So, you are looking to save money on chicken feed. I totally get that!
That’s the thing with homesteading.
We love fresh milk, we buy a family milk cow.
We want the joy of collecting fresh eggs every day. Backyard chickens become part of our life.
Then the feed bill comes. Ouch!
Without the economy of scale, it most likely cost you more to raise those fresh eggs than it does to buy them.
But still… we want what we want. Am I right!?!
Here are 40 cheap ideas and creative ways to save money on chicken feed.
But before we start… there are actually two dollar figures I want you to consider.
First, determine the total cost of feed for each month. This is what’s coming out of your pocket each and every month.
But you should also calculate the cost of raising a dozen eggs. To calculate this, take your total feed bill for the month and divide by how many dozen eggs you collect each month.
Why is this important? If you are like me, paying for a 50 lb bag of feed hurts a little bit more for 2 dozen eggs than it does for 6 dozen.
So when we talk about saving money, let’s also consider being more efficient with the money we spend.
40 Creative Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed
1. Keep breeds that need less feed
I know, we all have our favorites. But choosing to include breeds in your hen house that require less feed just makes sense. Breeds such as Ancona, Hamburgs, Leghorns, and Welsummers are all known to require less feed to meet their nutritional requirements.
In general, birds with trimmer builds are going to require less feed. And heavier birds with rounder, fuller figures will require more feed.
2. Select breeds that produce more eggs
Be sure to add White Leghorns, Sex Linked Reds, Americanas, Rhode Island Reds, and/or Golden Comets to your chicken coop. They are known for laying more total eggs throughout the year.
While on the subject, let me just say, White Leghorns are one of the most overlooked breeds for backyard chickens.
Yes, they can be a flighty. Both temperamentally and in needing their wings clipped.
But Leghorns eat less, produce more, and lay eggs throughout the winter.
Homesteaders and backyard chicken enthusiast both have been so focused on brown eggs that we have overlooked these wonderful birds.
When we use to sell eggs at farmers markets, we mixed white eggs in with each dozen. When customer inquired, we explained that these white egg laying birds were what paid the bills in the winter.
And no one every objected. Guess fresh eggs trump brown eggs all day winter long. 😉
3. Reduce your flock size
If you are raising chickens simply to feed your family, be sure you only have as many as you need.
A lot depends on the breed and how many eggs they lay, but a good rule of thumb is one laying hen per person.
4. Cull old and unproductive birds
Hey, I know how tough this can be.
I have a 6 year old RIR that is still part of our flock.
After all she *did* tough it out all these years against predators, heat, and cold. I mean, shouldn’t that be worth something?!?
But we are talking about how to save money on chicken feed. Keeping unproductive hens just adds to our feed bill while not giving us the eggs we are after.
It just might be time for ole’ Miss Red to continue feeding our family, albeit in a different way.
5. Buy pullets instead of raising baby chicks
We all love those cute, fuzzy day old chicks.
But the truth is, most of us can purchase pullets that are getting ready to lay for much less than what it costs us to raise them ourselves.
Check with your local feed store, they should be able to put you in touch with a source for purchasing pullets. In our area they range from $6-10.
6. Shop around and don’t be afraid to try different feeds
Many of us live in areas that have more than one feed store. Don’t be afraid to compare prices at different stores, as well as, different feeds.
Two years ago we switched feeds purely by accident. Not only did our chickens seem to like the feed better, but egg production went up.
Now, I don’t know if that was the result of the feed. But I do know, happy chickens lay more eggs.
7. Mix your own feed
This option isn’t for everyone. Depending on where you live, mixing your own feed can be considerable cheaper OR cost prohibitive.
That said, decide on the ration you are going to use. Then, call your local feed dealer and ask for current prices. Then add up what you need. Divide by how much it makes. And compare to purchasing ready made feed.
8. Buy feed in bulk
Again, this works for some and not for others.
Buying feed in bulk will definitely save you money. But you will need to have adequate storage and consider losses you might incur to rodents.
Before totally nixing this idea, check with your feed dealer. Our local feed store has regular times throughout the year where we can buy in bulk and store the feed with them. We pay up front and then pick it up as we need it.
9. Feed whole grains or pellets instead of crumbles
Let’s be honest. Chickens are messy.
We found that they wasted a considerable amount when fed crumbles. Reduce the amount of feed they go through by offering them either pellets or whole grains.
10. Don’t over feed your birds
Most of us have chickens because, well, we like chickens. And marketing teams know this. It is so easy to get sucked into all the hype and shiny bags and buy them treats.
If you are looking to reduce your feed cost, ease up on the purchased treats. They cost money and fat chickens won’t lay as many eggs.
