Free Chicken Feed Ideas -After I started raising backyard chickens, I learned feed isn't cheap! Here are 36 free chicken feed ideas to save money on the chicken feed bill!

36 Free Chicken Feed Ideas

Free Chicken Feed Ideas

I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I started raising backyard chickens was so my healthy, happy hens would give our family nutritious eggs. Ok. I was really hoping to save money on eggs too! But I quickly learned that feed isn’t cheap and if I wanted to do better, I was going to need to come up with some free chicken feed ideas to save money on the chicken feed bill!

After you learn what chickens can eat and what they actually will eat (because remember, animals don’t like to stick to our generalizations), it’s time to start getting creative! It’s fun to come up with chicken feed ideas that your hens love and yet are easy enough for you to manage.

I always make sure to keep homesteading records to make sure my efforts are worth the while. More than once, I thought I was saving money to justify the extra work to save, but in the end, when I looked at the records, I was only fooling myself.

36 Ideas for Free Chicken Feed

Here are my best free chicken feed ideas! They work great with either laying hens or the broiler chickens you’re raising for meat.  You can do side jobs to earn money homesteading and help pay the feed bill or try some of these ideas on your hens at chore time. Check them out and see which would work for you to help you save!

36 Free Chicken Feed Ideas to Save Money on the Chicken Feed Bill

Grow Cover Crops and Rotate them Using a Chicken Tractor

Try growing alfalfa, clover, buckwheat, oats, wheat, barley, or sorghum.

Grow Winter Squash

Some varieties of winter squash, such as Sweet Meat, hold very well in storage. Cut them in half and let the chickens eat the flesh and seeds.

Sprouting Lentils for Chickens

Sprout legumes such as lentils for seeds and greens.

Grow Fodder for Chickens to Eat

Fodder is a great way for chickens to get their greens even when in the dead of winter.

Grow Sprouted Grain

Sprouting grain adds to the nutritional value of the whole grains you feed your chickens and using whole grains in your feed reduces your costs.

Grow Perennial Crops

There are many perennial plants you can grow that make excellent chicken feed! The best part about using perennial trees, bushes, and vines is they require less maintenance and cost each year. While yields go up, your chicken feed bill goes down!

Grow Duckweed

Dehydrated duckweed is high in protein and easy to grow.

Grazing Boxes

Building grazing boxes allow you to simulate a free-range or rotationally grazing system even if your hens are confined in a run. Our aerial predator load here is high so this year we’ve had to shut up our free-ranging hens. Grazing boxes are definitely going to be part of our new coop system.

Grazing Boxes

Building grazing boxes allow you to simulate a free-range or rotationally grazing system even if your hens are confined in a run. Our aerial predator load here is high so this year we’ve had to shut up our free-ranging hens. Grazing boxes are definitely going to be part of our new coop system.

Grow Sunflowers

Grow Herbs for your Chickens

Nettles, comfrey, chickweed, and more. Check out these herbs for chickens.

After I started raising backyard chickens, I learned feed isn't cheap! Here are 36 free chicken feed ideas to save money on the chicken feed bill!

Feed Chickens Waste

Kitchen Scraps

Saving your kitchen scraps at each meal is a great way to cut your chicken feed costs. Every little bit adds up and there isn’t much they won’t eat.

Garden Scraps

There is often a lot of waste that comes out of a garden. From the tops of roots to cleaning up plants done bearing, and more, the chickens can turn those scraps into eggs. Dandelion, plantain, lambs quarter, purslane, and chickweed are all great choices, but try feeding others and watch for what your gals like to eat.

Crushed Eggshells

Feed chickens crushed eggshells back to them so they get extra calcium without having to buy oyster shells.

Grocery Store Scraps

You’d be surprised at how much produce grocery stores throw away! Ask them to save you some of the “waste” and feed those vegetables back to your hens.

Butchering Waste

Chickens are omnivores. That means they love to eat meat and all that protein is a great way to turn scraps from butchering into eggs. Though we work hard to reduce as much waste as possible, there is still always a 5-gallon bucket of scraps that gets split between the chickens and dogs.

Farmers Markets Waste

Sadly, produce farmers sometimes have extra produce that didn’t sell. Sometimes it can be saved for the next market, but many herbs and greens won’t be good enough to offer for sale again. We would always share some with our neighbors but the rest went to the chickens. It doesn’t hurt to ask!

