for chickens” means and have a link to your source, I’d like to read more about it. Also, many commercial mills and feed makers who sell soy-free feeds use uncooked peas as their primary protein source (Modesto Milling and Scratch and Peck are two that immediately come to mind).

  • Old Orchard Homestead

    Why do you say soy is “unnatural”? It is no less natural than lentils or peas. Also, you mention soy is an “incomplete protein, an unnatural source of food, and a highly processed food”. Aren’t most plant proteins incomplete? And how is soy highly processed more than any other legume? Also, while you’re right that conventional soy is in our food supply is mostly GMO Soy, this is not the case with organically grown soy. The no soy argument does not seem founded based on what you’ve mentioned here. It is, or course, your choice to feed your poultry whatever it is you feel good about. I just don’t understand the “anti-soy” sentiment. The same way I don’t understand the way some folks are set on feeding their chickens a vegan diet. Chickens eat bugs, worms, mice, snakes, etc, they don’t want to be vegan…

    • When I say soy, I’m referring to processed soy and not soybean in its natural state. When I say incomplete protein, I’m referring to the people who rely heavily on soy for protein, whether for themselves or their chickens. Yes, organic soy does exist, but it’s not easily sourced when it comes to chicken feed. There are many more options when it comes to protein-rich grains and legumes, and this post serves to educate the chicken-keepers who are interested. If you have no problem feeding your chickens soy, then this recipe does not apply to you as you can find a commercial mix anywhere.

      As for people who want to feed their chickens a vegetarian diet, I blame factory-farm eggs that blatantly advertise “vegetarian fed” labels on their cartons as if that’s the norm.

    • rainbowsilkies

      Excellent point Old Orchard Homestead. I wondered myself where the organic fish meal or other protein source was. Also she buys wild bird seed and there have been several lawsuits over the high pesticides, chemicals, and molds in wild bird seeds killing wild birds. I like the general over all idea and appreciate the seed information, but the seeds need to be organic.

      • I do not feed my chickens organic fish meal. They get plenty of protein from foraging in the yard for (organic, I suppose) insects and this feed contains the proper amount of protein for my laying hens. You are free to supplement your hens’ diet with organic fish meal, but I don’t know, how much mercury does organic fish meal contain? Should that be of any concern?

        Also, it is unfair to generalize about all wild bird seed being tainted with pesticides. While this was true of Scott’s (Miracle-Gro) bird seed and others I may not be aware of, there are many others considered “natural” even if they’re not certified organic. I don’t specify brands in this post, as I trust the readers who are interested in making their own feed will go with their instincts and with what’s available to them.

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  • Susie

    I grind my seeds and grains and use warm water to make a gruel in the wintertime. It keeps them from picking out what they don’t like. They eat like pigs.

  • Kim

    If I’m sensitive to wheat, should I stay away from feeding my chickens wheat products? I was wondering if that would then cause me to be sensitive to the eggs.

    • All chickens are fed wheat products, so if you’ve been fine eating store-bought eggs, you’ll likely be fine eating backyard eggs.

      • Old Orchard Homestead

        All chickens are NOT feed wheat products. Wheat is expensive, and the commercial industry avoids it at all costs. Store bought conventional eggs are usually primarily corn and soy. I’m sorry Garden Betty, but I’ve found too many blatantly incorrect statements on this page alone.

        • It’s true that the cheapest eggs at the supermarket are based on corn and soy. But if you strive to buy “better” eggs, wheat is a major ingredient in the feed as it’s still very cost-effective.

          As for my posting of incorrect statements on this page, I have to disagree as your views on processed soy are highly debatable and a matter of personal preference.

  • Noelle

    Hi Linda–thanks for this recipe! I have created a new Azure Standard drop here in Southwestern Colorado in order to get the grains in bulk–I have learned a lot from you!! I have been feeding your recipe to my 29 laying hens for the past 2 weeks, and have noticed that they are not eating the small seeds/grains (millet, flax, sesame and lentils are left) nor the brewer’s yeast or kelp. They do not like the split peas, but multiple girls like whole peas–interesting. The yeast and kelp ends up on the bottom of the feeder and they don’t seem to be interested in it. I worry they are not getting the vitamins/minerals they need. Do you think I should stop the small grains and seeds or keep offering them in hopes that they will start eating them? Any suggestions on the yeast and kelp? Thanks for your help!

    • It does take a while to get a flock adjusted to a new feed, so I’d continue with the small grains but not add new grains until they’d eaten the old grains – if they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat them. If after a couple more weeks you see that they’re really adverse to the small grains, then you’ll need to experiment with other ones.

