Chickens are a common sight on farms and homesteads for their eggs and meat. Homesteaders who raise chickens know how important it is to keep their birds well-fed and healthy.
They also know that store-bought chicken feed can sometimes be a tad on the pricey side.
These pricier feeds might be good for your birds, but your wallet will very likely hate you if you’re constantly buying more.
Luckily there are cheaper options available, and that’s what we’re going to look at today. Here’s a list of 30 cheap chicken feed ideas.
1. Let them Free Range
Chickens are perfectly happy to spend their days out in the yard or field foraging, scratching around for worms and other tasty morsels.
If your birds are free-ranging, you won’t have to worry about feed so much, will you? After all, they’re eating their fill every day without your interference.
2. Sprouted Seeds & Fodder
Seeds are often expensive which makes buying them a bit tricky sometimes. With that said, seeds have a lot of great nutrients, and sprouting the seeds is a good way to provide fresh greens at a not-so-expensive price point.
3. Farmers Markets
Farmer’s markets are a great place to find supplies for your homestead – supplies like chicken feed. You get a more-than-reasonable price that doesn’t hurt your wallet and support your local community in the process.
4. Kitchen Scraps
Your kitchen scraps can also make good, cheap chicken feed. Any leftover food – provided it’s safe for them to eat – can be given to your birds to provide a healthy meal.
5. Call your Local Grocery Stores and Restaurants
Think about how much food goes to waste – being thrown out on a weekly and monthly basis. That food can often be used as cheap chicken feed.
Simply call ahead, and ask if they’d be willing to set aside some stuff for you to take for your birds. Most of the time, local grocers and restaurants are happy to help you out.
6. Make Your Own Chicken Feed
Making your own chicken feed is fairly easy and gives you a lot more control over what your birds are getting in terms of nutrition. This means that you won’t have to spend your hard-earned dollars on ridiculously expensive chicken feed.
7. A Chickens-Only Veggie Patch
Yes, this is actually a thing that people do. Growing a veggie garden exclusively for your chickens means they have access to fresh veggies all the time.
This can be a lot of work, but your birds will certainly appreciate the effort. Popular choices of vegetables include swiss chard, beet greens, and carrots.
8. Compost Bait
Create a compost pile, over time it’ll attract a variety of bugs. Your chickens will, of course, go moggy over the buggy banquet that you’ve provided.
9. Protect your Feed
Protecting your feed is crucial if you want to save money. Unfortunately, even if you’re getting the best prices on feed, that money’s going to stack up every time you have to replace damaged/contaminate feed.
Using sealed containers to hold your feed can help to keep the bugs out of the chicken feed.
10. Get a Good Feeder
Do you remember how your parents used to tell you NOT to play with your food? Well, apparently chickens don’t get the same lesson.
They love to play with their food, and will often waste a lot of it. That’s why a good feeder is essential for your flock, so if you can find the right one, you can stop your birds from wasting food.
11. Look for the Best Prices
Shopping lists can be a nightmare, especially when the same item can have so many different prices depending on where you’re looking.
Look for good, affordable prices BUT be aware that cheaper doesn’t always equal better. You don’t want low-quality feed, you want affordable feed – there’s a difference.
12. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk can often land you a discount while also providing you with a month or two’s supply of feed for your chickens. Just make sure you don’t buy too much at one time as it can lose its nutritional value and/or go bad after a while.
13. Raise Grubs
Grubs and larvae are a great source of protein for your chickens, so it makes sense to raise them to feed to your birds, doesn’t it? A high protein food that’s very low-cost? I’m sure we’d all sign up for that!
14. Give them Leftover Milk
Milk is packed with protein and chickens will love it. If you’ve got raw milk on hand, you can give them a probiotic (good bacteria) boost by letting it sit at room temperature for a day or so and thicken.
15. Feed your Birds Extra COOKED Eggs and Eggshells
Feeding your chickens cooked eggs is a great source of protein. It’s important that the eggs are cooked otherwise your birds will develop a habit of eating their own eggs.
I’ll admit I thought this was a bit weird at first, feeding chickens eggs? The more I thought about it though, the more it made sense to me; they need to get a lot of protein in their diets and eggs are a good source of that protein
Eggshells can also be given to add a bit of extra oomph to the protein levels.
16. Grass Cuttings and Weeds
Whenever we mow our lawns, we typically throw the cuttings away. What many don’t know is that those cuttings can be very beneficial for your birds.
Now, just keep in mind that your lawnmower should be an electrical one, not a gasoline-powered one.
Otherwise, the gasoline will get on the cuttings – meaning your birds won’t be able to eat them safely. You can also give your flock weeds from your garden.
Sunflower seeds are a popular treat for birds, and they often have fun jumping up and down to catch the seeds. Sunflowers are a source of nutrition, exercise, and fun.
Mealworms can be grown/raised without anyone being the wiser. They’re easy to get and once they start reproducing, you’ve got a major source of protein on hand for your flock to eat.
You had to know that earthworms would have a spot on this list. They’re packed with protein and chickens love them!
They love scratching around in the dirt and finding a big, juicy earthworm to munch on. If your birds aren’t free ranging, you can grow a worm farm to supply your birds with their much-loved treat.
I know, I know, it seems a bit gross to feed your beloved birds a critter that feeds on dead flesh but hear me out.
Maggots are packed with protein which, as we’ve said many times already, your birds will need plenty of to stay healthy.
21. Fish and Fish Guts
Ahoy there! Calling all fishermen! That big bass you just caught can be a great source of protein for your chickens.
If you’re close to a river or lake and if you’re not doing anything illegal while fishing, you have a cheap, accessible source of food for your flock.
22. Hunting Scraps and Guts
Much like fishing, hunting can also give you a good food source for your birds. When processing a kill, put aside the things that you can’t use (guts, organs, etc.) for your birds. This is yet another budget-friendly, high-protein option.
23. Ferment Grains
Fermenting grains produces good bacteria and increases the nutrient intake of the birds. The increase in nutrients reduces the amount your flock needs to eat – after all, they’re going to be pretty full after a meal.
24. Cull the Non-Productive Members
This is going to be a very, very hard thing to do; you’ve developed a bond with each of your birds over the years, and euthanizing one is going to hurt – a lot.
Despite the painful nature of the decision, culling the non-productive members of the flock means fewer mouths to feed. Fewer mouths to feed mean that you use less feed and save money as a result.
25. Cottonseed Meal
A by-product of cotton production, cottonseed meal is what’s left after the cotton has been processed and the seeds and oils have been removed.
The meal is a high-protein meal that your birds will like and, if you’re close to a cotton farm/plantation, it’s pretty easy to get.
26. Deer Corn
Deer corn, if you can get it, is a good source of carbohydrates and fat for your birds. This is particularly important in the winter when food sources can become limited.
27. Peanut Meal
This is another high-protein option that can save you a lot of money on feed if you can get it in bulk. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find and get hold of.
28. Extra Seeds
You can use excess/leftover seeds from planting or from cutting up certain veggies as chicken feed.
29. Flaxseed Meal
Ground flaxseed is a great source of fat, fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed meal helps keep your birds healthy and improves the nutritional value of their eggs.
I know what you’re thinking: “Yuck, why?”
It might not be a pleasant thing – handling a dead animal – it is free food. If you’re looking to save money because you have a tight budget, and you find roadkill, take it home for your birds. As I said, it’s free food and free food isn’t easy to get nowadays.
There are Many Other Budget-Friendly Options Out There
This is just a smattering of what’s available for you if your budget is a little…tight at the moment. The internet has much, much more to offer so you can experiment and see what works best for you and your flock.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.