How to Feed Chickens Without Buying Feed

why aren't my chickens laying eggs

Hello, fellow chicken enthusiasts! I’m an avid backyard chicken keeper (more like a parent) who has found immense joy and a sense of accomplishment from raising my feathered friends. This journey is indescribably rewarding, from the first chirp of chicks in the morning to the sight of fully-grown hens scratching about.

Feed becomes a crucial player in raising healthy, happy chickens. It’s a lot like our food; it must be nutritious, balanced, and appetizing for them to thrive. I’ve always believed that what we feed our chickens directly impacts their health, productivity, and even the quality of eggs they lay.

But here’s the catch. Commercial chicken feed can be expensive, not to mention the environmental footprint it leaves behind. Plus, if you’re like me, you prefer knowing exactly what goes into your chickens’ diet. That’s why I decided to embark on the journey of feeding my chickens without buying commercial feed.

In this blog, I’ll be sharing my experiences, the ups and downs, the successes, and the learning curves, all with the aim of helping you do the same. Let’s dive into a more sustainable, cost-effective, and rewarding way of feeding our beloved cluckers!

There are many ways to provide your chickens with a high-quality diet without purchasing expensive chicken feed. The best alternative feeds for chickens include table scraps, nuts, and even sesame seed oil. Depending on the type of feed you are looking for, you might also be able to provide your chickens with the protein and vitamins that they require. Read on to learn more. After you’ve mastered the art of alternative chicken feeds, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy and happy flock of chickens.

Understanding the Nutritional Needs of Chickens

Before we dive into sourcing and preparing our own chicken feed, let’s take a quick detour into the world of chicken nutrition. Just like humans, our feathered friends have specific nutritional needs that must be met to remain healthy and productive.

  1. Essential nutrients needed by chickens: When it comes to the must-haves in a chicken’s diet, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals top the list.

    I remember the first time I saw my chickens pecking away at a worm with gusto. It was then I realized the critical role proteins play in their diet. Proteins are essential for growth, egg production, and feather formation. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are the energy providers. I often see my chickens energetically running around, and that’s carbs at work. They also help keep the chickens warm, which is vital in the colder months. Then we have vitamins and minerals, the silent heroes. These are crucial for bone health (think eggshell quality), immunity, and overall bodily functions.

  2. The role of these nutrients in chicken health: Understanding the importance of these nutrients has helped me keep my flock healthy. For example, a protein-deficient hen may stop laying eggs or lay eggs with thin shells, which I experienced once. It was a wake-up call to reassess their diet. Similarly, a lack of certain vitamins and minerals can lead to weak or sickly chickens.
  3. Differences in nutritional requirements based on age and purpose: Not all chickens are created equal regarding their nutritional needs.

    When I first started, I thought, “food is food, right?” But I soon noticed differences in growth and health between my chicks, layers, and broilers. Chicks, being in their growing phase, require a diet high in protein. Layers, on the other hand, need more calcium for egg production, and broilers need a balanced diet to support their fast growth and size.

This journey taught me that understanding these nutritional needs is the first step towards feeding chickens without commercial feed.

Sourcing Food for Chickens Locally

With a clear understanding of my chickens’ nutritional needs, I set out on my mission to source their food locally. I’ll admit, it was a bit daunting at first, but as I started exploring and experimenting, it turned into a delightful adventure.

Feeding chickens kitchen scraps

This was the first step I took, and boy, did it feel good to reduce waste and feed my chickens at the same time. My eager flock readily accepted most of the veggies, fruits, and grains that didn’t make it to our dining table.

However, I quickly learned that not all scraps are safe. Foods like raw potatoes, avocados, and chocolate are a no-go. Also, moderation is key. Kitchen scraps alone don’t provide a balanced diet, so they should only complement the main feed.

Growing your own chicken food

The next step I took was turning part of my garden into a chicken food haven. Watching your chickens peck at the plants and grains you’ve grown with love is incredibly satisfying.

I found that plants like clover, alfalfa and grains like corn and wheat are both easy to grow and loved by chickens. But remember, seasonal considerations are essential. For instance, corn grows best in warmer months, while some leafy greens prefer cooler weather.

  1. Raising insects for chicken feed was probably the most “out there” thing I’ve done, but it’s been one of the most rewarding. Remember the protein requirement we talked about? Well, insects like mealworms and crickets are protein powerhouses.

    Starting an insect farm may sound complicated, but it’s simpler than you think. I started with a small mealworm farm, and it’s been a hit with my flock. Plus, it’s a sustainable and cost-effective source of protein.

  2. Free-ranging and foraging: I gave my chickens more time to free-range. They are natural foragers and can find a good portion of their diet this way.

    Free-ranging provides them with a diverse diet and keeps them active and happy. However, precautions are necessary. Always ensure your chickens are safe from predators and they have access to shade and fresh water.

Sourcing food locally has helped me cut down on feed costs and made my chicken-raising journey more sustainable and enjoyable.