      As for the yeast and kelp, you can try turning your grains into a wet mash – that is, mixing them with a little water – so the powder doesn’t just fall to the bottom of the feeder. A fresh batch of wet mash should be made daily though; leftover mash could turn moldy after a few days.

  • Joel Nelson

    Linda, you need to help me with a plan to feed out broilers! I do a bunch every year and am sick of the commercial feed with all the gmo’s

    • I don’t raise chickens for meat so unfortunately I’m not familiar with broiler feed. I know that broilers typically need 20-25% protein, but some farmers vary the feed from start to finish while others give the same feed throughout the broiler’s life. Use my recipe and protein info as a guide to help you formulate, and good luck!

      • Joel Nelson

        I have been researching several options, will definitely use your recipe. Meal worms are another part of the plan!

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  • Hilary

    I made some chick feed for our babies I’m picking up today. I’m so glad for the comments on this thread! One question – how do you crack the grains at home? My food processor doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job and I’m worried about breaking it! Thanks

    • I’ve cracked whole corn and whole spices in my coffee grinder before, and that worked well.

  • Kristen

    Hi Linda i have access to canary seed and was wondering if this is okay to feed my chickens, also i think it is 16% protein do you know differently? Thankyou

    • Canary seed is just normal bird seed so yes, it’s fine to feed your chickens. I don’t know what the protein amount is, though.

  • Kat

    To further on my comment, hemp have absolutely no phytic acid. Hemp seed is packed full of protien and oils which will be very good for your chickens. Please try that out.

  • Kat

    Hi, this is all good for your chickens if you want to achieve an “organic look” to your feed, but you are forgetting a very important element of seeds which I am sure you havent realised and you might be making your chickens very malnourished.

    Phytic acid.

    Phytic acid is found in the hulls of seeds, nuts, whole grains and legumes. It is an inhibitor for the body to absorb vital minerals. Please look it up, and before thinking that unprocessed, dried seeds are good for your chickens, when they are not. The reason most chicken feed comes in pellets is because the food suppliers have prepared the grains and seeds in a way that is most nutritionally viable for your chicken’s consumption (ie, soaking the grains before using to remove a bit of phytic acid)

    There is a way around this by soaking all of your grains and seeds first for 24 hours and then drying them again, which should remove about 33%.

    But before you continue what you are doing, please look into this. It is an important part of grains and seeds which we are not informed about and could severely cause nutritional damage.

    • I’m actually very well aware of phytic acid and have read a fair number of reports on its role in digestion. I’m not completely convinced it’s the “bad guy” here because cooking decreases the phytic acid, which is how most people use their grains anyway.

      For every study I’ve read that cites the indigestion problems with phytic acid, I’ve read another that touts its benefits as an antioxidant. So, I feel this issue is largely debatable. I’ve yet to find a study that compares a chickens’ digestive system with our own, but seeing as they have a much more intense (lower pH) stomach acid than we do, and they also have gizzards to pulverize all their food, I wonder what kind of effect this has on the phytic acid.

      Birds in the wild eat all sorts of grains and seeds with no ill effects, and they supplement that diet with fruits, bugs, etc. As stated in my post above, the chicken-keepers who decide to mix their own feed are also the type who supplement their chickens’ diet with greens and kitchen scraps, or let their chickens roam on pasture… so homemade diets tend to be pretty well balanced.

      Commercial pellets are highly processed; the act of heating and pressing low-quality grains into pellets causes them to oxidize and lose nutritional value, so I’d rather my chickens eat fresh, whole grains that they grind up themselves in their gizzards.

      If you’re worried that your chickens aren’t getting enough nutrition out of the whole grains you’re feeding them, you may want to look into fermenting their feed, which I explain in detail here: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/05/why-and-how-to-ferment-your-chicken-feed/

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  • Rose

    Hi, thank you so much for posting on this topic. I’ve been looking for a homemade organic feed recipe for quite some time but found none that I thought suited me and my chickens the best; however, your recipe sounds great and I will give it a try. Thanks again!!

