Backyard Chickens / Nutrition

Garden Betty’s Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed

Garden Betty's homemade whole grain chicken feed

Update: I also have a soy-free corn-free version of my homemade whole grain chicken feed! For easy formulating, download Garden Betty’s Chicken Feed Calculator to manage costs, calculate protein content, and custom mix your feed on the fly.

More than nine years ago, I started mixing my own soy-free, mostly organic, whole grain chicken feed, and it’s still the best feed I could possibly give my hens. (I’ve tried the entire lineup from the feed store.)

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 hens. Luckily, it also turned out to be an economical decision and a benefit to my own diet.

Homemade chicken feed is not as expensive or complicated as you may have thought or been told.

My small flock of hens lays two dozen eggs a week on a DIY 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!

A flock of laying hens pecking and scratching at the ground

Why should you make your own whole grain chicken feed?

Commercial poultry 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 hens 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.

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Is a homemade whole grain diet a complete diet for a chicken?

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.

Chickens foraging in a raised bed garden

Why should chicken feed be 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, soy 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 poultry feed is almost all organic, thanks to bulk purchases from Azure Standard and my local supermarket.

Homemade whole grain chicken feed in a jar

How much does DIY chicken feed cost?

My homemade chicken feed actually costs the same as the commercial poultry feed at my local feed store. This may not be true for everyone, but on the west coast, 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 larger bulk quantities — but I have a small flock and very limited storage).

This isn’t cheap chicken feed by any means, but it’s also not exorbitantly expensive considering the quality ingredients that go into it. You can lower the cost by going in with a fellow chicken-keeper on 50-pound bags of grains, or by using animal-grade ingredients instead of human-grade (which is what you’ll find in feed stores, and they’re perfectly acceptable).

An unexpected advantage of mixing my own feed is that I can share a lot of the grains, legumes, and seeds with my chickens, and I even use some of the same grains in my homemade dog food.

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 two or three times 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 my post that helps you calculate protein for your own chicken feed.)

Pullets and layers roosting together in a chicken coop

How do you find all the ingredients for homemade chicken feed?

Most of my grains are purchased from Azure Standard. As a natural food co-op that delivers nationwide, Azure Standard carries bulk bags of hard-to-find items like kamut and kelp, and sometimes at a better price than Amazon.

The rest of my ingredients come from local stores with a wide variety of bulk grains. (WinCo Foods was my go-to in Southern California, and still my favorite for cost, selection, and convenience. Market of Choice is my current stop in Central Oregon when I need a last-minute refill or want to try something new.)

You can find more exotic grains at places like Whole Foods Market, 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.

How do you store all the whole grain 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 clean metal trash can with a lid or a large galvanized steel bucket with a lid, mix them all up, and scoop out from there.

If you lack adequate space or keep a small flock, like I do, you can store the ingredients in airtight bins and mix as you go.

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… multiple times a month!

Mixing up grains, legumes, and seeds for my homemade chicken feed

Update: Since this post was originally written, I’ve moved on to a new chicken coop that doesn’t have on-site storage, so I keep all of my grains and seeds in the garage. I’ve also added a few other containers — that I like just as much, if not more than my first containers — which are all linked in my sources at the end of this post.

How do you switch a flock 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 (I use this one).

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 seeds, and see what your chickens will eat before buying in bulk.

Chickens scoping out a sunflower seed head

How much protein do chickens need?

My homemade chicken 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. You can make this chicken feed in bulk if you have a larger flock, just scale the recipe accordingly.

Keep reading for lots of suggestions and alternatives so you can create the best homemade chicken feed for your flock!

Handfuls of flax seeds, wheat berries, millet, lentils, corn, and sesame seeds piled on a butcher block surface

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, and I buy mine from a local farm and garden store. 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 (which is especially helpful in winter).

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.

