Did you get chickens in order to save money at the grocery store, then find you were paying more for their food than you were for the eggs?! We did too. Luckily for all of us, these 13 cheap chicken feed ideas will help you save money.
There’s an abundance of free chicken food out there, you just need to know where to look. Most of these solutions are free or cheap and require very little work on your part. Choose just a few ideas, or use them all to really lower that chicken feed bill.
13 Cheap Chicken Feed Ideas to Help you Save Money
1. Free Range chickens
Letting your flock out to free-range is a great 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.
Having a free ranging flock 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 one of our top five ways to feed your chickens for free. And your flock will help to keep the pest and weed level down in your yard.
2. Farmer’s Markets
Hit up the farmer’s market within the last hour of operation and you’ll find tons of vendors throwing out stacks of produce. These fruits and veggies (and sometimes bread) may be unsellable for some reason or another, but are usually perfectly good for your chickens.
Vendors will often toss this produce in a pile behind their stand or by the trash cans. Ask if you can take some home for your chickens and they’ll more than likely be glad for the free haul-away service.
3. Grocery Stores, Restaurants, and Shops
Making a simple phone call to the local bakery or a favorite restaurant can be a great source of cheap chicken feed, saving you tons of money. Thousands of pounds of food are thrown away weekly, simply because it’s a little mushy, bruised, or stale. Again, these foods may not be sellable to patrons, but your chickens will love it. You can drive up to the dumpsters and check it out, but it would be a better idea to call the manager beforehand.
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 free goods for your birds, win-win!
4. Grow Fodder
Fodder is incredibly easy to grow and so nutritious for your chickens. It’s especially helpful to grow fodder in the winter, when grasses and plants are hard to come by for your flock. Fodder shouldn’t be used as a replacement for chicken feed, but rather as an easy and cheap chicken feed supplement to the feed bill. It will provide valuable nutrients and fiber for you flock.
This article lays out step-by-step how to grow fodder for your chickens. It’s actually super simple to grow and takes almost no effort on your part, and making your own chicken feed is so gratifying and healthy for your flock, there’s really no reason not to!
5. Ferment Their Feed
Fermentation is the hot new thing in health lately, but did you know you could ferment your chicken feed? Fermentation helps to break down the food, making it easier to digest and increasing the probiotic and enzyme content of the food, making it healthier for your birds. Fermented food is great for the immune system and many chicken keepers find that their birds fill up more easily with fermented food than standard dry food.
This post on fermenting chicken feed is very informative:
6. Make Your Own Feed
Your average commercial feed is mostly made up of cheap filler, such as corn or soy. It’s not the most nutritious blend for your flock, and you need to supplement with fresh produce or free ranging for healthy birds. While organic and non-GMO poultry feed does exist, it’s usually very expensive, and why hand your hard earned money over when you can do it yourself?
Making highly nutritious chicken feed at home can save you money and improve the health of your flock. If you can find a source for bulk whole grains and seeds, you’re already halfway there. Feed stores as well as Amish country stores usually have bulk feed grains for very cheap!
7. Grow a Chicken Garden:
There are tons of easy to grow plants that are beloved by chickens. Consider growing a vegetable garden just for your chickens to cut down on feed costs. The plants on this list grow with practically no effort from you. Stick some seeds in the ground, water them a few times a week, and reap the sweet rewards of free chicken food!
Chickens especially love to eat these garden goodies:
- Pumpkins/Squash– very well adored 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
8. Supplement with Hearty Treats
You can buy huge bags of treats at the feed store or on Amazon for really cheap. Supplementing the flock’s feed with these hearty treats will fill them up and provide much needed protein on the cheap.
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds are our chickens absolute favorite treat. A 50 pound bag lasts us more than six months and is very inexpensive at our local feed store. Sunflower seeds are very nutritionally dense and a little bit goes a long way with your chickens.
To save yourself the cost of this treat, try growing them yourself! Sunflowers can grow practically anywhere and require very little care.
The Flock Block is another treat we always have on hand. One of these will last our flock several months, and its not only full of nutritious seeds, it keeps them busy in the boring winter months. You can buy a flock block, or if your birds go through them too quickly, you make your own flock block really cheaply.
The Prairie Homestead shows you how in this post: DIY Flock Block Substitute
9. Feed Weeds to Your Chickens
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 once or twice per week. Feeding weeds to the chickens is one of the best ways to save money on feed, because you need to get rid of the weeds anyway, so why not have them also count as chicken food?
The following weeds are well-loved by chickens:
- Dandelion, leaves and flowers
- Lambs Quarters
This list of perennial weeds make an excellent source of nutritious, cheap chicken feed!
10. 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 table scraps can put a big dent in your chicken feed costs.
For a complete list of good and bad chicken snacks, read our post: Chicken Treats: What’s Hot, What’s Not
11. Let them help with the compost pile
Chickens and compost go hand in hand. Chickens produce tons of waste that you can mix with their bedding and toss in the compost pile. We also like to toss in scraps from the garden and kitchen scraps. Over time the compost pile draws in tons of insects that the chickens love to eat!
We love to let our chickens into the compost pile a few times a week. They eat bugs and kick it all around, helping to stir it up for us! Insects are a great source of protein for your flock, and they’re free!
12. Get pest-proof containers to protect your feed
You may be surprised at the amount of feed that gets eaten by rats, mice, and wild birds if it’s not protected. These critters will certainly help themselves to your layer feed if you don’t have it in a pest-proof container.
We spent years accidentally feeding rats and mice from our coop and we were astounded at the savings in chicken feed when we finally dealt with the issue.
We keep our chicken feed in galvanized steel garbage cans with tight fitting lids. Rodents can’t chew through them and birds can’t fly into the coop and help themselves. This simple tool has saved us so much money!
13. Shop around to get the best prices
There’s a huge variety in feed prices, and sometimes just looking around at a few different stores can save you tons of money. If you want to go organic, GMO free, or locally made, you’re going to pay a lot more than standard layer feed. There’s also big variations in price depending on where you get your chicken feed from.
Ordering online from a place like Chewy or Amazon is generally more expensive due to shipping. Buying from your local feed store could save you tons of money, especially if you choose their own branded feeds.
We buy inexpensive chicken feed from Country Max as the base of our flock’s diet, but then we supplement that feed with goodies from the garden, kitchen scraps, seeds, and weeds. We also free range our flock every single day, so they get lots of extra nutrients eating in the wild.
No matter what type of feed you’d like to feed your birds, it pays YOU to shop around to all the local feed stores and get the best price. Most stores even make this easy for you by posting their prices online.
We hope this post has given you lots of good ideas for how to save money on chicken feed. Try a few or try them all, and you’ll be sure to putting those savings into something more worthwhile, like getting more chickens!