Soy- and corn-free whole grain feed for chickens
Backyard Chickens, Nutrition

Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed… Updated and Now Corn-Free!

Update: Download the Garden Betty Chicken Feed Calculator to easily manage costs, calculate protein content, and formulate your feed on the fly!

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately about one of my most popular posts, Garden Betty’s Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed.

Since I started feeding my chickens a whole grain diet in December 2011 (when they were still pullets), they’ve been as happy and healthy as ever. All three ladies are in peak egg production: My Barred Rock lays 6 to 7 eggs per week, my Easter Egger lays 5 to 6 eggs per week, and my Cochin lays 3 to 4 eggs per week.

Their feathers are soft and glossy, their wings strong and quick, their combs and wattles meaty and well-formed. They are also the most active, affectionate and sociable chickens, behaving just like my dogs. I love their little personalities!

Over the past year, I’ve made small changes to their feed here and there, depending on what ingredients were in stock at my co-op. I still swear by a whole grain diet (considering how easy and accessible it is in my area), and it seems like many of you are looking to go this route as well. If you’ve ever wanted to find out how to adapt my feed to baby chicks, or what kind of substitutions can be made to the original recipe, the comments on that page are a great place to start!

It also reminded me that I should update the recipe with one I’ve been successfully using for the last couple months. One of the most common questions I always get is: How do you make this recipe corn-free?

Chicken keepers want a corn-free feed for any number of reasons, the main one being that corn has little nutritional value compared to many other grains and seeds. Field corn (the type of corn grown as livestock feed and processed into things like high fructose corn syrup) is also one of the most genetically modified crops in the world. GMOs weren’t a concern for me as I used human-grade organic corn in my original recipe, but I ended up making a corn-free feed because my chickens stopped eating corn, as well as lentils and kamut. (What can I say? They’re picky little ladies.)

Eliminating corn from the recipe wasn’t a big deal, but I did need to find a protein-rich replacement for the lentils and kamut.

Triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye, contains 17 percent protein and is an excellent source of energy. It also happens to be carried by my delivery co-op, Azure Standard, where I buy most of my other bulk grains.

Rye contains 13 percent protein and something in it makes my chickens go crazy! They gobble the grains out of my hand like it’s candy. It’s fairly cheap and easy to find, though the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture suggests feeding rye only to laying hens.

Organic rye berries

I also increased my sesame seed serving to 2 cups, and kept the rest of the recipe the same. The girls still get grit and oyster shells in separate containers to peck as they please… but these days, I’ve simply been washing and crushing up their eggshells in place of the oyster shells because I can’t make it to our local feed store. With an average of 14 eggs laid a week, there are plenty of eggshells to go around! (We even crush up eggshells to provide extra calcium for our garden.)

This updated recipe is still within the 17 percent protein range for laying hens and still costs the same to feed them.

If you’re having difficulty finding any of the ingredients below, keep in mind that plenty of other grains, seeds and legumes can be substituted and this recipe is not meant to be a rigid diet for your flock. You should still be giving your girls a variety of healthy treats, such as fresh greens and dried mealworms, and spring is the perfect time to let them loose in your garden and help you turn over your soil.

For most chicken keepers, the easiest and cheapest source of (non-soy) protein is split peas and field peas, which I would wholeheartedly use if my chickens actually ate legumes. (They hate them.)

If your local supplier doesn’t carry soft white wheat berries, you can simply use 6 cups of the more common hard red wheat berries instead.

Brewer’s yeast and kelp can be found at well-stocked pet stores and feed stores, health food places, or even online. If you’re not able to source them, you can order Fertrell Poultry Nutri-Balancer from your local feed store, or ask if they carry any other vitamin/mineral premix. (It might be a good idea to find other farmers to go in on an order with you, as a 60-pound bag of Nutri-Balancer would last foreverrrr.)

For more recommendations, as well as information on how all of these grains are beneficial for your flock, check out my original post and its comments. Happy formulating!

Garden Betty’s Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed… Updated and Now Corn-Free!

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


4 cups oat groats
4 cups black oil sunflower seeds
4 cups hard red wheat berries
2 cups soft white wheat berries
2 cups triticale berries
2 cups rye berries
2 cups millet
2 cups sesame seeds
1 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup brewer’s yeast
1/4 cup kelp granules
Free-choice oyster shells (or crushed eggshells)
Free-choice grit

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  • Nancy Jacques Barratt

    Unfortunately Azure no longer carries Triticale. I coordinate an organic feed drop here in AZ where we get better prices on HRW, Rye, Oats etc. through Montana Flour and Grain.

    • I just received an order of triticale recently, so to my knowledge, Azure still carries it but they do sell out occasionally. However, it’s always good to know an alternate source for bulk grains!