Besides many of the ideas below make great healthy treats for free.
11. Ration their feed
Before you go hating me for taking away treats and limiting your chickens feed, let’s think about this. Chickens only need 1/3 pound of feed a day per hen.
Will they eat more? Boy, my chickens will!
When we stopped feeding our laying hens free choice they wasted less and our feed bill went down.
And guess what? We got just as many eggs and the chickens were just as happy.
12. Provide grit and probiotics
Along with giving your chickens what they need, we want to be sure they are being as efficient with that feed as possible.
Grit and probiotics keep their digestive systems working efficiently, allowing them to get the most nutrients from their feed.
13. Provide plenty of fresh water
Fresh water is essential in allowing chickens to properly utilize feed, as well as, regularly lay eggs.
Having fresh water in front of them at all times is essential.
14. Sprout their feed
If you feed whole grains, sprouting their feed will increase feed volume, digestibility, and nutrients.
Seeds and legumes that have been sprouted have an increased protein digestibility of up to 30%. Not to mention it increases levels of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
To sprout seeds and legumes, start by soaking them for 4 hours. Drain water and place in a paper towel lined container large enough so that seeds are one layer thick. Then twice a day, rinse and drain seeds. Seeds will begin to sprout in 1-2 days and ready to feed chickens in 3-7 days.
15. Ferment their feed
Soaking feed helps break down the outer shell of grains and makes feed easier to digest while providing them probiotics which helps with digestive health.
To ferment chicken feed, put feed in a 5 gallon bucket and completely cover with water. Let sit for 2-3 days. Feed should smell sweet not sour. Drain feed using a strainer before feeding.
It is important to completely cover feed with water to prevent mold.
16. Raise birds on pasture
Free range birds can consume enough grass to account for 15-20% of their entire diet.
It still amazes me how little grain our 200 laying hens ate when we had them on pasture. We used moveable electric netting and partitioned off sections of grass, moving to fresh pasture each week or as necessary.
Even if you don’t have access to pasture, using a chicken tractor to allow you birds to move contained throughout the yard can save money on chicken feed.
17. Pasture chickens 3 days behind livestock
If you are raising livestock on your homestead and rotating pastures, chickens can be part of your rotational grazing plan.
Flies naturally lay eggs in manure. Three days later you will have larvae for chickens to feed on.
I’ll admit, this is very similar to #16 with a little protein thrown in. 😉
18. Bring them lawn clippings
If you are thinking… well, Janet, that’s all good, but my birds can’t free range due to space, traffic, or predators. Well here is one just for you.
After mowing your yard, provided you have not treated it with herbicides or insecticides, gather your lawn clippings and feed these lush greens to your chickens.
Viola! That’s what I call taking the pasture to the birds!
19. Feed them table scraps
Our chickens get feed table scraps regularly. As a matter of fact, we rotate between table scraps and feed every other day.
We feed the obvious such as vegetable trimmings, fruit peals, and stale bread. But did you know they love leftover cooked noodles, spaghetti sauce, chili, and meatloaf?
Remember chickens are omnivores and as such, consume both meat and vegetation.
Don’t feed chickens uncooked rice, uncooked noodles, or raw potatoes. Other than that, table scraps are an easy way to save money on chicken feed.
20. Cook damaged eggs
We collect eggs every day and very seldom have cracked eggs. But when we do, we simply cook them up and feed them back to the chickens.
So add scrambled eggs to your table scrap list too.
21. Feed them egg shells
You can reduce your feed bill by reducing the need to purchase crushed oyster shells by simply feeding your chickens egg shells.
I have heard of folks feeding them uncrushed eggs without adverse results, but I crush them simply to reduce space in the feed bucket.
22. Feed them leftover garden produce
If you are like me, nothing beats garden grown, fresh tomatoes in July and August.
But over night garden produce can explode beyond what we can consume or preserve.
Save money on chicken feed by feeding your laying hens leftover garden produce. Even when canning, I can find damaged produce that can be fed to the hens.
23. Keep you compost pile in the chicken pen
Keeping your compost pile inside your chicken pen has two benefits.
First, the chickens love digging through it eating to their hearts delight.
Second, they do all the work for you. No more turning compost. They will dig and rotate the pile for free.
24. Collect extra produce from farmers markets
Check with your local farmers markets and see if they are willing to allow you to pick up past-its-prime produce to feed your chickens.
Our local pumpkin patch had a wealth of pumpkins after the season. All I had to do was cut the pumpkins up and feed them to the chickens. And what a great way to get a bounty of free pumpkin seeds!