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  • Amanda Laubinger

    Hi there! I’ve had chickens for 2 years now. Love ever second of it. I was so happy to have found this recipe for making my own food for them rather than buying the crumble or pellet food which always smells like hops. Anyway, I my ladies refuse to eat the wheat, Kamut, lentils, flax and peas. I don’t know what to do. I am refusing them more food until they eat what I gave them. I know they won’t starve. They are free range and eat the food I provide them at will however, I am wondering if there are any other alternatives? I want to mix my own but I want to be sure it’s balanced like this recipe seems to be. Any suggestions or recommendations are welcomed. Most Sincerely, Amanda

    • If you read through all the comments, you’ll find plenty of high-protein alternatives for the grains/legumes your chickens refuse to eat. It’s best to just browse the bulk aisles of your local health food store and buy small quantities of different grains for your chickens to try. With any diet change, it takes time for your chickens to get accustomed to the food and the switch should be gradual.

      • Kristen

        Hi linda i have chicks and chickens and i want to get Quail and they all have different protein needs. your recipe is for 17% protein how did you calculate it out to be that and how would i be able to make a 30% feed

        • I calculate by weight so that it’s more accurate, but also a tad more complicated. This was my process:

          1. Find the protein content of each ingredient (e.g. oats = 16% protein).

          2. Weigh each portion of the mix (e.g. 4 cups oats = 1.63 lbs).

          3. Divide each portion by the total weight of all ingredients (e.g. in a mix weighing 9.26 lbs, oats = 17.6% of the mix).

          4. Multiply the ingredient’s percentage (17.6%) by its protein (16%) and you’ll find that oats = 2.8% protein in the mix.

          Do this for every ingredient and add up all the last figures. It’s easiest to put this all in a spreadsheet so you can calculate numbers on the fly as you adjust the values. Hope this helps!

          • Kristen

            Hi thank you for the info its very helpful. I have one more question, i have access to hemp seed, is that high in protein and safe for my chickens to eat?

          • Yes and yes!

  • Claire Michelle Wilson

    So excited that 4 chicks arrive next week, but am rather nervous as too what to feed them. We want our chickens to be happy, healthy and organic from Day 1, so I was wondering if you have a recipe for food suitable for them?

    • If you read through all the comments here, you’ll find many suggestions on how to adapt this recipe to chicks. Enjoy your new babies!

  • RSteigner

    This is a wonderful post! Thank you for providing the great, very complete information.
    A side question, where did you get the bins that you store your seeds/grains in?
    Thank you!

    • I forget what they’re called, but I link directly to their Amazon page in my post!

  • Terri Betz

    Awesome! Why go to all the work of growing your own eggs and then eat GMO’s!? Thanks for sharing this!

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  • KellyGrace

    Hi LindaBetty—I have been searching everywhere but have not found a good solution yet. My 6 sweet chicks are 10 wks old. So I’d like to get this figured out pretty soon—We are all allergic to wheat in this house, especially my youngest son (wheat really affects his ability to THINK – very frustrating for him at school!) I would lovelovelove to mix whole grain feed which is soy-free, corn-free, wheat-free for my chicks. Is that combo even possible??!! I also live in so cal, and there is even an azure standard delivery point near me. Can you please suggest some substitutions for wheat or direct me to some links or sites you know of? I would be so happy and relieved if I could get this figured out! I’d be so grateful for any wisdom you could provide. Many Many Thanks 🙂

    • Have you taken a look at my corn-free feed? http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/04/homemade-whole-grain-chicken-feed-updated-and-now-corn-free/

      I am not completely familiar with wheat intolerance, as sometimes people can still tolerate rye and barley… but those are two options if they’re doable (save the rye for when they’re laying), along with triticale (which I use in my corn-free mix), buckwheat (not a wheat, despite the name), brown rice, wild rice, sorghum/milo, different varieties of millet, split peas, field peas, amaranth, or quinoa (although these last two might be cost-prohibitive). As long as you don’t go too heavy on any one of these grains or legumes, you should have a properly balanced feed without any wheat.

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  • Greenhousefarm

    I am confused on how you came up with the cost. I am not good at math but the way I see if you are making this mixture 2 times a month for 3 hens and I am seeing it cost about 60 a month in feed this way using the prices from Azure is that right? I pay 25 bucks a bag for NON GMO feed from my feed store….and it lasts me 3 weeks with 13 chickens. Please tell me I am doing something wrong because I would love to make my own feed.

    • I only mix 8.5 lbs of feed at a time. My feed is $0.69/lb x 8.5 lbs = $5.87 x 2 (refills per month) = $11.74 per month. (Your monthly cost will obviously be more since you have more chickens. However, your per-lb cost might be less since you could buy larger bags of grains.)

      I calculate my per-lb cost for each grain, then weigh all my ingredients to calculate my per-portion weight. I’m not sure how you arrived at your other figure but keep in mind some ingredients (like BOSS) cost more per lb but weigh very little, while others (like wheat) cost less but weigh more.