      • Nancy Jacques Barratt

        wow, I just searched for Triticale on the Azure site and the only item was rolled triticale flakes or something like that.

  • Nancy Jacques Barratt

    I thought I read on one of the university extension pages that it wasn’t good to give too much oats to hens. You use 4 parts HRW, 4 parts Oats and 2 parts Rye etc.

    • Define “too much” in quantity? I’ve never had a problem using these ratios to feed my chickens.

      • Nancy Jacques Barratt

        can be fed a wide variety of grains and will do well if the grains are
        fed in a balanced ration. Chicks can be fed wheat, oats or barley. The
        oats or barley need to be limited to 25% of the starter diet**. <<<<I think this is what I remembered reading Linda (<6 weeks of age)
        After six weeks of age, the birds can be fed rations with oats or barley as the whole source of grain, especially if they have been exposed to these
        grains previously**.
        All poultry can be fed hard red, durum, extra strong
        or utility wheat. Rye can be introduced after six weeks of age and can
        comprise up to half of the grain in laying hens’ diets. Rye containing
        ergot should not be used. Screenings are acceptable for poultry if they
        contain 75% or more wheat and cracked wheat.

        Earlier in the article:
        No grain is ideal. Corn is the standard feed in commercial preparations,
        but we can’t grow it easily is Maine. Of the small grains that are
        available, wheat can slow digestion but is a good substitute for and is
        higher in protein than corn; barley is less palatable; oats have less
        energy and are fibrous; rye inhibits growth; millet is a good energy
        substitute but is low is protein. “Each one of them has something,”
        explains Jacquie Jacob, a poultry nutritionist at the University of
        Minnesota ( and
        “In small quantities, each one is okay. But if that’s all a farmer is
        using, then it’s going to be a problem.” The challenge becomes finding a
        diet that is simultaneously high in protein and essential amino acids
        and minimizes the effect of the anti-nutritive aspects of each crop.

  • 6nations

    Thank you so much for your site and information on organically raised chickens! Is this recipe the one you use for fermenting? I’d like to try fermenting the feed using your recipe and am wondering if these are some of the things I might add to do so. Thank you!

  • Lesly

    What can I substitute in this recipe to add peas ? I’m trying to feed my chickens a good diet but that’s also easy in my wallet!

  • Leslie

    I went to Azure Standard and see that their “organic” grains come from China. This country’s environment is heavily contaminated and their “organic” practices are suspect. I won’t purchase any from there.

    • I just checked the countries of origin for the ingredients I frequently order from Azure Standard:

      Organic rolled triticale flakes – USA (grown in Montana)
      Organic hard red wheat – USA
      Organic soft white wheat – USA
      Organic flax seeds – USA
      Organic rye berries – USA
      Organic kelp granules – Iceland

      I personally haven’t come across any items that are made in China, but with every purchase, it’s always a good idea to double-check the product descriptions.

  • Tracy Adler

    Hi Linda. I’ve not had any luck with getting your feed calculator to work. I was buying my own grains and fermenting but I’ve noticed my chickens are getting skinny. I feed: quinoa, flax, split peas (2 types), lentils (2 types), millet, kamut, hard red wheat, oat groats, amaranth, and black oil sunflower seeds. I buy all human grade organic ingredients. Sometimes depending on the supply at the bulk section of my organic grocery store, I have to add more or less of something. I give the black oil sunflower seeds as a treat. I was also giving superworms as well for treats. Since I haven’t been able to get the calculator to work there is a good chance that the feed isn’t balanced since I just add a little of this a little of that… and mix a 5 gallon bucket for my 10 chickens and 1 turkey. I only have access via a mobile phone so that’s probably why. I do like you do with the fermenting and add back as much as I take out. I have a tight lid on too and it always smells fruity but I’m wondering if I’m not going through it quick enough and honestly I’m not sure how much to feed. All my girls free range but we live in the high desert so there is no grass. I have a working relationship with the produce manager at our organic store and I get free organic produce and juice pulp that I add as well. I was letting them free feed but had an issue with squirrels so I started feeding only in the morning and giving treats during the day. Not sure what to do. I have checked for illness but that isn’t the case. I came across another blog that had the same issue when switching to homemade. I would love some input as I really prefer to feed my own. Thanks so much 🙂

    • It’s hard to judge what “skinny” is if you were previously feeding commercial grains that were heavy on corn and soy – might your chickens simply be at their desired weight now? The only way to know is to weigh them and double-check that against the recommended weight for their breeds. If they are indeed losing weight on your custom feed, then you’ll need to find a way to use the feed calculator to formulate an appropriate diet for them.

