Each morning I head out to the chicken coop as my five girls wait in anticipation for breakfast. They know what’s coming. “It’s the new stuff!” they shout. (Ok, not really.) They are excited to see me scooping just the right amount of protein-packed, non-GMO homemade layer feed for each of them. I head inside the coop, pour the day’s sustenance into the metal hanging dispenser, and it’s a feeding frenzy!
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A few years ago, I began studying up on how to formulate chicken feed for my girls. I created a barebones framework for my feed, which I shared here with you before. But I wasn’t satisfied with just using grain in it.
Though I was able to achieve the right level of protein for my laying hens, I didn’t feel that was enough. I wanted it to be a vitamin-packed, nutrient-packed, wellness-packed feed. Also, I didn’t want to lose egg production.
Interestingly, the first batch didn’t yield significant drop in egg production during the switch. The most significant drop happened in the first week, and the total drop for the full month was only 11%. I expected the damage to be worse, this being my first time mixing chicken feed.
In April, they laid 66 eggs between the 5 of them. In May, where the switch took place between the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th weeks, they laid 59. There was only a difference of 7 eggs from April to May. I’m interested to see what June will bring with this new homemade layer feed, now that I’ve added more nutrition to the mix.
Chickens need fresh, clean water, and a mix of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. I hand-picked every ingredient based on what it would add to this homemade layer feed, what it would do for the eggs they lay, and whether or not I could get a non-GMO version of it a my local Winco.
In addition to wanting my chickens to be healthy and well-fed, I also wanted the eggs that they lay for us to be healthy and nutritious. I also I wanted this new chicken-feed-mixing habit to be a sustainable habit for me. I tend to drop habits when I get too busy.
I was able to acquire all of the grains and the garlic powder at Winco, and I ordered the kelp and diatomaceous earth online. I picked up the black oil sunflower seeds at the local feed store. All of the ingredients I use in this recipe have been run through the GMO Compass Website (no longer available online, as far as I can see) for verification that none of them are genetically modified.
Pearl Barley – High in fiber, but low in energy and difficult for chickens to digest. Should be no more than 20% of a chicken’s diet.
Hard Red Wheat – High in protein, good for energy
Millet – This tiny grain is rich in iron and amino acids
Oats – High protein, adds calcium, fiber, and B vitamins to the feed; good energy source
Split Peas – Very high in protein
Kelp – Adds omega-3s to the hen’s diet, making egg yolks that wonderful, deep orange color
Garlic Powder – Thought of as one of nature’s best antibiotics, garlic brings power to the immune system of your chicken
Diatomaceous Earth (food grade) – Keeps bugs out of the feed, is thought of as a natural wormer by some
Homemade Layer Feed Stats
This recipe makes just over 28lbs of feed and it cost me roughly $22.50 to make it. Serving size for each chicken is 1/4 lb., which makes this recipe enough for 112 servings, almost 3 weeks’ worth for my 5 girls. The non-GMO feed that I was using before was averaging me $1/lb, and this new feed costs me .80, which is a pretty good savings at 20%, plus I get to know what’s in the feed, which is important to me.
The protein percentage in this mix is 17.5% which is just about where it needs to be according to my research. Laying hens are supposed to have between 15-18%, which makes this feed just right.
There could be issue with the amount of crude fat in this recipe. It is 2.1% in my recipe, and on the bag of non-GMO feed that I was using as a guideline, the minimum amount of crude fat was 2.7%. I would like the crude fat level to be higher, because some of the vitamins in a chicken’s diet are fat soluble, and, according to this UGE extension article, fats are the highest energy source in feed. It doesn’t sound like an ingredient I want to skimp on, so I’ll be looking for some way to up the fats a bit in future feed batches. For now, I will make sure to supplement their diet with something like this Homemade Suet block by Fresh Eggs Daily every now and again, as well as other occasional fatty treats until I can get this part figured out.
Sources and Other Helpful Reading:
Feeding Chickens by the Cooperative Extension of California
Feeding Barley to Poultry by Extension.org
Poultry Rations and Feeding Methods – Manitoba Food, Agriculture, and Rural Development
What to Feed Chickens: How to Formulate Your Own Chicken Feed – Mother Earth News
Garden Betty’s Post on Homemade Whole Grain Chicken Feed (see bottom of her post for a very handy feed calculator)