You started raising chickens to have healthier (hopefully cheaper) eggs for your family. However, many chicken owners realize those homegrown chicken eggs cost much more than store-bought eggs. That leaves you wondering – how do I save money on chicken feed to reduce the cost of these eggs?
Most chicken owners realize this, and for some, the added expense is fine. Their goal is better quality eggs, even at a higher cost. But, when most Americans are struggling with rising inflation costs, a majority of backyard chicken owners want cheaper AND healthier eggs.
Is that REALLY possible?
Yes, but to break even, you need to raise chickens for quite some time. You need to account for the costs of the infrastructure to raise chickens, like feeders, waterers, and a chicken coop.
Feed is undoubtedly the most consistent cost you will have when it comes to raising chickens, but like groceries, there are ways to save money on chicken feed. Home-raised chickens are almost always healthier (in my opinion) than the chickens from the store. Happiness has to count somewhere, like their reduced stress state and increase in healthy protein sources.
Let’s look at ways you can get started reducing feed costs for your chicken flock.
17 Ways to Save Money on Chicken Feed
1. Shop for the Best Price Local to You
The local chain store may not be the best price possible, so price shopping is increasingly important when you want to save money on chicken feed. However, understand that, in general, low quality feed will reduce egg production.
Take our prices for example.
If I head over to my local Rural King (which is cheaper than Tractor Supply, in my area), I pay $24.99 for a 50lb bag of protein layer feed (not organic). This is the NatureWise brand, and I find my chickens lay better with this brand than the Rural King store brand. However, their bag still costs, in my area, $18.95 for a 50lb bag.
We have a local farm store, and they mill their own chicken feed. They allow you to customize the amount of protein – quail requires more protein than chickens, especially as babies. Their current price is $13 for a 50lb bag of feed at 18% protein.
It may not be organic, but it is locally produced. In many cases, I prefer local over a large, organic brand anyway!
2. Buy Chicken Feed in Bulk
Now that you found the best price locally for your chicken feed, look to see if you can get that product in bulk.
Not all stores offer a bulk option, but there are benefits to purchasing more at once.
- You aren’t subject to price fluctuation while you still have the feed at your house. So, if the cost goes up, you may not notice it for a while. You got the best price at that time.
- Some stores offer discounts when you purchase in bulk or by pallet. So, if you already found the best price, you can reduce the price even further by buying in bulk.
Our local feed mill decreases the price by almost $2 if you purchase several hundred pounds at a time. That brings the feed cost to $11 for every 50 lbs rather than the $13!
However, you also cannot store an entire year of crumble or pellet food without moisture causing spoilage and mold. I generally purchase two to three months, at most, at a time. Waste costs you money as well.
3. Store Your Chicken Feed Properly
Here is another often-looked-over tip for reducing chicken food costs. You HAVE to store the feed properly. Otherwise, the feed will spoil OR rodents will chew through the bags.
Don’t keep the feed bags on the ground. They should be stored in a container with a lid, and I place the feed bag inside the container.
4. Consider Making Your Own Chicken Feed
Another option is to make your chicken feed. However, this is typically NOT going to save you money. It will give you a better quality chicken feed for a better cost. So, if you use organic, high-quality feed, this may be a solid choice for you.
If your chickens lay well on a regular, non-organic feed from the store, making homemade chicken feed won’t be as cost-effective.
5. Use the Right Chicken Feeder
Chickens are notoriously messy eaters, knocking feeders over in their excitement. I recommend you have a spill-proof lid for the feeder, and it is a good idea to attach it to your wall or hang it from your ceiling.
Find a way to prevent your chickens from wasting more food just by being chickens. Any spill-proof feeder is a good investment!
6. Give Free Range Time
One of the easiest ways to save money on chicken feed is to give your chickens free range time. Not only do they enjoy the exercise, but it allows them to find additional protein sources. They will dig up bugs and grubs in the ground, turn over your compost pile, and eat those pesky ticks throughout your yard.
My free range chickens prefer to eat what they find. The feeder with chicken feed is far less delicious than what they find themselves.
However, if you have a garden, I would suggest using a fence or find a way to stop them from eating your garden. Two years ago, my chickens escaped and ate my neighbor’s tomatoes, so we installed a fence around our garden to prevent their access.
7. Use Chicken Tractors When You Can’t Free-Range
Not everyone has the space to free range a chicken flock, so a substitute is using movable chicken tractors.
Chicken tractors are easy to move around your property, giving them daily access to the ground near them. They eat the grass, dig up bugs, and enjoy the stimulation.