      As for how much fermented grain to give them, you can start with 1/3 to 1/2 cup per chicken and adjust it accordingly based on their needs. Here’s more info on fermenting:

      • Tracy Adler

        The commercial feed I fed was scratch n peck naturally free layer so I don’t believe it was inundated with junk in it as I combed over the ingredients list prior. I really wish I. Could get your feed calculator to work 🙁 I noticed in your feed recipes you don’t add any additional vitamins. Is this because it should be covered by the feed? In scratch n peck i see all the dusty vitamins that they used to just eat around and I wasn’t fermenting at that time. Also, if fermenting your recipe, would I still include the Brewer’s yeast? I have a wealth of questions lol sorry. I’m sure I have more but can’t think of them at the moment. Thanks!

        • I do not add a vitamin and mineral supplement since I include such a wide range of grains, seeds, and legumes (as well as fresh greens and other treats). Making a feed like this on a commercial level would be cost-prohibitive, which is why feed producers use a supplement like Fertrell’s Nutri-Balancer. If you choose to ferment my recipe, you would leave out the brewer’s yeast. Here’s more info on that:

  • Anne

    Can I use roasted flax seeds? That’s what I have on hand.

    • Heather Timmons

      Hello. I would not suggest it for them, mainly because once you roast any seed or nut, you denature the oils (nutrition) and then they can go rancid easier. I would keep them in my refrigerator and use them myself. That being said, I only ever use refrigerated and whole, fresh flax. Once it is ground, it starts going rancid in 15 minutes, at room temp. I grind on the spot to sprinkle or add to smoothies….etc. I actually prefer Chia seeds, that have such an amazingly high vitamin E content (anti-oxident), that they can stay shelf stable at room temp for over 5 years.
      Ok, so that is more info than you probably wanted to hear on flax…but if you are eating the eggs they are laying, I would not give them roasted seeds/nuts of any kind. 😀

    • Yes, you can.

  • You’re welcome!

  • Mary Rocha

    I’m so glad I found your site. I adopted 4 chickens, and they forage everyday and i have been using the scratch and peck organic layer. I was looking for a recipe to see if I can lower cost.
    what can I use instead of triticale? Azure is out of stock rigth now, and other sites I found it seems expensive.

    Thank you!

  • Kyersten

    Thank you for providing the calculator…but I cannot edit and add anything to the spreadsheet…? What am I doing wrong?

  • Karen Wondergem

    Thank you for the recipe! I am ‘gluten sensitive’- not full blown celiac, but if I eat too much gluten, especially non organic, I will regret it for a few days. I am also egg sensitive, which I attribute to what is being fed to them. We are getting our first flock of chickens this month. I am going to try your feed recipe, but if it upsets my belly, what would you say is a good replacement for the wheat and rye? I bought all organic, so I am hoping its a good feed for both me and the chickens. I also plan to supplement with mealworms, grit and oystershell- is there anything else I need to feed them besides this?

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  • Cathy Vandenberg- Hill

    I top dress my fermented grains with Fertrell and Kelp granules. Is the kelp better, worse or the same if added to the fermenting process? Also, I have access to fish meal and plan to top dress with it as well. I checked the Azure site for the triticale and they only listed it as flakes? Have you ever included fish meal in your dry mixes? I doubt I would add it to the fermentation bucket….the kelp smells fishy enough when wet (that’s the reason I top dress with the Kelp rather than add it to ferment).
    I also top dress with vitamin A, D, E and K granules

    • Cathy Vandenberg- Hill

      I have found the best early feed for chicks that I have evern used. Rice, cooked with Turmeric and green tea leaves. When I take it off the heat, I add quinoa and stir in then let it set till cooled and fluff. You’ve seen how chicks will grab a worm and run with it? Well, that is how they eat this rice and my rarebreeds, that have been So hard to raise, have flourished on this. I slowly add the fermented feed and chick grit as they get big enough to handle it.

  • Barbara

    Have you had any feather picking problems from lack of Methionine which is mixed at 2 pounds per ton commercially and not enough. Most organic feed also has Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation that is an enzyme but known as mold and is toxic. I have over 80 hens and organic is expensive.

    • No feather-picking problems in my flock. If you’re using a commercial feed and are concerned that your chickens aren’t getting enough nutrition from that or from foraging on their own, you can try adding Fertrell Nutri-Balancer to their food.

  • Nancy Jacques Barratt

    Organic BOSS is quite expensive. Have you seen any information on sunflower seeds being sprayed with pesticides? Is it something to worry about?

    • This would depend on the supplier of the sunflower seeds, so I suggest contacting them directly to see if they spray, or if their sources spray with pesticides. You could also grow a large crop of sunflowers next to your chicken coop every year to ensure the seeds are organic.

