Update: Download the Garden Betty Chicken Feed Calculator to easily manage costs, calculate protein content, and formulate your feed on the fly!
I get a lot of emails 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 our first generation of hens were still pullets), they’ve been as happy and healthy as ever, and our most productive layers give us 6 to 7 eggs per week with no anomalies like shell-less eggs.
My homemade chicken feed has now been fed to three generations of hens, all with amazing results. 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, and they come bounding through the yard as soon as they see us approaching with their food. (We usually ferment their chicken feed.) I love their little personalities!
I’ve made small changes to my DIY chicken 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 (which I actively monitor and respond to) are a great place to start!
In this post, I’m sharing how I updated my homemade chicken feed recipe with a version I’ve been successfully using for the last several years.
Why a corn-free chicken feed may be a better feed for your flock
One of the most common questions I always get is: How do you make your chicken feed 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 chicken feed because my original flock 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.
Here’s what I’ve been using…
Disclosure: All products on this page are independently selected. If you buy from one of my links, I may earn a commission.
High-protein ingredients for homemade corn-free chicken feed
Triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye, contains 17 percent protein and is an excellent source of energy. It used to be carried by my delivery co-op, Azure Standard (where I buy most of my other bulk grains), but has been hard to find in recent months.
I now source organic triticale from an Oregon supplier, but you can also find conventionally grown triticale from a Florida farm that specializes in pasture seed. Rolled triticale (which can be used interchangeably with triticale berries) is also offered on Amazon occasionally.
My other new ingredient, 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.
Rye is fairly cheap and easy to find, though the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture suggests feeding rye only to laying hens at peak egg production. (You can substitute many other grains for it in the meantime.)
I also increased my sesame seed serving to 2 cups, and kept the rest of the recipe the same.
For many 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’re 50/50 on them, so I usually modify their feed every few months to keep things interesting.)
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.
My updated corn-free chicken feed recipe is still within the 17 percent protein range for layers 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, dried mealworms, or dried black soldier fly larvae, and spring is the perfect time to let them loose in your garden to help turn over mulch and soil.
Nutritional supplements for DIY corn-free chicken feed
For added vitamins and minerals, I use brewer’s yeast and kelp granules. Both can be found at well-stocked pet stores and feed stores, health food places, or even online.
Animal-grade supplements are more cost-effective than human-grade, so I recommend going that route if it’s available. You do not need to spend a lot of money to make quality feed!
If you’re not able to source these nutritional supplements for your homemade poultry feed, you can order Fertrell Poultry Nutri-Balancer from Azure Standard, Amazon, or your local feed store, or ask if they carry any other vitamin/mineral premix. (Just follow the directions on the package for proper serving sizes.)
It also might be a good idea to find other chicken-keepers to go in on an order with you, as a 10-pound bag of Nutri-Balancer would last forever unless you have a very large flock.
The girls still get grit and oyster shells in separate containers to peck as they please… but these days, I’ve also been washing and crushing up their eggshells to use in place of the oyster shells when I can’t make it to our local feed store.
With six hens now, there are plenty of eggshells to go around! (We even crush up eggshells to put in our tomato planting holes.)
For more recommendations, as well as information on how all of these grains are beneficial for your flock, check out my original homemade chicken feed recipe and its comments.
Homemade Soy-Free Corn-Free Chicken Feed With Whole Grains
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)
Combine all of the ingredients, except the oyster shells and grit, in a small bucket. Pour the mixture into a feeder.
Put the oyster shells and grit in separate containers and offer them free-choice to your chickens to eat as they wish.
This post updated from an article that originally appeared on April 15, 2013.
AntheaJune 2, 2014 at 10:01 pm
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?
Linda LyJune 3, 2014 at 1:09 am
Corn does not improve the color of yolks. It makes them yellow (as you see in commercial eggs), but not the orange that many chicken-keepers strive for. Check out this post on how to make your yolks more orange: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/03/how-to-get-those-delightful-dark-orange-yolks-from-your-backyard-chickens/
BrianMay 27, 2014 at 6:51 pm
What size bags are you buying the grains in and on average what are you spending per bag?
Linda LyMay 30, 2014 at 3:22 pm
I get most of my grains from http://www.azurestandard.com. 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 CoteMay 14, 2014 at 4:24 pm
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.
Linda LyMay 15, 2014 at 7:13 pm
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.
WendyApril 27, 2014 at 6:05 am
what do you think about durum wheat? it’s higher in protein… think it’s ok to feed them?
Linda LyApril 27, 2014 at 3:21 pm
Yes, durum wheat is ok to feed. To my knowledge, any wheat that you can eat, your chickens can eat.