      • aymie

        i’ve been scrolling through all of these messages and I can’t seem to find how much of this recipe you fee each chicken per day. I would love if you could tell me how much each individual chicken should get per day or if you feed them twice a day? HELP!

        • I leave it all out for them in a feeder. This recipe lasts about two weeks, but my three chickens also forage in a yard all day so it’s hard to say how much grain they actually eat in a day.

          • irene

            i started to raised chickens june 2013. still till this day i have no idea on how much food to give my chickens. everybody i have asked or looked up on the computer never say how much to feed them. i have 21 hens, 5 rooster, 15 babies, and 1 baby turkey. in a few days i will get 5 more baby turkeys. I don’t want to starve them or waste the food, its very pricey. They have been stuck in their coop for the last couple of weeks because of the HAWKS. they get plenty of treats but still would like to know how much food per chicken and baby chicken. Just wanted to say that i’m very interested in your homemade food recipe for chickens. I thought what the crumbles i bought was suppose to be good for them. now I’m having second thoughts. thanks

          • The reason why there’s no definitive answer on how much to feed your chickens is because chickens, like people, all eat very differently. Mine eat more in summer and less in fall/winter. They eat less grain when they’re out foraging all day, but more grain when they’re hanging out inside the coop waiting for a storm to pass. They fill up on weeds and grubs in spring but don’t find as much on the ground in winter. The amount of treats or kitchen scraps you give them also affects how much grain they eat.

            It’s especially difficult to determine how much your chickens eat if they share the same feeding area as your roosters, babies, and turkeys. You really just have to take mental notes on your flock’s feeding habits over time. If they eat everything that you put out right away, give them more. If there’s a lot of food left at the end of the day after they roost, you can maybe cut back. Feel all of their crops at sunset, after they’ve gone to bed, and make sure they’re nice and full. Their crops should feel a little larger than golf balls – hard and round. A squishy crop means they’re not getting enough food.

  • coventrychicks

    Thank you so much for your amazing recipes and information on organic feeding! I read your blog several weeks before purchasing my peeps and decided organic was the way I wanted to go. I have 11 peeps now ages 3 days to 2 weeks, and after a week on chick starter feed I sprinkled in a few tsp of about 1/3 of the seeds listed to introduce it slowly. They literally came running up to me the first time I mixed it and started pecking it straight out of my hand! Even the tiny babies fought for a taste of the quinoa and barley. I did break the lentils a little and mine gobbled them up. I am so excited that you posted this and I know my peeps are thanking you too! Looking forward to having a flock of super healthy hens by summer.

    • So happy your girls are hooked on the whole grains, and hope they’ll be giving you some amazing orange-yolked eggs in a few short months!

  • bowen012

    Have you tried fermenting this mix to reduce intake (and therefor cost)? I plan on using this (or the corn free) mix once my chicks age into conventional feed possibly, but fermenting their feed now and likely to continue to do so for health and cost benefits.

    • I ferment feed every once in a while, usually leftovers (without the brewer’s yeast) or scratch. It works well, but my chickens also forage all day (on 2,500 sf of “pasture”) and get scraps from my kitchen… I’m not sure if I’d see a major gain in health or cost savings (especially with only three chickens).

  • Any links for whole grains for ducks?

    • I’d imagine ducks and chickens eat the same feed (as they’d forage for the same things in the wild) but I’m not too familiar with their specific protein needs as they grow from duckling to adult.

  • Jill

    What would you replace the corn with in this recipe? (I did see your corn-free post, but my birds aren’t laying yet, so I need to avoid the rye). They do eat peas/legumes, so maybe it is easier to modify this original recipe? I’m new to chickens altogether, never mind making my own feed, so any suggestions are appreciated!

    • I think it’s easiest to replace the corn with split peas, as pullets can use a little more protein than layers.

  • Justine

    Is there something we can substitute for whole corn? It’s impossible to find corn that is not GMO in my area.

    Thanks!

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  • Curious do you leave the grains whole or do you run them through a mill?

  • ioujc

    Thanks for an excellent (egg-cellent) recipe! I will use it on our new flock we are starting.

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  • Lep1818

    I just found your post. I have been researching before we get our own hens and have a question about the grit and oyster shell. When you say they are free choice, do you set out separate containers of those in along with the feed in the morning? How much feed can I expect to feed 3 hens per day? Do you know of a substitute for corn? Thank you so much for your help!

    • Yes, I set out two separate containers for the grit and oyster shell, and just leave them in the coop with the regular feeder.