  • Rachel Marie Burns

    I’ve heard the average bird can eat 1/2c-2c per day and there is about 23 cups in that mix. At $1 per pound (which some seem to pay in remote areas) that’s $8.50 for this batch which is 0.37 per cup. If your birds were eating only 1/2c (dry weight) per day (assuming you fermented it and free ranged) that’s still 0.19 per day per bird (so for a flock of a dozen you’d be paying $2.28 per day in feed). For getting an egg every other day you’d be paying 0.38 per egg or $4.56 per dozen.
    At your 0.70 per pound rate you pay $5.95 per batch and 0.26 per cup. If your birds eat 1/2c per day you’re paying 0.13 per day. Assuming they lay every other day you’d be paying $3.12 in feed per dozen. That’s not bad 🙂
    On the more expensive end if your birds are cooped up because it’s cold and you’re feeding two cups per day at the more expensive rate for an egg every other day (if you’re lucky) you’re paying $1.48 in feed per egg or $17.76 per dozen @_@

    • Wow, you’re certainly better at math than I am! 😉

  • Hapi Wilson

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us! I have been reading your blog for quite some time now and have learned a lot! I have a couple of questions and hope that you can help because I’m sure someone, somewhere, has had the same questions. Can I use organic nutritional yeast instead of the brewers yeast? Is one better than the other? I want to feed all organic and no by-products (which brewers yeast is). I also read that brewers yeast has a bitter after taste and nutritional yeast has a nutty cheesy flavor. If I was a chicken, I think I would vote for the cheesy nutty one lol! Thanks for your time and advice on this subject, and congratulations on your book! Hapi Wilson

    • Hi Hapi,

      Brewers yeast and nutritional yeast are fairly similar, though it depends on the brand you’re buying. Check the label to make sure the one you choose contains B vitamins. The flavor of one or the other is not a factor in determining what to feed your chickens. Most brewers yeast sold as a nutritional supplement these days is primary grown (not a byproduct of beer brewing like it used to be), so there’s no bitterness anyway.

  • Vee

    I cannot seem to get the Feed Calculator. I clicked on the link in my email, but nothing ever happened. It’s been almost two weeks. Am I doing something wrong? Love your site, by the way!

    • Hi, I’ll look into this and resend the email. Look for it in your inbox shortly! 🙂

  • Samantha

    Hi Betty,
    All of this is so new to me, thank you for sharing! My chickens are almost 8 weeks old and I am getting ready to switch them from a starter feed to a grower feed. What changes would I need to make to this recipe?

    • Pullets need a little less protein than layers (what my recipe is formulated for). You can bring the value down by omitting 1 cup of sesame seeds, and I’d also recommend replacing the rye with something else, like perhaps barley, buckwheat, or brown rice.

      Also, leave out the free-choice calcium, as your chickens won’t need that until they start laying.

  • Meg

    Thank you for all the great info! I do have a question though…can I ferment this? Should I? What’s your take on that?

  • Celestine Sullivan

    Black oil sunflower seeds…I can only find this ingredient but they are with shells Or the shelled sunflower seeds will be the same?

    • BOSS always come with shells, and chickens love them! (No need to shell the seeds.)

      • Celestine Sullivan

        Thanks so much Linda!!! You’re a life saver!!

      • Cathy Vandenberg- Hill

        BOSS does not always come with the hulls. You can buy it in bulk at Walmart in the wild birdseeds in the garden area

  • chickenmom22

    I love your whole grain chicken feed recipe. Have been using it for
    about 8 months and my chickens look very healthy. One question, since stores are selling eggs high in omega 3
    now, could we increase flax seeds to 2 cups to increase omega 3 or is
    that not a good idea?

    My chickens don’t like dry lentils or split peas, but they love them in fermented feed. I put everything from your recipe except yeast in a jar with water to make the fermented feed and they eat every bit of it. They will also eat the split peas if I cook them and add some spices for seasoning. They don’t like it plain and I wouldn’t either. But I know spices are good for them, so why not spice it up!!

    • Commercial egg producers have to add omega 3 because their feeds are so high in soybeans, which are full of omega 6. It’s really just a marketing gimmick to make up for their lack of a balanced feed to begin with.

      I wouldn’t recommend increasing the flax seeds in my recipe unless you’re increasing other grains and seeds overall. You want to keep the proportions somewhat the same (especially if you give your girls leafy greens, since those are high in omega 3s as well).

  • Lynne

    Dear Garden Betty, My chickens are super picky. One likes wheat, but not barley or oats. They all disapprove of lentils and peas. Another likes barley, but not oats. They all love rice, but that is so low in protein. They don’t do too well with crumble and it gets pulverized in my feeder. I have one of those automatic feeders, but they pick so much, I need to give it a stir each day, otherwise they get a little aggressive. The good news is that they get lots of greens and fresh herbs, and they are in my compost eating grubs, bugs and worms. They love to eat their own egg shells too. Their feathers are beautiful and shiny and appear healthy and their eggs and shells are wonderful. I enjoy your blogs on feeding and health. Please keep it up because I have learned so much from you. My crazy little monsters thank you. Cluck! Cluck!