25. Feed them day old bread
We had an old farmer who fed his chickens nothing but day old bread from a local bakery. Although I wouldn’t suggest bread being their entire diet, day old bread can definitely save money on chicken feed.
26. Check with your local butcher for scraps
Many butchers offer pet food packages of less desirable products. Check with your butcher to see what they offer and if it is cost effective.
27. Feed them weeds
Weeds never seem to be in short supply around our homestead.
Collect weeds from your garden and yard to feed your laying hens. Some favorites include dandelion, stinging nettle, lamb’s quarter, and yellow dock.
28. Feed them garden plants
Next time you thin your beets or remove played out vegetable plants, feed them to your chickens. This is an easy way to save money on chicken feed.
29. Use them to clean your garden
At the end of your growing season, allow your chickens to have access to your garden. They will do a great job cleaning up old plants and tilling the soil.
30. Plant a winter cover crop
Prepare your garden for winter by planting a winter crop, such as winter rye or oats, before the first frost. Once growth is 3-4 inches give your chickens access to the garden.
Allow your chickens to mow your winter crop down to 1 inch.
This does not hurt the plants and still allows it to serve its purpose as ground cover for the garden.
31. Plant a spring cover crop
Like above, you can use your spring cover crop as feed for your chickens.
Great choices for spring cover crops include yellow mustard, red clover, or cold harder peas.
Let plants to get established and grow to 3-4 inches or more. Then give your chickens access to the garden.
Allow your chickens to eat all of the cover crop. In the process they will till the ground and get your beds started.
32. Grow produces specifically for your chickens
Have a little extra space in your garden? Plant some extra chard, beets, squash, bok choy, broccoli, or cabbage just for your chickens.
These all make excellent vegetables to feed your chickens and reduce your feed bill.
33. Plant a garden for your chickens
If you have plenty of space, consider planting a garden specifically for your chickens.
Plants such as bok choy, peas, lentils, comfrey, buckwheat, millet, beets, alfalfa are all good choices for chicken crops.
34. Grow your own grain
If you have the space, you might consider growing some of your own grain to harvest for your chickens.
Field corn, sunflowers, sorghum, and millet are all fairly easy to grow.
And though it is unlikely you will be able to grow all of your own feed, it will definitely allow you to save money on chicken feed.
35. Capture garden pests
If you are growing your produce organically, chances are at some point you will be in your garden picking garden pests off your plants.
Just remember, these make excellent treats for your chickens!
36. Debug your garden with chickens
I know, I know. We’ve all had chickens destroy newly planted peas and vine ripened tomatoes.
But consider giving them supervised access to the garden for a limited time right before dusk. They will be busy hunting for bugs and a setting sun means they will naturally head back to the coop to roost.
37. Feed out of cold storage
Have an abundance of winter squash, fruit, and potatoes in your cold storage? Consider feeding some of it to save money on chicken feed.
Just be sure to cook any potatoes or hard veggies like carrots and other root vegetables before feeding it to your hens.
38. Grow comfrey
Comfrey is an excellent plant to grow on the homestead. It is easy to get established, grows exceptionally fast, and gives you 3-4 harvest from a single plant.
It makes great green manure having an N-P-K ratio of 1.8-.5-5.3. This is better than most animal manures. It is also wonderful as green matter in compost piles where it can generate heat quickly. And it makes great compost tea for gardens and perennials.
Comfrey contains many vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B-complex, Vitamin C, as well as calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium.
It is also a great source of protein with 13-30% crude protein depending on harvest time, making it an excellent livestock feed.
Learn more about comfrey here.
39. Feed other farm products
Don’t overlook other products you produce on the farm. You can feed chickens leftover milk, whey, offal from butchering, as well as, bones. They obviously won’t eat the bones, but they will pick them clean of meat.
40. Sell eggs
Lastly, consider selling some of your eggs. No, this won’t save money on chicken feed, but it will give you more money to spend. 😉
Where we live we can sell farm fresh eggs direct to consumer for $5-6 per dozen.
If you aren’t into marketing and delivering eggs, check with your local feed store. Many of our local stores keep a refrigerator in the back and gladly sell customers’ eggs at no charge.
Well, that’s it.
I think I have exhausted all of the ideas I have for saving money on chicken feed and/or reducing your cost per dozen eggs.
If you have any questions about any of the ideas listed above or have additional suggestions, drop me a comment below.
Have you found any great tricks to save money on chicken feed?
Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
- 9 Ways to Make Money From Chickens
- Keeping a Family Milk Cow: 7 Crucial Things to Know Before You Buy
- Making Money Homesteading and Why We Quit Farmers Markets
- Why I’ve Changed to No Till Gardening