      The recipe above lasts my hens about 2 weeks, but they also get to forage every afternoon and I give them greens/kitchen scraps a few times a week as well.

      You can substitute anything for corn without affecting the protein value of the feed, as it is very low in protein. Read through the comments, as there are quite a few suggestions for various grains and seeds you can use instead!

  • BigZ

    Alright, I’ve gotten most of my ingredients but had one other question…would Nutritional Yeast be ok in lue of Brewer’s Yeast?

    • The reason I add brewer’s yeast is because it’s an excellent source of B-complex vitamins. I’ve read that brewer’s yeast generally contains more B vitamins than nutritional yeast does, but this may depend on the different brands.

  • JoAnn

    Thanks so much for your site, I am loving it! I am going to be getting baby chicks soon and I want to use your recipe. I know I will need to increase the protein, what is your suggestion for the easiest way to meet my chicks diet needs. Also, I planned on grinding down most of the ingredients, does it need to be in an almost powdered form? I bought the BOSS already but those seem like they might be hard to grind down. I would love to hear any input you may have. Thanks again! 🙂

    • A powdered form is not necessary, as baby chicks can eat smaller grains like oat groats. So, you can just crack the grains, including the BOSS. BOSS does contain a lot of oil though, so I’d crack them as needed to prevent rancidity. (If you do grind everything into a powder, it’s better to turn it into a wet mash – by adding a little water – so that the food isn’t wasted in the form of dust.)

      As far as increasing protein, you could simply add another few cups of high-protein grains to this recipe (and maybe scale back on the wheat, millet and corn). Try split peas, cracked peas (of any kind), lentils, triticale, quinoa, sesame seeds, or amaranth seeds.

      Also, do provide chick grit for digestion, but do not give them oyster shells. Chicks do not need extra calcium.

      • JoAnn

        Great, thank you so much for the info!!!

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  • Shannon

    Hi! I’m having a hard time finding whole corn in bulk. Can I use popping corn? Also, I’m getting chicks in just a couple days and was reading through the comments. Can I use popping corn for them as well or just corn meal? Thank you so much. My ladies LOVED the first batch I made 🙂

    • Shannon

      Oh! I was also planning on substituting quinoa for the kamut, my ladies didn’t seem to like it as much. Is that ok? Or is there something else?

      • Quinoa is rather expensive but is a great substitute.

        If you want something cheaper, but still high in protein, I recommend triticale. I’ve been feeding that in lieu of kamut lately, and my chickens love it. I’ll probably make the switch permanent because of the better price I get for it.

        • Kristen

          I can’t find the ancient grains where i live, i just have the basic red wheat, oats, flax, and rye. Iam even finding it hard to get the kelp and yeast. Is it okay if i omit the kamut or maybe just add something a little more readily available, if you could give me a few ideas that would be great. Also i live in canada and in a northern community(remote) i most likely have to give my birds the alfalfa meal and the poultry nutri-balancer
          how much would you suggest to incorporate into your feed?

          • You can replace the kamut with any high-protein ingredient. Try split peas, field peas, or add an extra cup each of the lentils and sesame seeds.

            I’m not familiar with portion sizes for alfalfa meal, but if you can find a bale of alfalfa from a feed store or ranch, you can leave that out for your chickens to peck at. Or, add a couple cups of alfalfa pellets to your feed during the times of year when greens are scarce. For the Nutri-Balancer you would need to ask the manufacturer for serving suggestions; I have never used it.

          • Kristen

            Hi i was wondering can beans be interchangeable with the split peas and lentils they all are pretty high in protein

          • Kristen

            Hi i forgot to ask about kelp granules, i can only find them online and they are for humans and rather expensive. I seen them advertised as an organic fertilizer 100% natural for a quarter the price, would they be okay to give my chickens?

          • I honestly don’t know the difference between kelp as a health supplement and kelp as a garden fertilizer. Personally, I’d only use human or animal-grade kelp. Try looking for kelp meal or kelp powder, if that helps.

          • Dried beans contain a compound that is toxic to chickens (and most birds in general). I don’t know what amount causes toxicity, but I’d refrain from using them as part of your feed. (Dried or undercooked beans are also toxic to humans.)

    • Yes, you can use plain popcorn (unpopped). For chicks however, I’d recommend corn meal as popcorn kernels may be too large for them.

      So happy you’ve had success with it!