Alternative feeds for chickens

Keeping a flock of chickens doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can use free backyard food for their health. This includes green plants, seeds, and fruits. You can also feed them dirt, insects, and black soldier fly larvae. Among the best alternative feeds for chickens are these foods. They are both cost-effective and packed with protein. Listed below are a few ways to feed your chickens.

You can save money by avoiding feed purchased at the store. You can cut costs by replacing soybean meal with other protein-rich sources such as groundnut, cotton seed, or rapeseed meal. Other protein-rich ingredients include distiller dried grains with soluble fiber, meat, and bone meal. Meat and bone meal provides valuable calcium and phosphorus. Although it’s unrealistic to use high-protein sunflower as the sole source of protein for your flock, you can supplement their diet with leftover table scraps or bakery products.

If you’re worried about feeding chickens on a budget, you can save kitchen scraps by composting them. You can also feed your flock by saving garden waste for egg production. Chopped eggshells, dandelion, plantain, lamb’s quarter larvae, chickweed, and purslane are all excellent chicken foods. Crushed eggshells are also good for adding extra calcium to their diet.

Table scraps

New chicken keepers’ first question is: Can they safely feed their flock table scraps? It’s perfectly safe as long as the scraps do not contain any poisons and do not constitute more than 10% of the daily diet. But most chicken owners prefer to give their birds table scraps for practical purposes. This practice not only eliminates food waste but also reduces feed costs. Providing table scraps to your flock is a great way to encourage foraging behavior, and you’ll also reduce the waste you produce.

Table scraps are an excellent alternative to commercial poultry feeds. They contain protein and fat and are excellent sources of these nutrients. Some of these items can also be found in your fridge or pantry, including sunflower seeds, plain Greek yogurt, and table scraps. Some of these items are also harmless and will also benefit your flock. But before incorporating these foods into your chicken’s diet, you should make sure to check for toxins.

Another great way to feed chickens without buying feed is by collecting free fish parts. If you’re an avid fisherman, you can save the heads and bones of your chickens. Besides, whole fish can be sliced open for them to get the good stuff. Worms can also be dug up after rainstorms, and deer carcasses can also be chopped and fed to your chickens.


You can provide interesting snacks for your chickens by offering them nuts. Although nut nutritional content differs from species to species, most contain a good cross-section of macro and micro-nutrients. In addition to fats and proteins, nuts contain important vitamins and minerals for the hen and chick, including folate, which is crucial for developing eggs and feathers. Also, they contain small amounts of protein and carbohydrates and are good sources of iron and magnesium.

You can provide your chickens with nuts without having to purchase expensive chicken feed. You can offer your chickens any kind of nut, and they’ll eat them. You should, however, keep in mind that nuts contain a lot of salt, which can cause kidney damage if consumed in large amounts. In addition, nuts with added flavors like honey or sugar may make the chickens fat, so always purchase organic nuts.


Another popular method for feeding chickens without buying feed is by giving them raw nuts. Some nuts are salted and seasoned, so make sure to wash them well before feeding them to your chickens. You can also offer them raw nuts, but be aware that this is not recommended for your chickens because they may chew the shells and ingest harmful toxins. You should also shell nuts before feeding them to chickens, as shelled nuts may be tough for them to eat.

Sesame seed oil

It’s possible to use sesame seed oil as a substitute for chicken feed. Sesame seed oil is highly nutritious and has a high nutritional profile. However, supplementing sesame seed meal with feed containing essential minerals, such as zinc and phosphorus, is important. If you feed sesame seed meal alone, it will not be enough to give your chickens the protein they need.

It’s been proven that sesame meal positively affects poultry growth. This natural source of protein and trace minerals has been shown to increase feed intake and meat quality. Sesame meal also contributes to the early sexual maturity of the chickens, meaning they’ll be ready for the market when the time comes. Besides its nutritional benefits, sesame oil can also help poultry prevent respiratory problems.

In a study, scientists compared the effects of sesame seed hulls on broiler performance and carcass quality. The group with sesame seed hull supplementation had better final live weight, feed intake, and growth rate than the other groups. Despite the positive effects, there was no significant difference in mortality. The researchers noted that the consumption of sesame seed oil did not increase the lipid content of broiler meat.

Safflower and sunflower seeds are high in protein and fiber and contain 1.8% methionine, a key amino acid in poultry diets. Sesame meal does have high levels of phytic acid and oxalic acid, but these acids are not detrimental to growth. Nevertheless, you should still supplement your chicken feed with other nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.

Fruit and vegetable scraps

If you have chickens, you can use your kitchen scraps as a protein and vitamin C source. You can also use whole grains and protein-rich foods such as sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or plain greek yogurt. Fruits and vegetables should be cooked thoroughly to prevent spoiled fruit and worms. Even bugs and other natural ingredients can be used as chicken food.

Pumpkins are also great food sources for chickens and can be stored for months if you keep them cool. Pumpkins are also a great way to make fodder, which is sprouted grains. Fodder can be made from wheat berries, oats, or barley. Fodder can be a cheap and nutritious source of fresh food when combined with Chinese pellets.

