• Whole Grain Chicken Feed

    by  • March 19, 2014 • City Chickens, Featured, Gardening & Pets • 3 Comments

    chickens surrounding feeder

    When we started our flock of chickens with four birds, the cost and type of food didn’t matter much. We bought a fifty pound bag of commercial feed about once a month from a farm store. If the hens spilled and wasted some or the price of feed fluctuated, it didn’t make a big difference to us.

    Now that we have fifteen chickens, things are different. They can eat a fifty pound bag of feed in less than two weeks. As soon as City Folk’s Farm Shop opened, we switched to buying feed from them. We wanted to like their organic and non-GMO offerings, but with more powder than large pieces, our hens spilled constantly.¬†Spilling feed is not only cash on the ground but the resulting mess combines with soil moisture and begins to ferment and stink. Yuck.

    When City Folk’s opened their new feed mixing station, I took a class with Denise Beno to learn about whole grain chicken feed. Denise shared advantages and disadvantages to whole grains, her philosophy to feed twice a day only what they can eat in fifteen minutes (no thieving by sparrows!), and several feed mix ratios. I was sold and mixed my own feed shortly thereafter.

    The girls (and guy) seem to love it. Spilling still happens but they’re more likely to eat what falls because it’s in bigger pieces. We’re going through less feed than expected and therefore it costs less than buying high quality pre-mixed food. Cleaning the hen house has become more pleasant because the poop from whole-grain fed chickens is less prolific and less smelly in our experience.

    bulk whole grain chicken feed station

    How To Feed Chickens Whole Grain

    1. Use a recipe that provides a variety of grains, protein sources, and minerals. You may change the grain mix to include cheaper/more available grains in subsequent batches but try not to change too many things at once.

    2. Provide grit, oyster shell, and fresh water at all times. Hens using whole grain will consume more grit and oyster than hens on commercial pelleted feed. I made a grit and oyster shell feeder using our pvc feeder design.

    3. Transition slowly by mixing in the new feed:

    • Week one – 3/4 previous (commerical) feed, 1/4 whole grain mix
    • Week two – 1/2 previous feed, 1/2 whole grain mix
    • Week three – 1/4 previous feed, 3/4 whole grain mix
    • Week four (or whenever you run out of previous feed) – 100% whole grain

    4. During this time, egg production may slow a little and/or eggshells may thin as the hens get used to eating the new food, grit, and shell. After four weeks, my girls were up to their regular production and shells are thick and strong again.

    5. Experiment to determine how much feed you need. Denise recommended 1/3 pound per chicken per day, which would be 5 pounds per day for my flock but they’re actually eating 3.5-4 pounds per day. The difference may be that some of my chickens are bantams and it’s winter so they aren’t expending much energy foraging. We also feed all the table scraps they will eat.

    whole grain chicken feed

    Rachel’s Whole Grain Layer Feed Mix

    Makes 50#

    12.5# whole oats
    12.5# wheat
    12.5# cracked corn
    1.5# fish meal
    2.5# alfalfa pellets (not my hen’s favorite and can be eliminated with good pasture)
    7.5# whole soy beans
    1 # mineral supplement

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    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. My favorite color is purple, my favorite vegetable is whatever is fresh and local, and my favorite drink is whatever you're pouring. Follow me @racheltayse


    3 Responses to Whole Grain Chicken Feed

    1. March 21, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      very cool! If I owned chickens I would mix my own grain too. I need to share this wit my co-worker who raises chickens as hobby. I think she would enjoy your post.

      Happy spring!


      • March 25, 2014 at 9:41 pm

        Thanks for sharing! Happy spring to you – is it warming up where you live?

    2. Pan
      January 22, 2016 at 12:27 pm

      What are your sources for buying these ingredients in bulk?

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