  • Leslie

    Hello, I am wondering what the cost is to make your own organic feed? What are you paying? I am not sure if it is worth my time to make my own. Currently I am paying $35+tax for 50lbs of Organic Feed. Thank you 🙂

    • It depends on where you live and where you buy supplies. In LA, commercial organic feed is about $0.70/lb (though I don’t live near a feed store that carries it) and this recipe costs me $0.69/lb (but is easy to source locally), so it’s only marginally cheaper. I could actually get my cost down even more if I bought in greater quantities (50-lb bags instead of 25-lb bags).

      The real value to me is knowing exactly what goes into my feed. Even if you decide not to make your own, you can use this recipe as a base for choosing a good commercial feed as you’ll know what ingredients are included and why.

  • Jenny

    I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on healthier and cheaper options to feeding my chickens. I love this post! I have come across fermented feed for chickens and other livestock. Do you think you could still ferment this feed but maybe leave out the brewer’s yeast?

    • Yes, you can ferment whole grains and seeds – it simply turns into a wet mash. I’d add some kind of starter to get it going quicker.

  • BigZ

    Is this feed safe for baby chicks? (Roughly 2 weeks old) I’m mostly curious to if they can have flax and hemp seeds, but would love to start making their food. I just know the babies have different needs/concerns. Awesome write up!

    • Thanks! Flax and hemp seeds are both good for baby chicks because they have very high protein levels, and chicks need more protein than pullets and layers do (around 20-22% vs. 16-18% for the older girls). However, I don’t remember how large a hemp seed is – a chick can handle a small grain or seed, similar to an oat groat. Anything larger should be ground or fed in meal/powder form.

      You can use this same recipe, but replace the larger grains (like BOSS, kamut, corn) with shelled sunflower seeds, quinoa, corn meal, etc. Then add a few extra scoops of high-protein stuff like hemp meal, split peas, or amaranth seeds. And finally, always, always make sure they have access to grit (specifically chick grit, which is smaller) so they grind everything up properly in their gizzards!

  • sumsum

    Thank you! I have looked everywhere for a homemade recipe that was simple and didn’t involve weird ingredients, supplements, freeze dried worms (yuck).
    I am wondering if there is something I could use instead of the kelp? My chickens have a fairly large area to free range but its covered with snow in the winter. Could I substitute with fresh fruits/veggies? If so, what types would be best?

    • Kelp is included in the recipe for trace minerals and salt. I don’t really know of a good substitute for all that kelp provides. Are you having trouble finding any form of kelp? I use the granules but it also comes as kelp powder, kelp meal, and seaweed. It’s sold as a supplement for humans, horses, dogs and cats (the only difference being human grade vs. animal grade). Or, you can look for dried seaweed in an Asian market. Sometimes it’s sold as a bundle of dried seaweed (like what you might find on the beach) and you can simply hang this in the run and let the chickens peck at it whenever they want.

      • I went to an Asian market and bought whole dehydrated kelp. I put it in my food processer and ground it until it was pretty fine and then I sprinkle some on their food and mix it in. It is not too exspensive and seems to go along way. Do you think this is a good idea?

        • That sounds like a great idea!

  • Bridget

    Can you feed oat with hulls on them?

    • Yes, since their gizzards grind everything up. Just make sure your chickens have access to grit.

  • meg09

    Betty quick question, would this recipe work out if I excluded the corn? Also I was planning on premixing this feed and storing it in a plastic trashcan (new;not used) in my garage, would this be okay, or would it be better to store it the way you do?

    • Yep, you can replace the corn with any other grain (as corn is low protein anyway). I’ve recently started feeding my chickens triticale and rye (when the other grains are sold out) and they eat it all up!

      A trash can works for storage, so long as the lid is secure. Annoying little vermin like mice and weevils have a way of getting into all that food if it isn’t, so be sure you close it tightly!

  • Jules

    Hi, wow, I am so excited to start with my chickens. I haven’t gotten them yet but doing all the prep right now. I was wondering a couple things. One, how long does 8 1/2 lbs. last? I am thinking about three chickens also. I am worried about food because I don’t want to use conventional, but am afraid I won’t be able to find all the ingredients. Also, I am wondering if I can feed and keep a turkey with the chickens?? Just stumbled upon your site- really loving it!! Thanks!!

    • Jules

      Oh yeah, one more question; what is considerd greens? Apple and pear scraps? Or just green things??

      • When I refer to greens, I usually mean green things, like lettuce, kale, collards, broccoli, etc.

        Apple and pear scraps (as well as green scraps like the outer leaves of cabbage that you sometimes discard) are what I call kitchen scraps.