    • I’m glad you’ve found all the information useful! Thank you for reading!

    • tokies

      I wouldn’t undercut rice. brown rice overall in a freerange or “compost chicken” setup is worth it. cos if they are either of those they are getting tons of protein already. I add a little bit of azolla and duckweed on top of my mix. grows fast, grows easy, and im mostly using it as an easy meal to get them to move where i want to without issue. these mixes are more like “treats” then the main meal. 60% forage is the target. you might even want to plan some permaculture perennial plants. so they can just get there own meal as much as possible. chickens are smarter then people give them credit for. they get bored.

  • Angilla

    Hi Betty,

    Do you think this mix would be good for duck’s as well? I’m trying to find an equally healthy alternative for them as well. If not this combination, do you have any suggestions? Thanks so much!

    • Laying ducks can eat the same feed as laying chickens, however they do require more niacin so you’ll have to supplement with it. Since I don’t raise ducks, I can’t help you much more beyond that.

      • Angilla

        That is a big help – thank you!

    • Gu est

      I read somewhere that Chickens would eat 80% bugs 20% greens but the ducks would do the reverse 20% bugs and 80% greens

  • Tracy

    Hi LInda,
    I am making home made chick starter and wanted to confirm that the BOSS is probably not good for them? Hulled sunflower seeds would seem better to me? If that is the case then would that change the nutritional value on the calculator spreadsheet? How can I calculate this then? Also if I include barley does it have to be hulled for chicks? Lastly I saw a recipe with wheat bran for baby chicks, not sure the exact protein level but from what I could gather it looks high, is there any way to add that to the calculator? Thanks so much!

    • Hulled sunflower seeds might be a better choice for chick starter as they’re smaller, but in general, chicks can eat the same seeds and grains that chickens do. The issue merely comes down to size; hulled or unhulled does not matter.

      The protein value would indeed change, so you’ll need to find out what it is for the hulled sunflower seeds (and anything else you wish to add). Once you know the numbers, copy and paste an existing row in the calculator spreadsheet, then make sure the last row (with the totals) adds up all the previous rows. (You can see the formulas used if you click on the fields; all of them are editable.) If you go back to my post with the calculator, I have some tips for finding the protein content if your packaging doesn’t show it.

  • Tracy

    Thanks Linda, that helps. If I modify the volume of the same ingredients on my chart to up it to 17% that should be fine right? And yes I do supplement a lot of greens, mealworms, and other stuff.

    • Yes, that would be totally fine.

  • Tracy

    I plugged in your exact ingredients listed into your calculator and the percentage of protein cam up 15.7%. Thank you for this wonderful calculator but I wanted to ask why it did not make it up to 17% based on my measurements of the one cup per lb. entered?

    • The 1% difference could be due to any number of factors… different scales used, different crops of grains purchased, or different ingredients from other producers. I periodically update the protein values depending on where I source my grains, as they sometimes change according to the producer or season. The same goes for an ingredient like brewer’s yeast, which varies across brands. So, it’s possible that at the time I calculated my corn-free recipe, I was using an ingredient with a different protein value than what’s currently listed in the spreadsheet.

      In any case, if you are coming up with 15.7% I would not worry about it if you’re still supplementing this feed with other things like mealworms, weeds, or kitchen scraps. The target range for layers is 16-17% but that number is not the end all, be all of proper nutrition.

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  • Miranda Gallegos

    I’ve been doing some research on organic feeds and some recipes call for a couple table spoons of olive oil, coconut oil, or molasses to be mixed in with the food. What is your opinion on that?

    • All three of those ingredients have their own health benefits, but typically they’re added to the feed to help the powdery stuff (like brewer’s yeast) stick to the grains and not settle at the bottom. But if you’re only mixing small batches of feed at a time, the settling shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Booboo Modest Maiden

    It may just be too cold since it’s freezing her already some nights and just cold other nights. I’ll look into meal worms. I saw a video of how to raise the on Yu Tube

  • Booboo Modest Maiden

    I read that already and I feed my chicken a lot of good stuff already and still get pale yellow eggs.

    • It may be that your new layers are still adjusting. The yolks should darken over time if you consistently give them greens and mealworms. If you’re not finding any bugs in the mulch pile, try moistening it to attract them.

