Another lesson learned the hard way. Store your chicken feed or chicken scratch in something other than a plastic trash can. Over the past few nights, something has been getting into our chicken feed. I’m pretty sure it’s a raccoon.
Whatever it is, it’s been knocking the lid off and tearing apart the bag inside. Then the rain, which hasn’t stopped for days now, has been filling the can all night until we replace the lid again in the morning.
Now we have a bunch of moldy chicken feed. It was all clumped together (and very stinky), which actually made it easier for me to separate the good from the bad.
Dos and Don’ts At a Glance
|✅ Pay attention to the lids
|❌ Don’t buy too much
|✅ Pick the right location
|❌ Don’t mix new feed with old
|✅ Careful with humidity
|❌ Don’t use any old storage container
|✅ Get galvanized bins
|❌ Don’t use transparent containers
|✅ Set up a vermin-proof shed
|❌ Don’t store it in the coop
|✅ Check expiration dates
|✅ Keep things clean
|✅ Know the signs of spoiled food
|✅ Use hanging feeders
|✅ Consider insulated bins
|✅ Keep it close to the coop
How Long Does Chicken Feed Last?
Most chicken feed lasts around three to six months, but this depends on how the feed was processed and stored.
When chicken feed is processed at the mill, it is contaminated with insect larvae and fungi (yum). If the feed is pelleted, it will usually last longer than other types of feed.
This is because the cooking and pressing action of the extra processing kills some of the contaminations in the food. If you store your chicken feed properly, you will be able to extend its shelf life.
All chicken feed should be stored in a cool, dark place that is dry, but know that some types of chicken feed are more prone to fast spoilage than others.
Both pelleted and manufactured feed without additional fats, like molasses, should last at least three to six months.
How NOT To Store Chicken Feed: Some Common Mistakes
Here are some of the most common mistakes that people make when storing chicken feed.
Don’t Buy Too Much
Yes, you want to buy a semi-large amount to cut down on the number of trips you need to make to town. But buying in bulk is a big mistake if you only have five or six chickens to feed.
If you’re feeding a flock that’s smaller than 12 birds, only buy a bag or two at a time. Remember, chicken feed does have a shelf life.
Don’t Mix New Feed with Old Feed
It’s a good idea to transfer your feed into a pest-proof container as soon as you get it home.
However, it’s a big mistake to combine old and new feed. Make sure you are separating out the new from the old, and use up the old supply first.
Don’t Use Any Old Storage Container
Yes, a plastic or wooden container will keep moisture out of your chicken feed – for the most part. But what about pests?
You need to invest in a storage container that is not only large enough to hold all the chicken feed you’ve bought, but that can stand up to pests.
It’s not just rats you need to be concerned with, either. Raccoons and squirrels in particular are especially skilled at getting into drums of feed.
Invest in metal trash cans with tight-fitting lids, or consider storage bins made out of heavy plastic at the very least (these can be breached by vermin, though!)
Not Paying Attention to the Lids
This was my major mistake – I wasn’t paying enough attention to the lid. If you can, get a lid that locks securely down onto your rash can.
Some have secondary security systems that double-latch so you don’t have to worry about a wily raccoon getting a lid off a trash can.
Using Transparent Containers
If you use a plastic container to store your feed, do not use a transparent container. Make sure it’s opaque, as the sunlight can cause the fed to lose vitamins in storage.
Don’t Store It in the Coop
Yes, it might be convenient to have your feed supply exactly where you need it – but storing chicken feed in the coop can be a major mistake.
Not only is it inviting egg- and chicken-loving predators (like raccoons) to the coop, but there’s a strong likelihood that your chickens will either poop all over the bag (potentially contaminating its contents) or peck into it and spread it everywhere.
Bottom line? Store your chicken feed somewhere else.
How to Store Chicken Feed
When you buy a bunch of chicken feed, it normally comes in a large bag. Unless you have a lot of birds to feed, it’s going to take some time for you to work through that entire supply. Therefore, you’ll need to store it properly.
Pick the Right Location
Ideally, you should store your chicken feed in a cool, dry shed with good ventilation. In order to prevent the feed from absorbing moisture, you should avoid stashing it on a cold concrete floor – yes, even if the floor is dry. It can absorb moisture from condensation.
You can always store your chicken feed on top of a pallet, which will let air circulate beneath them.
The location should be well-lit so that you can keep an eye on any feed you have stored, too. Sometimes, it can be difficult to see changes in the quality of the feed by looking at it in dim lighting.
Pay Attention to Humidity
A major challenge associated with storing chicken feed is keeping track of the humidity. Humidity can encourage the development of fungi and spoil your feed.