    • This recipe lasts my three chickens about two weeks. They do get to forage in the afternoons though, so I’m not sure how much they eat from their feeder vs. how much they find on pasture.

      You definitely don’t have to worry about following my exact recipe, as many other seeds and grains will work just fine in place of something you can’t find. And who knows, your chickens might not like a particular grain, so there will be a fair amount of trial and error as you create a recipe that’s more suited to your flock.

      I don’t really know much about turkeys. I’ve seen them housed together on farms, but you probably need plenty of space to keep all the birds happy.

  • Bridget

     I’m new to chickens and getting 10 new chicks in May.  I plan to feed
    whole grain, but I’m wondering what you feed them as little
    chicks…will they eat whole grain already?Bridget
     

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  • Chanel

    Hi just came across this site from random browsing about building your own feed for chickens. I happen to be in the flaxseed business and I’d like to comment that flaxseeds has a waxy outer coating that cannot be digested without heating or pulverizing in some way. So in a sense you (chickens and other animals) will just poop it out whole. If you check your chicken poop you can even see specks of flaxseeds in there! The best way to consume flaxseeds is to grind it up, say in a coffee grinder :). Can be keep up to 3 months frozen. 3 weeks in the fridge. They go rancid FAST because of the high oil content. So grind as you use or keep in freezer. Good luck!

    • I have to say that I constantly check my chickens’ poop, and have never seen specks of flax seeds (or any seeds for that matter) in them. Their gizzards do a good job of grinding everything up. If you are seeing undigested seeds in your chickens’ poop, I’d suggest adding grit to their diet.

  • Elizabeth C.

    I was told that uncooked lentils were a no-no…do you cook your lentils before giving them to the girls?

    • Uncooked lentils are safe for chickens to eat. I always add them to the feeder as-is (dried), but sometimes I’ll cook a cup of lentils and leave them in the coop overnight so the girls find a nice little treat in the morning!

  • Soiree-Leone

    We just got an Azure buying group together!  Yip-pee!  Question: Which grains did you buy from Azure and what sizes did you start out with?

    I noticed that you do not include a supplement such as Fertrell’s Poultry Nurti-Balancer but did include kelp and brewer’s yeast . . . interesting. 
    Thanks!

    • All the grains in my recipe, with the exception of the BOSS, millet, brewer’s yeast, sesame seeds, and flax seeds, come from Azure. (Azure does carry the latter two, but I found them cheaper at WinCo.)

      Since I only have 3 hens and limited storage, I bought 25-pound bags. I’ll be reordering soon and might buy 50-pound bags of the oats and wheat, since I go through those more quickly.

      My hens free-range most of the day, so additional supplements aren’t needed. If yours don’t have access to pasture, or if you don’t feed them extra goodies like greens, mealworms, or leftovers, adding Fertrell’s or alfalfa pellets would not be a bad idea. (But, I think they’re only necessary for chickens that never leave their coop, or who live in northern climates with snow.)

      • Soiree-Leone

        The birds love the new rations; which I view as only one part of the diet.  I grow pasture for them along with black soldier fly larvae they are happy birds!  I also keep baled alfalfa on hand in case I am low on fresh greens (which isn’t often here in S. Cali). 

        I have 5 birds so I did go with a 50-pound bag on the wheat but rather than the lentils I went with a 25-pound bag of whole peas ($10.30).  Plus groats, flax, milo, millet, kamut, triticale, sesame seeds, brewer’s yeast, and kelp granules. I did go ahead with Fertrell’s but the 60-pound bag will last forever! (Azure saves so much over our local co-op) And lastly a 50-pound bag of BOSS.  

      • Kristen

        Hi i was curious how much you buy of each ingredient in your list and how long it lasts just to give me a general idea of how much i should order. I have 4 chickens.

        • How long your food lasts depends on how much your chickens eat. Mine forage all day and get tons of garden treats, so the grains I buy last several months. If you’re just starting your chickens on this diet, you should order small quantities first to see what they like before ordering bags in bulk (and by then you’ll probably figure out how quickly they go through their food).

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  • Rhiannon

    Can I use shelled organic sunflower seeds instead?  I had found this recipe before yours and I was going to use it: It said shelled for the baby chick version but not this version, I was going to use organic shelled sunflower seeds, do you think that is ok?