WendyApril 11, 2014 at 7:31 am
I am familiar with how to ferment my own grains; is the process the same for the chicken feed? Thank you!
Linda LyApril 17, 2014 at 11:19 pm
Yes, it is. No whey or starter culture needed: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/05/why-and-how-to-ferment-your-chicken-feed/
BrianneMarch 10, 2014 at 2:10 pm
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!
Linda LyMarch 11, 2014 at 11:10 pm
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 http://www.gardenbetty.com/2012/06/garden-bettys-homemade-whole-grain-chicken-feed/ 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.
LizMarch 4, 2014 at 7:03 pm
I am having a hard time finding soft white wheat berries and rye berries what can I replace it with
Linda LyMarch 5, 2014 at 6:21 am
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: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2012/06/garden-bettys-homemade-whole-grain-chicken-feed/
The comment thread on that post also has lots of great suggestions for high-protein substitutions.
LizMarch 5, 2014 at 10:45 am
Would a mixture of lentils and barley work to replace rye berries or would that be to much pprotein?
Linda LyMarch 7, 2014 at 7:25 pm
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.
LizMarch 7, 2014 at 10:24 pm
kathrynFebruary 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm
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 CaseyFebruary 21, 2014 at 5:34 pm
I got my Triticale from Azure Standard. http://www.azurestandard.com
Linda LyFebruary 21, 2014 at 7:15 pm
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.
ChickenCoopAtHomeFebruary 19, 2014 at 7:32 am
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.
Cathy MooreDecember 31, 2013 at 9:03 am
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?
Linda LyJanuary 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm
I recommend going through the comment thread on http://www.gardenbetty.com/2012/06/garden-bettys-homemade-whole-grain-chicken-feed/ as there are lots of ideas and suggestions there for adapting the feed to chicks. Just be sure to increase your chicks’ protein intake to 20-22% (as this recipe is roughly only 16-18% for my layers).
jennie hillNovember 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm
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!!
Alma BarrazaJuly 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm
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.
Linda LyJuly 7, 2013 at 2:12 am
I buy BOSS in bulk from WinCo. My original post on whole grain feeding has more information on where I get everything: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2012/06/garden-bettys-homemade-whole-grain-chicken-feed/
Kim SJune 27, 2013 at 4:21 pm
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!
Linda LyJune 27, 2013 at 7:12 pm
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 SJuly 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm
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. 🙂
Jill WingerMay 31, 2013 at 2:40 pm
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. 😉
Linda LyMay 31, 2013 at 9:14 pm
I must’ve missed your email amid all my recent road tripping… I will look for it and reply soon!
Jill WingerJune 1, 2013 at 2:23 pm
Awesome- thanks! 🙂
dellaMay 11, 2013 at 5:40 pm
do you cook all beans
Linda LyMay 16, 2013 at 9:07 pm
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.
Homestead RedheadApril 23, 2013 at 9:18 am
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!
Linda LyApril 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm
You can refer back to my original recipe at http://www.gardenbetty.com/2012/06/garden-bettys-homemade-whole-grain-chicken-feed/ which has general costs; they’ll differ by region though, as SoCal (where I live) tends to be more expensive.
Carrie MillerApril 21, 2013 at 7:55 pm
On this recipe, do you use sesame seeds with or without the hulls?
Linda LyApril 21, 2013 at 11:58 pm
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.
theGardenBettyApril 18, 2013 at 4:01 am
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theGardenBettyApril 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm
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Courtney HohimerApril 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm
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?
Linda LyApril 16, 2013 at 6:57 pm
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.
WindyMarch 29, 2021 at 5:35 am
I was wondering if you have links for each of the ingredients in your recipe.
Randall S. WinklerApril 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm
Thanks for sharing
theGardenBettyApril 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm
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El Jay DeltronApril 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm
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Gardens4LifeApril 15, 2013 at 11:57 am
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Amy GooApril 15, 2013 at 11:23 am
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LauraApril 15, 2013 at 11:10 am
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?
Linda LyApril 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm
The salt comes from the kelp granules.
ChristeenaJuly 8, 2013 at 9:54 am
what about hemp seeds??? Can that go in there feed?
Linda LyJuly 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm
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.
Christina Rendon MunozApril 15, 2013 at 9:23 am
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WormFactoryApril 15, 2013 at 8:28 am
Corn-free homemade chicken feed from @theGardenBetty! Treat your flock right! http://t.co/H4n0Ot3hgJ
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Erica WachtlerApril 15, 2013 at 6:58 am
We have all the ingredients on order to make it!
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