Feeding Chickens Weeds

You definitely want to pull the weeds in your garden. (I’ve got 11 reasons why.) But that doesn’t mean they’re a waste! You can use them to reduce your chicken feed bill.

Dairy Products

Feed your chickens soured milk or whey leftover from cheesemaking. Even better, soak your ration with it. They LOVE it! (If we have extra milk from our dairy cow, sometimes we’ll just give them fresh milk too!)

Compost

Contain your chickens in your compost pile and let them pick through the scraps and bugs for food while keeping the pile nice and aerated.

After I started raising backyard chickens, I learned feed isn't cheap! Here are 36 free chicken feed ideas to save money on the chicken feed bill!

Find Protein Sources

Maggot Bucket

This is such an awesome idea I learned from Permaculture Chickens! It is a great way to turn your meat scraps into even more protein for your chickens.

Grow Mealworms

Learning how to grow mealworms is a great way to give your hens a protein boost. When our hens were molting last fall mealworms helped them get back into production sooner. (And when we ran out, guess who stopped laying again?!)

Black Soldier Fly Larvae

These are an alternative to growing mealworms.

Japanese Beetle Bags

Set out Japanese Beetle bags in the summer. They attract the beetles with their scent and trap them inside. Dump them out for the chickens and watch them feast! Just make sure to check the bag every day because if they die the chickens aren’t interested in them anymore.

Free Chicken Feed Ideas -After I started raising backyard chickens, I learned feed isn't cheap! Here are 36 free chicken feed ideas to save money on the chicken feed bill!

Feed Management Ideas

Mix Your Own Feed

Mixing your own feed allows you to source cheaper materials and buy in bulk to save.

Rationing

Free-choice feeding your hens actually causes them to lay fewer eggs. They don’t really practice portion control and will eat it if you serve it.

Cull Hens

Learn whether or not your hens are still laying and cull the ones that are no longer productive. After 3 years, your hens are only occasionally laying, but they’re eating just as much as ever. It’s not easy on the heart, but culling hens will definitely save you money on your chicken feed bill.

Soak the Chicken Feed

Soaking feed decreases waste but this is especially true with mash. That powdery stuff flies all over and a lot is lost. The soaking feed means that more is sitting in the trough for the hens to eat.

Free-Range Your Chickens

If you can… even for a few hours a day. We’re not sure how free-ranging is going to fit into our new homestead, but on our other 2 homesteads, we let the gals free-range for most or all of the day. In some years, we didn’t feed them the entire time the weather was warm enough for the grass to grow and bugs to be out. That meant 5 or more months of a chicken feed bill of $0!!!! And we got just as many eggs as ever! Probably more because I have definitely noticed that when our hens are cooped up they lay fewer eggs.

Use a Garden Moat

These are so cool and I’m going to use one on the new homestead. While chickens are valuable in the garden for tilling the ground and reducing the pest load if they aren’t contained they can wreak havoc on the crops you still want to have grown. I’ve tried talking to them about where they need to go. They don’t listen.

Ferment their Chicken Feed

Fermenting the chicken feed is just like soaking it, but letting it sit for a couple of days to being to ferment. Fermenting the feed makes more of the nutrients available for your chicken’s body.

No-Waste Feeders

There are lots of great ideas to use no-waste feeders to feed your chickens. And less waste means less money spent on feed.

Boredom Busters

Hens cooped up often get bored. There are lots of great boredom busters you can give your flock that are food! Every little bit adds up! Try making some like Coconut Oil Suet Cakes.

Serve up the Grit (and Probiotics)

Improved digestion means they’ll get more from their feed.

Get Damaged Bags from the Feed Store

If the feed store has bags they can’t sell you may be able to score a deal.

Keep Homestead Records

One of the many reasons to keep homesteading records is so you can track your expenses and yields so can see how much you are actually saving when you implement a new system on your homestead. Comparing these numbers with your experiments lets you see where the real savings are to help you make decisions about what is worth your time and what isn’t.

What are some of the best chicken feed ideas you’ve used to save money?

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4 Comments

  1. Love these ideas! We’ve been working on perfecting an easy maggot bucket design ourselves and are looking for ways to reduce costs on raising meat chickens in order to increase our profits. Thanks!

  2. We just started doing the fermented chicken feed for our new batch of chicks, it has really cut down on food costs and waste! There are some really great ideas here I will definitely share with my hubby (he’s my chicken care-taker)! I love the idea of a homestead app for keeping track of all the info we need to remember. Great post! Thanks for the info