If you are concerned about what is in the chicken feed you are buying, but can’t afford to feed them non-GMO, this homemade chicken layer feed could be the answer to your prayers. It’s easy to make and at 16% protein, won’t detract from the nutrition they need to continue laying.
I’ve had my girls, Lucy and Ethel, since 2012. I was so ecstatic to get them and, if I say so myself, we’ve made each other very happy for the past three years. They have, believe it or not, done a lot for me and my homestead, especially before we moved. Of course, they have laid hundreds of eggs for me (red sexlinks lay large brown eggs for about 2/3 of the year), but they have also turned my compost, taken care of pests in my garden, and provided me with one of the best manures a gardener could ask for.
Because they have been such faithful farm helpers, and because they provide some of the eggs for our farm and family (we do have 3 other inherited chickens who also lay), I find myself wanting to make sure that they get nourished well. I would like them to be able to eat organic and non-GMO, as well as get the proper amount of protein. I would also like for them to be grass-fed, but during this season all the forage is dying off…not to mention that because we are new around here, we are not sure of who their predators might be, so they are pretty much stuck in the coop until we can build them a proper run.
Because organic and grass-fed is harder to do than non-GMO at this point, I’m starting with eliminating corn and soy from their diet through making my own layer feed. (I am also starting to sprout organic hard red wheat for them, but that’s another post.)
Chicken Layer Feed Notes and Recipe
Honestly, formulating homemade chicken layer feed for them wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I read some articles on what chickens need and how to make your own chicken feed, as well as blog posts on how other farm bloggers were doing theirs. I copied copious notes into a spreadsheet where I was able to keep track of which of my animals could eat each type of grain, what the grain would do for them, what the percentage of protein was, and other such information that would eventually help me to be able to mix a 16% whole grain feed for my laying hens.
I also looked up every grain that I was able to obtain in my area on a site called GMO Compass (no longer available) to make sure that none of them were GMO. I was pleasantly surprised that many GMO grains are not readily available to the public. For a long time, I thought EVERYTHING I was eating was GMO, but after some research, I see that not much of what I eat has been genetically modified. I’ll end this sidebar now, but if you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them. Here is the recipe I have come up with so far to make your own chicken feed.
Homemade Chicken Layer Feed
- 10 cups pearl barley – good for energy
- 5 cups hard red wheat – good for energy
- 5 cups hulled millet – rich in amino acids
- 4 cups oat groats – B vitamins calcium, fiber, energy
- 5 cups split peas – high protein
- Optional additives (see below)
Mix all of these grains together, and switch your hens to it over 3 weeks. This recipe makes 13.84 lbs, 16% protein.
The total cost for the full recipe (in my area–I got my grains at Winco) is $8.31, or .60/lb. The cost of serving per chicken per day is .15 (1/4lb) x 5 chickens = .75/day to feed the girls. The non-organic non-GMO feed that I am switching them from costs .25/chicken per day. My savings is .10/hen or .50/day total. This will likely vary in your area, but the formula for figuring out how much your homemade chicken layer feed will cost will be the same. All you do is add up the cost of all the ingredients, then divide by how many pounds you get. This will give you the cost per pound. You can further divide it to get the cost per serving.
Granted, there are more ingredients involved in the commercial non-GMO feed, which I’m planning to add to my next batch (they are still getting those ingredients while they are switching over the next few weeks). The ingredients I’ll add are food grade diatomaceous earth (1/4 cup), garlic powder (1/4 cup), and kelp (1/4 cup). The amounts that I will add will not raise the price of the feed by much, though I haven’t yet figured them into the end total. The diatomaceous earth is awesome for keeping bugs out of the feed, but it is also said to help keep worms at bay. The garlic powder is a natural wormer (it is toxic to parasites) and is an immune booster. The kelp contains plenty of needed vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and salt in the right amounts for a chicken’s diet. It also promotes laying, and is responsible for that nice, dark yolk which indicates a nutritious egg.
Another issue to address is that it’s sort of hard to nail down the exact percentage of protein that each grain really is, so there is definitely some digging to do. In this Mother Earth News Article, the author explains that we should count ALL grains as only 10% protein. I didn’t do that, I got my percentage range from different articles on the internet and chose the low end of each one for good measure. As I mentioned in another post, I will also be supplementing this homemade chicken feed with homemade milk kefir, as well as sprouted wheat seed (sprouting ups the nutrient content–including the protein–in wheat according to this article). I’ll know if adjustments need to be made in an upward direction (protein-wise) if laying drops off, I think. I’ll be watching! Now go make your own homemade chicken food for laying hens and see what happens!
This recipe has been updated.
See my New and Improved Homemade Whole Grain Layer Feed recipe.
Read more on Feeding Whole Grains to Chickens (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association)