Homemade Chicken Feed Sources

Garden Betty's Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed 1
Lock & Lock Bulk Storage Bin | Lock & Lock Square Tall Food Storage Container | Buddeez Plastic Storage Container for Pet Food | Iris Nesting Airtight Pet Food Container | Tubtrugs Storage Bucket | Miller Baby Fig Feeder | Little Giant Galvanized Hanging Feeder | AniMed Pure Brewers Yeast | Starwest Botanicals Organic Kelp Granules | Scratch and Peck Feeds Oyster Shell | Scratch and Peck Feeds Grower Grit
Yield: 8 1/2 pounds

Garden Betty's Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed

Garden Betty's homemade whole grain chicken feed

A customizable poultry feed for your backyard chickens that uses only healthy whole grains and seeds. It's food for your flock that you actually recognize!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

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

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients, except the oyster shells and grit, in a small bucket.
  2. Fill your feeder with the mixed-grain feed, or store the feed in a pet food container or a galvanized steel bucket with a lid.
  3. Offer the oyster shells and grit in separate small feeders for your chickens to eat as they wish.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on June 29, 2012.

Linda Ly About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

294 Comments

  • Avatar
    Old Orchard Homestead
    January 16, 2014 at 5:47 am

    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…

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      January 16, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      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.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      rainbowsilkies
      January 27, 2014 at 6:24 am

      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.

      Reply
      • Linda Ly
        Linda Ly
        March 16, 2014 at 10:01 pm

        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.

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Susie
    December 18, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    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.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Kim
    November 23, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    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.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      November 23, 2013 at 8:44 pm

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

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Old Orchard Homestead
        January 16, 2014 at 5:54 am

        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.

        Reply
        • Linda Ly
          Linda Ly
          January 16, 2014 at 2:38 pm

          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.

          Reply
  • Avatar
    Noelle
    October 27, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    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!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      October 28, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      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.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Joel Nelson
    September 27, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    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

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      October 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      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!

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Joel Nelson
        October 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm

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

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Hilary
    September 11, 2013 at 5:08 am

    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

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      September 11, 2013 at 4:48 pm

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

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Kristen
    August 26, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    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

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      August 27, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      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.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Kat
    August 17, 2013 at 6:32 am

    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.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Kat
    August 17, 2013 at 6:30 am

    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.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      August 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      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/

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Rose
    July 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    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!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Amanda Laubinger
    July 15, 2013 at 11:35 am

    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

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      July 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      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.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Kristen
        August 4, 2013 at 3:38 pm

        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

        Reply
        • Linda Ly
          Linda Ly
          August 4, 2013 at 8:44 pm

          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!

          Reply
          • Avatar
            Kristen
            August 8, 2013 at 8:38 am

            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?

          • Linda Ly
            Linda Ly
            August 8, 2013 at 10:43 pm

            Yes and yes!

  • Avatar
    Claire Michelle Wilson
    July 12, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    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?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      July 18, 2013 at 1:38 am

      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!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    RSteigner
    July 10, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    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!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      July 18, 2013 at 1:27 am

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

      Reply
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    Terri Betz
    July 7, 2013 at 11:14 am

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

    Reply
  • Avatar
    KellyGrace
    June 15, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    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 🙂

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      June 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      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.

      Reply
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    Greenhousefarm
    May 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    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.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      May 22, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      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.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        aymie
        November 6, 2013 at 9:07 am

        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!

        Reply
        • Linda Ly
          Linda Ly
          November 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm

          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.

          Reply
          • Avatar
            irene
            March 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

            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

          • Linda Ly
            Linda Ly
            March 26, 2014 at 3:09 pm

            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.

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    coventrychicks
    May 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    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.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      May 16, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      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!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    bowen012
    May 7, 2013 at 6:47 am

    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.

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      May 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      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).

      Reply
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    Sarah R Lavigne
    April 27, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Any links for whole grains for ducks?

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      April 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      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.

      Reply
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    Jill
    April 26, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    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!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      April 26, 2013 at 10:21 pm

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

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Justine
    April 18, 2013 at 8:26 am

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

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Rosa Gandyra-Mooney
    April 4, 2013 at 9:09 am

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

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      April 4, 2013 at 11:30 pm

      I use them whole.

      Reply
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    ioujc
    April 1, 2013 at 7:17 am

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

    Reply
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    Lep1818
    March 24, 2013 at 8:37 am

    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!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      March 26, 2013 at 12:28 am

      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!

      Reply
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