    2 parts whole corn (in winter this is increased to 3 or 4 parts)
    3 parts soft white wheat
    3 parts hard red winter wheat
    1 part hulled barley
    1 part oat groats
    1 part sunflower seeds (in winter this is increased to 2 parts)
    1 part millet
    1 part kamut
    1 part amaranth seeds
    1 part split peas
    1 part lentils
    1 part quinoa
    1 part sesame seeds
    1/2 part flax seeds
    1/2 part kelp granules
    free choice of granite grit
    free choice of oyster shell

    PS I tired to share a link to an album I made on facebook so you could see my baby chicks, but it would not let me share it here.

    • Shelled sunflower seeds are absolutely okay! And when your chicks are old enough, you should switch them to BOSS, as the higher oil content makes them more nutritious.

      You can also sprout a lot of the larger grains and seeds to make them easier to ingest.

      • eggsRbest

        Did you know that whole grains actually sprout in their gizzards?  I discovered this while butchering some young roosters!  They produce their own nutrients from the sprouted grains…amazing creations!

        • Fascinating! Thanks for the tidbit!

  • Rhiannon

    Nevermind I just read the answer: WinCo, is it organic?

    • Not organic… I haven’t found organic BOSS anywhere actually.

      • Elizabeth C.

        I get my Organic BOSS from Modesto Mills. We run a co-op here in San Diego and get it in bulk. 

        • Good to know! I never saw that option on their site.

  • Rhiannon

    Hi Linda,
    May I ask where you get your Black oil sunflower seeds?  Azure does not carry them, thanks!

  • Rhiannon

    Thank you for the AMAZING write up!  I just got 8 baby chicks a few weeks ago and I started making my own food last week.  Your ideas are SO helpful and the bin/bucket links are awesome.  You are super great, thank you SO MUCH!  🙂

    • You’re welcome! Your little chickies are very lucky!

  • Love this! I’m saving this, for the future chickens we’ll hopefully have, in my recipes folder (yes, right alongside the pie and lasagna recipes).

    • Cute!

    • Bridget

       I’m new to chickens and getting 10 new chicks in May.  I plan to feed whole grain, but I’m wondering what you feed them as little chicks…will they eat whole grain already?

      • They can eat smaller grains such as oats and wheat, and shelled sunflower seeds. But you should crack or grind larger grains for them, or substitute grain meals for the whole grains, e.g. corn meal, etc.

        Also, keep in mind that chicks have a different feeding requirement than layers. Chicks do not need oyster shells (calcium), but they do need extra protein while they’re growing. Commercial chick starters are around 20% protein. For your homemade feed, you can increase the lentils (or split peas) in my recipe, or add alfalfa meal.

  • Linda,
    Thank you so much for this. I have been reading and researching for making my own feed for months and everyone made it sound so complicated and hard. Plus, I too am in the Los Angeles area and couldn’t find an organic feed here. This is fabulous. I will let you know how my chickens like it!

    • Very happy to help a fellow chicken keeper! Isn’t it ironic that in a health-conscious town like LA that even offers chicken sitters, you can’t find quality chicken feed?

  • Roxana

    You had me at less poop!

    I would rather feed my soon to be laying 5 girls 😉
    This beautiful mixture of real food,
    Right now I’m feeding them an organic chick feed by Modesto mills.

    Question where are you buying the black oil sunflower seeds?

    Thanks GB for the Great info! I can’t wait to mix this up.

    • I get my BOSS at WinCo in the bulk seed aisle ($0.96/lb), but it’s normally sold in the bird aisle at pet and feed stores. I’ve edited the post above to include this information. 🙂

      If you want to feed this recipe to your chicks, I’d suggest using cracked corn or corn meal in place of whole corn (easier to eat). Chicks need more protein as well, so increase the high-protein grains or add split peas to the mix.

  • Panthercreekcottage

    Awesome research, thanks for sharing! Your tiny flock is very fortunate indeed.

    • My flock AND me. 🙂 I’d never heard of kamut before mixing my own feed, but now I make it for myself as well.

  • Aagaard Farms

    Are you BOSS in the shell or shelled?  Great post, been looking for this info!

    • The BOSS is in the shell, and is usually sold this way. My chickens eat the whole thing in one swoop.

  • Ashley English

    this is SO fabulous! thank you for such thorough information!!! 

    • I know you’ll have fun mixing up a lil’ something for your ladies. 🙂

  • Samantha

    linda, i have to hand it to you.  i so rarely see anything new on the blogosphere anymore.  (how many more banana nut bread recipes do i need?  gigglegiggle )  but this post and the one about summer loving salads, as well as a multitude of other  posts on your blog are really original and helpful.  thanks tons!  i really look forward to your postings.  have a terrific summer, samantha

    • Thanks Samantha! Are you getting chickens soon?

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