Feed usually gets wet because rainfall or other precipitation enters the storage bin. However, it can also get wet because of condensation.
If you’re using a bin to keep your feed safe and dry, just remember that, as the heat rises and falls, the barrels will collect condensation and this can spoil your feed.
Store your bins out of the sun, especially if there are big swings in temperature during the day.
You can also choose vented containers, which will help release built-up moisture (just make sure the ventilation method doesn’t allow pests into the feed!).
Get Some Galvanized Bins
While storing a few bags of chicken feed on top of a pallet will work, you will need to be careful about nearby rats and other types of vermin. They can easily tear through a large supply of chicken feed, and trust me, you don’t want all that money going to waste.
Set a few mouse or rat traps near the food and check them regularly. You should also check the exterior of your storage building, whether that is your home or your barn, to make sure there are no potential entry points or holes.
Galvanized drums or bins are perfect for storing chicken feed. Not only can rats not chew through metal – they can get through plastic and wood – but it can also prevent water from entering your chicken feed supply and causing it to spoil.
If you’re not worried about rats, a plastic container will do a good job of keeping rats out.
Invest in a Vermin-Proof Shed
If you have a serious rat problem – sometimes, this is more common if you live near a large farm – you may have to build a storage shed that has some extra protection against rats and other rodents.
Look for one with a concrete floor. It will need to have every small hole sealed and the door should be tight fitting, too, which will prevent rats and mice from squeezing through.
Inside the shed, you can store your chicken feed on wooden pallets with gaps between the walls of the shed and the chicken feed bags for extra ventilation.
Some sheds can even be built with metal grills at a high level that allows for optimal airflow. Ideally, your storage shed should be located in the shade so it doesn’t overheat in the sun.
Check the Dates on Your Bags
Again, unless you’re going through many, many bags of chicken feed at once, you will want to keep an eye on the dates posted on your chicken feed bags.
Even if it looks to be okay, you might find that the pellets will lose some of their nutritional value over time. Usually, a bag of feed only lasts three to six months, so make sure you check on this.
Keep Things Clean
When you scoop out your chicken’s daily allotment of food, don’t let it fall all over the place and make a mess of the surrounding area. Leaving grain on the ground is a surefire way to attract vermin, including mice, opossums, squirrels, and raccoons. And trust me, they’ll keep coming back!
Know the Signs of Spoiled Feed
Sometimes, it’s easy to tell that your chicken feed has spoiled. Other times, it won’t be quite so simple.
There are a few signs that you can watch out for. For one, check for an odor. Rancid feed has an unpleasant odor that indicates that it contains toxins that can stunt your birds’ growth. The taste will be off-putting, too, which can cause your chickens to avoid the feed trough.
Use Hanging Feeders
Storing your chicken feed properly outside of the coop is essential. However, you should also pay attention to how you are feeding out the food inside the coop, too.
In your coop, use hanging feeders to keep the feeders off the ground. This will limit the likelihood of your chickens pooping in the food supply or scattering their food everywhere.
You can also hang feeders to keep feed away from the roosts. Chicken droppings – along with other animal droppings, like rats – can contaminate food and spread disease. Chicken poop, in particular, is very moist and can cause your feed to mold.
Consider Insulated Bins
Obviously, storing chicken feed in bins is the way to go. However, the sun can easily radiate heat into the bin and create a miniature greenhouse effect.
Overheating can break down a lot of the nutritional value of the feed. Therefore, you may want to use metal bins with corrugated sheet metal if you live in a warm environment. This will cut down on how much heat is absorbed.
Insulated bins can help keep temperatures steady, too. Not only will they prevent this greenhouse effect, but they’ll limit condensation, too.
Keep it Close to the Coop
To make your life a little easier, keep your chicken feed supply as close to the coop as possible – just not inside the coop or run, of course.
You might want to keep a little silo or shed near your chicken coop where you will have easy access to the food.
My husband (you gotta love the man) passed a large metal trash can on the side of the highway the other day and actually went back, risked his life as he dashed across the lanes to the median, and grabbed the much-needed garbage can just for the purpose of storing the chicken’s food.
The things we do to save a buck!
So, today I made it my goal to get the yucky feed out of the old can and get the clean feed into the new water / pest-proof container. Much better:
Unfortunately, there didn’t happen to be a lid sitting on the side of the road as well.
So, for now, I have a sheet of wood with a cinder block as the cover. Watch that raccoon come back and knock it off too! Maybe I’ll luck up and come across a metal lid that fits 😉 Anyways, it was still a blessing.
Hopefully, this will keep the critters and moisture out.
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.