Most people get backyard chickens so they can save money on eggs and meat. Then they quickly realize that it costs more money to feed chickens than you save at the grocery store on chicken products. It doesn’t need to be this way, there are many ways to supplement your chicken feed and feed chickens for free, you just need to get creative!
1. Free range
Letting your flock out to free range is the number one way to cut down on feed costs. Chickens are hard wired to search for their own food outside. They’ll pick at grasses and weeds, dig for worms, and even hunt down larger prey like mice and lizards.
Free ranging is very easy on you, all you have to do is open the door and let them go wild. The chickens will do all the hard work. Best of all it’s completely free, and your flock will help to keep the pest and weed level down in your yard.
2. Feed Kitchen Scraps
Wilted lettuce, mushy berries, stale bread, unappetizing leftovers… don’t let this food make its way to the trash can! Feed it to your chickens as a snack. Giving your flock the weekly kitchen scraps can put a big dent in your chicken feed costs.
Your flock should be getting a wide variety of food to ensure good health. Most fruits and veggies will be appreciated by your flock, and go a long way towards your effort to feed chickens for free. Meat scraps are also perfectly fine for chickens, and a good source of protein if they can’t find insects to eat. Lastly, plain yogurt is a great treat for chickens, and as a bonus, it helps even out the bacteria in their guts, making it easier to digest food. Be sure the kitchen scraps headed to the coop include only whole and nutritious foods, chickens don’t need junk food!
3. Grow a Chicken Garden
There are tons of easy to grow plants that are beloved by chickens. Consider growing a garden to feed your chickens for free. Chickens especially love these garden treats, and they’re easy to grow as well!
- Pumpkins/Squash- very well loved by chickens and very nutritious
- Leafy greens- lettuce, kale, mustard, and arugula are easy to grow
- Tomatoes- Grape tomatoes are fun, toss them in the coop and watch your chickens play keep away!
- Sunflowers- These are easy to grow and you can chop off the whole flower head and toss it into the coop
4. Feed the Weeds!
Most of the weeds in your yard are very well liked by chickens. If you don’t want to let them out to free range in your space, you can at least pick some treats for them in your own backyard!
The following weeds are well loved by chickens:
- Dandelion- leaves and flowers
5. Utilize grocery stores, restaurants and bakeries
Making a simple phone call to the local bakery or a favorite restaurant can save you tons of money in chicken food. Thousands of pounds of food are thrown away weekly, simply because it’s a little mushy, bruised, or stale. A lot of times food is thrown away simply because it’s one day past the expiration date, still fine to eat but not fine to sell. These foods may not be sellable to patrons, but your chickens will love it. Many stores and restaurants are glad to give away food that would go to the trash. A simple phone call can reap huge rewards for your flock.
Getting permission first will not only keep you out of trouble, but grocers are often willing to set aside food for you if you simply ask. They get the pleasure of knowing the food isn’t going to waste, and you get to feed chickens for free, win-win!
We hope this list of 5 ways to feed chickens for free will help you to cut down on food costs.