  • Booboo Modest Maiden

    I have 3 of my 9 pullets laying now and the eggs they are laying have pale yolks. They are kept in a 10 X 30 run and we live in Oklahoma so not any grass left. I feed them a mix of rolled oats which they love, hulled barley, flax seed, kelp, corn, and green split peas ( they didn’t like yellow peas) all of which I get from Azure. I give them scraps from my kitchen as well. I don’t have any meal worms to supplement them but I did place a mulch pile in their pen and re-stack it daily so they can scratch through it.. We are getting a cow in the spring and will be moving the chickens to the barn with the cow and they will be able to free range in the acre- an a half field with the cow, but for now they have to stay where they are since there are roaming dogs from our neighbors. Do I really need all the other grains, and is that why the yolks are light? I mix mostly oats, and barley and smaller amounts of flax seeds, pea, and kelp.
    Like I said they are just beginning to lay and the eggs are still small.
    I have oyster shell out in the run for them.
    The breeds I have are Lavender Orpingtons, Ameracuanas, Barred Rocks, and a couple RIRs. I’m unable to tell which pullets are laying except that at least one of my Ameracuanas is laying because about every other day I get a beautiful light blue egg.
    Thanks for any help.

  • Kathleen

    This looks like a great recipe for chicken feed – unfortunately, my chickens will not eat wholegrains 🙁 it’s pellets or nothing, I tried for weeks to get them eat it – do you have any idea why they wouldn’t recognise the grains as food? So weird!

    • I really have no idea. I’m assuming you’re gradually changing their diet from pellets to grains (by mixing the grains into their feed little by little, instead of giving them the grains all at once). Also, if they get hungry, they will eventually eat because they have no other choice. If you keep refilling their feeder with pellets, they’ll come to expect only that as food, and will continue to leave the grains uneaten. One tip is to keep your chickens in an enclosed area where they can’t forage on their own.

      • Kathleen

        Yes I did it gradually, plus kept them enclosed – I don’t think they ate very much of it :/ Thanks for the advice, i’ll keep persisting 🙂

        • Mallory Larkin

          My chickens are the exact opposite! They refuse to eat pellets – they just assume forage for their food than eat even a bite. I had been ordering Scratch and peck feed which they LOVE but shipping if hefty to the East Coast so Garden Betty’s homemade for my picky ladies 🙂

          • Kathleen

            Actually now they eat the grain however, only 1 or 2 types are picked out – the rest are kicked out onto the ground. So fussy!

          • Jenny

            The best way to remedy that, is fermenting the feed. It makes it all taste good so they are much less likely to leave anything behind, provided it’s not too large of a grain, like whole corn or peas.

          • Kathleen

            Thanks, i’ll try that!

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  • Alma Barraza

    Thank you for sharing this recipe with us chicken lovers! 🙂
    I made a mistake when ordering the listed ingredients and ordered Milo instead of Millet! 🙁 Is it still ok to feed it to the chickens? Would it be ok to ferment it, as I plan on feeding them fermented grains at least 50% of the time. Thank you

    • Milo (also known as sorghum) is fine to include in a feed, and yes you can still ferment it. I ferment everything except for the brewer’s yeast (which I only add if I give my chickens a dry feed).

  • Sam

    If I can use split peas, how much would you use and would I take something else out? Thanks!

    • Split peas are similar to sesame seeds in terms of protein, so you could do 1 cup of each. (Or sub one for the other.)

  • Jillian

    Do you think Kelp powder would work in this?

    • Kelp powder is fine, but keep in mind it does settle more easily in the feed, so you’ll want to stir it up often.

  • Carey McClelland Deza

    Hi All, Linda GREAT blog!!! I was wondering if you need to soak this feed overnight? Do the chickens eat it fine raw? Thanks

  • Jordan

    Linda! I just found your site yesterday and LOVE it! Thank you! We just got chickens this past weekend….laying hens and pullets. I love your recipe but can’t seem to get it down to the .70 cent per pound mark that you said you have it at. We are at 1.69 and that’s looking at azure, our local coop and amazon. Where did we go wrong? We are in NW Arkansas so things should be quite a bit cheaper here but even using azure, our numbers are still high without the shipping. Thanks for your help.

    • The more you buy in bulk, the lower your costs come down. My price is based on 25 lb bags of most of the Azure grains, and 5 lb bags of things like kelp and brewer’s yeast. I never buy anything less than 5 lbs. Also, I price my feed by weight for a more accurate calculation. BOSS is on the more expensive side (96 cents/lb where I buy it) but since it’s so lightweight, those 4 cups only cost 77 cents per batch of feed that I mix (using the above recipe).

  • Pam

    Hi, I have a question about the trictale berries. I cannot find them on azure standard. I did find the flakes on there. Can I use those instead or is there somewhere else you can recommend? Thanks in advance.

