We love our chickens for the fresh meat and eggs they provide. But if you’ve been in the chicken keeping game for any length of time, you know they get expensive. How much feed do 10 chickens need? A small flock will only cost about $60 a month to feed, which isn’t bad. But if you are raising your hens to make a little profit, this cost doesn’t payout in the end. How can I feed my chickens cheap? Let’s talk about 10 tips how to feed your chickens for free. Yes, FREE!
The most obvious way to feed chickens free is to free-range your hens. Free-ranging gives your chickens various protein and grains that they don’t get in their regular feed. What do free-range chickens eat? They scratch around for bugs, slugs, worms, weeds, and grass.
The extra protein keeps your chickens full. And the variety of grains and grasses they find makes the eggs rich with flavor. But free-ranging also comes with some dangers. Getting lost and predators are real concerns you might have for your flock. So you might want to take a few precautions. If free roaming isn’t an option for you, take a look at #2.
#2 Garden Rejects
We all love growing food for ourselves or selling. But not all of the food we grow is good enough for our consumption. We are typically picky about what our fruits and vegetables look like. Blemishes, cracks, or holes from bugs turn us off. These garden rejects are perfect for feeding your chickens.
Chickens will even eat food that has started to spoil. As long as it’s not growing mold, your hens will love the treat. And if there happens to be a few bugs feasting on it, it makes it all the tastier. Save all of your ugly produce and make a nice salad for your flock. It’s an easy and free treat that gives your chickens a boost of vitamins and nutrients.
#3 Kitchen Scraps
If you eat healthily, there are many great kitchen scraps that your chickens could benefit from. Cuttings of fruits and vegetables are excellent for your chickens. They also love cheese, bread, pasta, and beans. They can even eat leftover food as long as the food isn’t high in salt or fats.
But scraps from just your house may not be enough. Ask your neighbors, friends, and family for anything they are willing to part ways with. Have them keep the scraps in a refrigerated container and come by once a week to pick them up. You will be surprised at how much food we waste that chickens love.
#4 Extra Eggs And Their Own Egg Shells
Next on our 10 tips how to feed your chickens for free is about eggs. That’s right, hens lay them, hatch them, and eat them. Every part of the egg is valuable to your flock. For example, in the winter, your chickens often lose out on the protein they get from eating bugs. As a substitute, feed your flock some scrambled eggs. Even chicks can benefit from eggs occasionally.
And don’t forget to save all the eggshells. These shells are full of calcium. Imagine that! If you are already saving kitchen scraps, keep all your shells to use instead of expensive oyster shells. Crush the eggshells to a fine powder and sprinkle it in the food or keep it in a separate dish. Eggs are the gift that keeps on giving.
#5 Raising Bugs
In warm weather, your chickens already eat bugs freely. But fall and winter are different stories. You want to feed your flock higher carbs in cold months to keep them warm, but protein is still essential. Instead of ordering bugs online, try to raise some instead.
Things like mealworms and crickets are easy to feed chickens free. Start-ups are extremely low cost, and once these bugs start reproducing, they never stop. If you are particularly adventurous, you can begin maggot colonies or black fly larvae. It doesn’t matter if it’s spring or winter; your chickens will gobble them up. And you will feel good knowing they are getting protein.
If you want to feed chickens free, you might be overlooking a vital source in your backyard. Weeds from your garden or flowerbeds are perfect for chickens. Most weeds are high in calcium and vitamin A which is crucial for egg development.
Some of the best weeds to feed your chickens are nettles, clover, dandelion, and chickweed. These weeds are common and grow rampantly. Some owners even plant it purposefully for their hens. So instead of throwing the weeds into the compost, toss them to your hens. Adding a few garden rejects, and you have a nice salad. Just remember only to use weeds free of pesticides or weed killers.
#7 Yard Waste
Grass and tree clippings, roots, weeds, and dead flowers are great for chickens. You might see trash, but your chickens see a mine of food. All of these things are edible to your chickens as long as they are untreated. Bugs also like to hang out in yard clippings, so your chickens get an unexpected treat. So for your next spring clean-up or leaf clean-up, don’t forget your chickens!
But don’t stop there. Ask your friends and family for their yard clippings as well. They will gladly give it to you for free instead of paying top dollar to have it hauled off. As long as their yards are chemical-free, your chickens will be happy.
#8 Compost Pile
Next on our 10 tips how to feed your chickens for free is to let your hens in the compost. Compost is not only terrific entertainment for your chickens, but they also love to forage in it. Compost undoubtedly has worms and bugs that break down the waste. And it also contains a few sprouts and grains rich in beneficial bacteria and microbes.
Flowers bring such delight to the yard. And if you add sunflowers, everyone could benefit. Chickens love to eat the leaves and seeds of sunflowers high in healthy fats, calcium, and antioxidants. You can also harvest the seeds to make your own chicken feed. You will want to plant a whole field of these flowers once your chickens get ahold of them.
#10 Restaurant Scraps
If you are shocked by how much waste we go through in our home kitchens, restaurants are another story. Even small family-owned businesses create so many scraps that are thrown away every night. Getting to know a local restaurant might be a fantastic relationship to have. You could ask the owner to save the scraps, and you could pick it every day. Your chickens will love the variety, and the food is almost always fresh.
However, you won’t have much luck doing this with bigger chains. Most of them follow strict health codes to prevent liability issues. So they won’t give you scraps in case of accidental poisoning. But if you know the right people, they won’t have any problems giving you scrap foods.
How Do I Make Chicken Feed At Home?
When looking to cut corners on chicken feed, you might look into making homemade chicken feed. Doing this won’t necessarily be cheaper than your average feed. But it can cut costs if you feed only organic food that costs more. You can get large bags of seed at feed stores and mix them to create a feed specialized to your flock’s needs.
Another way to cut back on chicken feed is to ferment the food. Fermenting seeds expand the grains and fill our chickens up faster. Your chickens will eat less and improve your chicken’s ability to absorb nutrients.
And in both of these processes, you can cut costs even more. Go around to your local feed stores and ask if they have damaged feed. Some of these stores might give you the feed at a deeply discounted price or free.
What To Feed Chickens If You Run Out Of Feed?
It’s happened to the best of us. Life gets in the way, and we run out of our chicken’s food. What do you do? The best thing to do during this is to let your chickens forage. Chickens are incredibly resourceful and will find food in the most unlikely places.
But foraging isn’t always possible if you aren’t home throughout the day. So what do you do now? Take a look through your pantry. Cooked oatmeal or rice is excellent to fill their stomachs until you can head to the store. You can also feed them anything from our list above. Cheese and yogurt are also great because they are high in protein. The possibilities are endless, and your chickens won’t even know they are going without.
When you own chickens, you have to become as resourceful as they are. And if you look long enough, you might find many more than just these 10 tips how to feed your chickens for free. With a bit of creativity and frugalness, nothing is impossible.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!