If you’re feeding your chickens table scraps, they will probably like them a lot. Remember that they have a very specific diet, so you can’t just give them any old thing. You should always keep in mind that chickens do not like junk food, so be sure to separate the good from the bad. Feeding scraps to your flock is an excellent way to reduce waste, keep your flock healthy and save money.

Another way to get free food for your chickens is to make a compost pile. Your chickens will eat the organic material and turn it into an organic, nutrient-rich food. Not only will they eat these healthy scraps, but they will also help the environment by adding their droppings. You can even attract beneficial bugs and worms if you have a compost pile.

Cover crops

In the winter, weeds, and cover crops can be a great way to supply your flock with healthy nutrition. Many weeds have nutrient-rich seed heads that chickens can eat, including buckwheat. They also provide chickens with a healthy source of protein and are easy to grow. These cover crops can be planted and watered. The weeds you can grow yourself can even be used for grazing.

Once you have covered your pastures with cover crops, you can allow your chickens to forage on it. By using cover crops, you can also leave a rich fertilizer behind for your plants next year. Listed below are some foods chickens enjoy and eat well. Chickens can’t eat potato skins, avocado peels, or green tomatoes. However, they’ll happily eat various grains and greens as long as they’re not contaminated.

Sunflowers are easy to grow and add variety to your chicken’s diet. Sunflower seeds are particularly nutritious and are perfect for chicken scratching areas. You can also grow other good crops for chickens, including alfalfa, buckwheat, and annual rye. Consider growing peas as a cover crop for more variety, and add the plants to your garden for additional food sources.

What are the uses of farm animals? This article will discuss how farm animals are used in sports and recreational activities. They are also used in the production of feed ingredients. In addition to being a source of food and protein, these animals are also used for their fur and wool. As far as livelihood is concerned, these animals provide us with both meat and wool. They are also useful for pets. Listed below are some ways that farm animals are used.

Preparing Homemade Chicken Feed

Once I had sourced a variety of foods locally, the next step was to prepare a homemade chicken feed that was nutritious, balanced, and of course, clucker-approved!

  1. Mixing the right ingredients: The first time I tried making my own feed, I felt like a mad scientist concocting a potion. But as I got the hang of it, it became an enjoyable routine.

    The basic ratio I follow is 2:2:1 for grains, protein sources, and supplemental nutrients. For instance, for every 4 cups of grains (like corn, wheat, oats), I’d add 4 cups of protein sources (like mealworms, lentils, peas) and 2 cups of supplemental nutrients (like crushed eggshells for calcium, and a mix of fruits and vegetables for vitamins).

    Of course, this is just a rough guide, and you’ll need to adjust based on your flock’s specific needs. But to get you started, I’ll share some of my tried-and-true homemade chicken feed recipes later.

  2. Ensuring nutritional balance: A balanced diet is crucial for the health and productivity of your chickens. I make it a point to monitor my chickens’ health closely. Any changes in their behavior, egg production, or physical appearance can indicate a need to adjust their diet.

    For instance, if I notice thin eggshells, I know I need to up their calcium intake. Likewise, if they seem lethargic, I might need to increase their carbohydrate or protein content.

  3. Preserving and storing homemade feed: Lastly, proper storage is essential to maintain the nutritional value of the feed and avoid spoilage.

    I learned this the hard way when an improperly sealed batch of feed attracted a small army of ants. Now, I store my feed in a cool, dry place, in airtight containers, and I only prepare enough feed to last for a week or two.

Making your own chicken feed can be a little challenging at first, but trust me, it’s worth the effort. Not only does it give you control over what your chickens eat, but it also adds another layer of self-sufficiency to your chicken-raising journey.

Economic and Environmental Benefits

As I delved deeper into feeding my chickens without buying commercial feed, I realized the benefits extended far beyond my backyard coop. The impact was both economic and environmental.

  1. Saving money by reducing or eliminating the need for commercial feed: One of the most immediate benefits I noticed was the savings. With the rising cost of commercial feed, making my own has significantly reduced expenses. Who doesn’t love the sound of extra change in their pocket?
  2. Reducing waste by using kitchen scraps and growing your own feed: I was pleasantly surprised by how much I could reduce. Those kitchen scraps that would otherwise have ended up in the bin now go straight into my chickens’ feed. Plus, growing my own feed has further reduced my reliance on store-bought, packaged products.
  3. Promoting sustainability by raising insects and free-ranging: The practice of raising my own insects and allowing my chickens to free-range also contributes to sustainability. It’s a closed-loop system where waste is minimized and natural resources are utilized more efficiently.


Feeding chickens without buying commercial feed has been an enlightening journey for me. We’ve explored the nutritional needs of chickens, how to source food locally, prepare homemade feed, and the benefits of this practice.

I won’t say it’s always been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it. The satisfaction of providing for your flock in a sustainable, cost-effective way is unparalleled. I encourage all of you to give it a try. You might be surprised at how capable you are and how receptive your chickens will be.

I’d love to hear about your experiences, any tips you might have, or the challenges you’re facing. Together, we can make this journey even more rewarding. Happy chicken raising, everyone!

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