    • Triticale flakes are fine, they’re simply the rolled version of the berries. My chickens love them!

    • Deb Casey

      Azure Standard has triticale grain in both 25 lbs and 50 lbs bags.

  • Karina

    Hi Linda, fantastic posts, thank you!! I have a question in regards of the Kelp granules. Can you use every kind of seaweed powder/granules, like Wakame for example or is there a huge difference in nutrients and sodium amount in particular? How much sodium should a chicken get round about? Thank you!!!

    • Hi Karina, you can use any variety of seaweed. I add 1% dried kelp in proportion to the total amount of the feed.

      • Karina

        Awesome, thank you very much. Also, could you be so kind to tell me the percentage you use of the brewer’s yeast? I made a spread sheet to calculate protein content, Kelp and find the right variety of grains etc., works great, thank you for your ideas!!

        • A spreadsheet makes it very easy to change up ingredients and calculate protein content on the fly… I keep one too! 🙂 In regards to your question, my brewer’s yeast is about 2% of the total amount of the feed.

          • Karin

            Awesome, thought so, but wasn’t sure if I could translate cups percentage to weight. Yeahi, your are great, thanks again!!!

  • Ari

    Hi Linda! I am not a chicken mom yet, but am thinking about getting 4 little chicks soon, and am doing search before making the big jump. I was wondering roughly how long this 8 1/2lb recipe may last my 4 chicks? Looking forward to hearing back!

    • Every flock is different so unfortunately I don’t know how much your chicks will eat. This is something you have to monitor once you have them.

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  • Lauren

    This is not necessarily related to your chicken feed post, but could you do a post about what you feed your dogs?

    • It’s a post I plan to write in the next few weeks. 🙂

  • Anthea

    Hi Linda, I had the belief that feeding your laying hens corn improved the color of the yolks. Have you noticed a difference in the color of your eggs since switching to corn free chicken feed?

  • Brian

    What size bags are you buying the grains in and on average what are you spending per bag?

    • I get most of my grains from The size of bags you buy depends on how large your flock is and whether you feed them anything else. Currently I only have two hens, so I buy 5 lb bags and that order will generally last us 6 months (though my hens also forage most of the day). If you have a larger flock and are able to buy/store larger bags of grains, you’ll save more money.

  • Doris Cote

    My neighbor’s son is highly allergic to sesame seeds. Since they will be getting eggs from me, I’d like to cut that from the recipe. What can I used to take their place nutritionally? Is this the mix that you ferment?
    You mentioned going out of town. We travel and I am wondering how you manage that. I can’t board chickens at the vet.

    • You can replace sesame seeds with another high-protein seed or grain, such as hemp seed, nyjer seed, amaranth seed, quinoa, wild rice, or split peas. I do ferment this same mix for my chickens, but without the brewer’s yeast (since that introduces a different type of fermentation).

      When I’m away, I have a friend check on my chickens every 2-3 days to collect eggs, give out treats, rake out the run, and make sure they have enough water and food. In Los Angeles there are chicken-sitting services offered by other urban homesteaders, but I suggest just asking neighbors or friends to do you the favor, since chickens are very low-maintenance (assuming you have a secure and enclosed run for them). If your chickens need to be let out each morning and locked up each night, you’ll need a dedicated chicken-sitter that’s there daily. A local meet-up group or feed/farm store should have some referrals for you.

  • Wendy

    what do you think about durum wheat? it’s higher in protein… think it’s ok to feed them?

    • Yes, durum wheat is ok to feed. To my knowledge, any wheat that you can eat, your chickens can eat.

  • Wendy

    I am familiar with how to ferment my own grains; is the process the same for the chicken feed? Thank you!

  • Brianne

    Hello! I’m just about to set up my first chicken coop and I’m very excited.It’s been a long time coming! I was curious – if I wanted to avoid wheat, soy, and corn, what would you suggest to replace the wheat berries? Also, are their other alternatives to oyster shell/egg shell for the chickens calcium needs? I can’t imagine what else I would use! May be out of luck on that one. Looking forward to your advice!

    • You could replace wheat with a mix of barley, buckwheat, split peas, lentils, or pretty much any grain that’s average-to-high in protein content (about 15%). Check the comment thread on my original post at for lots of ideas on other suitable grains and legumes.

      As for calcium, crushed oyster shells, crushed egg shells, and crushed limestone (not dolomite, but the limestone formulated for chickens) are the best choices. I’m not sure what other sources of calcium carbonate are available aside from those.

  • Liz

    I am having a hard time finding soft white wheat berries and rye berries what can I replace it with

    • You can use hard red wheat for all the wheat in your recipe, as that’s the more common variety. For rye, try one of the grains from my original recipe:

      The comment thread on that post also has lots of great suggestions for high-protein substitutions.

