Mixing your Own Chicken Layer Feed

With the price of everything rising, the chance to save money anywhere you can is tempting.

I get asked fairly often about mixing your own layer feed for your flock instead of buying commercial feed.

It's not something I have ever done personally.

Having a fairly small flock and a very convenient feed store has made it too easy to purchase feed. 

By mixing your own feed, in addition to saving a little money, you also know exactly what is going into your chicken's diet.

By choosing organic and non-GMO grains and ingredients, you are providing your hens a healthy diet, but mixing feed is not quite as easy as dumping some grains into a pail.

The nutrient content needs to be balanced to keep your hens healthy and able to continuing to lay quality eggs.

The act of laying eggs takes a toll on a chicken's body.

If they aren't fed enough protein and calcium, they will start using their body stores to produce eggs, to the detriment of the chicken's health.

Before you decide to give up commercial feed, be sure you do some reading and research to make an educated decision if homemade feed will work for you. 

When you think about what farm chickens ate in the past, free to roam acres and acres looking for food, you realize that greens (weeds, grasses and clover), seeds and protein in the form of worms, bugs and slugs made up their diet.

So your goal is to replicate a 'natural' diet as closely as possible.

If your chickens do free range (although realize that roaming your back yard won't provide them as great a variety of food sources as true free ranging on farmland or pastures will), you have a better chance of providing them a well-rounded diet using homemade feed.

Some of the ingredients you will want to incorporate are a variety of seeds, alfalfa, corn, wheat, barley and oats.

Also sea kelp (minerals), probiotic powder (intestinal health/digestion), fish meal (protein),  food-grade lime or aragonite (calcium), flax seed (Omega-3) and brewer's yeast (B complex) should be included in any homemade mix along with a nutrient blend.

Grinding the ingredients is recommended so your hens don't just pick out the 'good' stuff, although be aware that ground seeds and grains start to oxidize and lose their nutrients fairly quickly, so plan on making only small batches of feed to last several days.

Also, be sure the grains you are using aren't moldy because mold produces mycotoxins which will affect productivity and could possibly even cause death.

Purchasing grains at a local co-op can be more economical if you can find one nearby, and sticking with organic, non-GMO grains is highly recommended.  

After doing a bit of reading about mixing my own feed, I think for now we will stick with commercial feed.  Our hens love it, they are healthy and lay beautiful eggs.

Until I have more time to do some additional research and a cost comparison, I'll hold off mixing our own.

I do however, supplement the commercial layer feed with a few supplements (detailed in my Breakfast of Champion Layers article), daily greens in the form of weeds and chopped grass usually, as well as the occasional insects and worms.

I hope this has given you food for thought, if nothing else.

There is a lot more information in an article entitled Making Your Own Poultry Feed from Backyard Poultry written by Harvey Ussery which discusses exact percentages as well as more of the nutritional requirements you will need to meet in order to provide your flock with homemade goodness.

I do also have a recipe for homemade chicken feed in my book 101 Chicken Keeping Hacks that was formulated by a reputable feed company to be nutritionally balanced.

How about you?  Do you mix your own feed?  Feed commercial feed -organic or non-organic? I would like to hear your thoughts.