8. Start Fermenting Chicken Feed
Fermented chicken feed is simply chicken feed soaked in water, creating a lacto-fermented chicken feed. This is the same process you may use to create fermented sauerkraut at home.
Fermenting your chicken feed has several benefits. It adds probiotics through good bacteria into your chickens’ diet, increasing their overall health, especially their gut health. A healthy flock is always a good thing.
The other benefit is that it decreases how much they need and want to eat. Fermented feed fills up your chickens’ stomachs faster, so you need overall less feed.
9. Feed Your Chickens Your Kitchen Scraps
Are you saving all of your kitchen scraps that are edible for chickens? I bet not! If you have kids like our family, they have plenty of scraps, whether it is leftover popcorn or apple peels. Families create a lot of kitchen waste that is edible.
I keep a bowl in my chicken where we toss scraps for our chickens. Then, I have a small tub in the chicken coop where my daughter dumps those scraps each day. It gives them a variety, especially during the winter months when free-ranging offers far fewer things for them to enjoy.
10. Have Your Family Save Scraps Too!
You may be surprised that your friends and family are happy to save some of their scraps as well. Our family will save things like pumpkins from the fall decor, leftover bread, and veggies they didn’t eat.
It reduces what they need to toss in the garbage and saves money on your chicken feed as well. That’s a win-win!
11. Feed Your Chickens Garden & Yard Waste
In the gardening season, saving garden and yard waste is so easy. Any time you pull weeds from your garden beds, put them in a bucket and feed them to your backyard flock.
Chickens also like grass clippings, but I find mine won’t eat too many of them. I typically add most of our grass clippings to the compost pile or use as a garden mulch.
12. Cook Up Extra & Old Eggs for Your Flock
During the spring and summer, when we are overflowing with eggs, it’s a great time to feed the eggs to your flock. However, you need to cook them; giving raw eggs to eat will encourage egg eating in your flock.
Chickens, especially free-range chickens, tend to lay in other places. Then, you discover eggs that have been sitting for weeks. Cook those up into some scrambled eggs for your flock to enjoy.
Don’t forget; you also can sell chicken eggs! Selling eggs earns you money back, which overall reduces the cost you spend on your flock.
13. Stop Free Choice Feeding
This may be a bit controversial, but I eliminated free-choice feeding a long time ago. We have a set time when we feed our flock. They receive enough each day, but like humans, chickens will munch when they are bored.
Installing some chicken swings, ladders, and perches will help to decrease their boredom.
They are supplemented with plenty of scraps and other munchies rather than eating more chicken feed.
Another problem with free-choice feeding is that it provides a buffet for mice, rats, and other rodents. We have a bunch of mice in our barn (who doesn’t?), and continuing to give food to your flock all the time simply feeds the rodents.
14. Switch to a Pellet Food
When we switched from crumbles to pellets, I noticed a reduction in how much food we used. Crumbles lead to more throwing of food, so the waste goes up. Pellets reduce waste.
The same goes for scratch mixes. Chickens are smarter than we give them credit for, and they’ll pick out what they want to eat. Pellets are the way to go!
15. Grow Your Own Chicken Food to Save Money
If you already have a garden, the next step is to grow additional food to feed your chicken flock. It’s part of our goal to create a self-sustaining homestead.
Growing food for your chicken flock doesn’t mean you have to grow ALL of their food, even though that’s a wonderful goal. The purpose is to supplement what they eat with food you grow in the garden.
All you have to do is set aside an area to grow extra food for your flock. Chickens eat all sorts of veggies, so what you plant doesn’t matter too much. However, I suggest simply growing extra of what you already grow, such as:
- Cover Crops
Another option is to grow oats, barley, and other grains, but if you have a small homestead, that simply may not make sense. The space needed to grow large quantities is more than most of us have available.
16. Try Growing Fodder
Some backyard chicken keepers grow fodder for their flock. This gives another source of food, decreasing how much food you need to provide. However, if your flock is large, it may be harder to grow enough fodder to make an actual dent in your feed budget.
One benefit of growing fodder is that it gives your flock a source of greens when winter hits. My flock never enjoys the snow, and they won’t find as many goodies when frolicking in the winter.
17. Raise Soldier Grubs and Mealworms
This idea to save money on chicken feed may not be for everyone, but does it decrease food costs? Yes!
Mealworms and soldier grubs are both economical choices to raise to feed your flock. However, it takes time and a small amount of money to invest in start-up costs.
Do you have any tips for saving money on chicken feed? Be sure to leave them in the comments to help other chicken keepers!