      • Liz

        Would a mixture of lentils and barley work to replace rye berries or would that be to much pprotein?

        • You can just replace all the rye with barley itself. It’s close enough in protein content (about 12%). Try to use whole grain barley (not pearled barley) as it still contains the bran.

          • Liz

            thank you

  • kathryn

    I’m so excited to try this recipe with my chickens! So far I’ve been able to find the ingredients at Winco (except for the kelp granules, which are reasonably priced on Amazon) But, I can’t find triticale berries. Would lentils or peas be a good substitute? Or could I just put in more wheat or rye berries? thanks for the help!

    • Deb Casey

      I got my Triticale from Azure Standard.

    • I buy triticale from Azure Standard, but on my last order they didn’t have any berries so I got the flakes instead, which the chickens can’t get enough of. (Berries and flakes are still the same grain and nutritional value, they’re just processed differently.)

      You can definitely substitute lentils or peas in place of the triticale, since it’s a high-protein grain on par with those legumes.

  • Hi Linda. You’ve got an awesome site. I already bookmarked your site for future reference. Thanks for the tips on corn feed as having less nutritional value. I didn’t know that until I read your article. My chickens love corn feeds, but I guess its about time they try other “recipes”. I will start with your suggestions in this article.

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  • Cathy Moore

    Linda I am getting new chicks in April. I am a first time chicken mom and love your recipe. My question is do you have a recipe for the first 18 weeks? Or is it safer to feed packaged chick feed?

  • jennie hill

    Hi Linda, Thank you so much for your recipe but I have one problem and I’m hoping someone can help me I need to find a supplier of all these seeds and grains I’m from the UK any ideas out there? I want to take this up a scale and start a organic egg business with about 300 girls (hens). I would love to mix my own food for them and know they would benefit as well!!

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  • Alma Barraza

    Hi Linda, I really love your blog and have learned so much, THANK YOU!
    I was wondering where do you buy the sunflower seeds for your chicken feed. I have six 10 week old chickens and 4 ducks. I would love to give whole grain feeding a try.

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  • Kim S

    Thank you for your great chicken feeding tips. We have started using them with great success. I noticed on your fermented feed post that you say to leave out the brewers yeast, but you didn’t mention if you add it back in later and how you do that quantity-wise. Also, do you ferment with the kelp in the mixture?

    Thank you so much!

    • I do not re-add the brewer’s yeast after I ferment the feed. Fermentation actually creates all the B vitamins that I normally get from brewer’s yeast. And yes, I ferment the kelp granules.

      • Kim S

        Thank you so very much! I appreciate your knowledge.

        Enjoy your beautiful chickens. My husband grabs us some chairs and says that we need to get some chicken therapy. 🙂

        Best regards,

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  • Jill Winger

    Hi there- I sent you an email a month or two ago about possibly including your chicken feed recipe in my upcoming eBook– I haven’t heard back from you, so just wanted to make sure the email didn’t get caught in your spam filter. Let me know if you’d like me to re-send!

    (and if you don’t want to participate in the eBook, that’d ok too! Just wanted to make sure you got the email. 😉

    • I must’ve missed your email amid all my recent road tripping… I will look for it and reply soon!

      • Jill Winger

        Awesome- thanks! 🙂

  • Pingback: Why and How to Ferment Your Chicken Feed | Garden Betty()

  • della

    do you cook all beans

    • I actually don’t feed any beans to my chickens, but if you do want to feed dried beans, make sure they are fully cooked. Certain dried beans like kidney and lima have toxic compounds and shouldn’t be part of your chickens’ feed.

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  • Homestead Redhead

    Thank you for sharing this recipe-I included a link to this page in an article I wrote Modern Homesteaders. What is the average cost for this feed? Thanks!

  • Carrie Miller

    On this recipe, do you use sesame seeds with or without the hulls?

    • I get brown sesame seeds with the hulls. But, it doesn’t really matter (hulled vs. unhulled) as your chickens’ gizzards crush the seeds up either way.

  • What poundage of each do you order from Azure and how long do they last/how many batches of feed do you get from each?

    • I order 25-pound bags of the main grains. They last a few months, though I’ve never really kept track since I let my chickens forage all day every day.

  • Laura

    Great article! Thanks for the info on a corn-free version. I was wondering though, how do you supply the salt needed in their diet? Can you just use a salt block or does it have to be added to the feed?

    • The salt comes from the kelp granules.

      • Christeena

        what about hemp seeds??? Can that go in there feed?

        • Sure, if they enjoy it! The only grains/legumes I know of that should NOT be fed to your chickens (or yourself) are dried or undercooked beans (mainly, dried or undercooked kidney and lima beans). As a rule of thumb, they can eat whatever you can eat.

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