There are a lot of reasons why you should know how to feed your chickens without buying feed. If you’re new to raising chickens, there’s going to be one or two times (or many more) when you go to the feed bag and you realize there’s nothing left.
If it’s too late, the feed store will be closed or you won’t have time to make it. Rather than letting your chickens go hungry for the day, you need to know other ways to give them enough food and calories to keep them healthy and happy.
There are also a lot of chicken owners who shy away from any feed that’s commercially processed. They want to raise their chickens completely organically, and that often requires a bit of planning to ensure you have the appropriate food and enough of it to sustain your chickens well.
Luckily, chickens aren’t picky eaters.
You’ll learn quickly what they will and won’t eat, and you’ll know how to get by or raise healthy chickens without commercial feed.
We’ve put together five ways you can feed your chickens without buying feed for when you’re in a bind or it’s a decision you’ve made on how you want to raise your chickens.
Making a Feeding Plan
The first thing you should do is make a feeding plan if this is something you are going to be doing long-term.
Yes, your chickens will be just fine if you need to feed them something from the fridge or leftovers from dinner for just one night.
You can do some research online to find certain foods your chickens will enjoy eating and generally what you should stay away from. They’ll love things like corn on the cob, cucumbers, fruit, and other things you have laying around in the fridge.
When in doubt, you can talk to your veterinarian about what foods provide the nutrients they need for when you don’t have feed on hand.
Consulting a vet is especially important if you want to raise your chickens completely without commercial feed. Commercial feed, for whatever faults it may have, is fortified with the vitamins and minerals chickens need to thrive.
With that said, let’s take a look at five ways you can feed your chickens sans feed you buy at a store.
5 Feeding Strategies
You can get by feeding your chickens without buying feed. Most of the time, though, if you’re doing it purposefully, it’s going to take some extra work. Here are some ways you can start.
Starting a Garden
Chickens love eating things like corn, lettuce, cucumbers, and a lot of different fruits. They are great for chickens because they’re full of vitamins, water, fiber, and minerals they need to stay healthy. Getting them the right nutritional value in their food is particularly critical when they are young and in their early stages of development.
With a garden full of kale and other things you’ll love, you will usually have something ripe that they will also love to eat. Starting a garden isn’t easy, though, so don’t assume you can just fire one up without any trouble.
It takes time to learn how to garden, so you may need to keep using the feed on an as-needed basis until you get the hang of it.
Raising Protein Sources
If you want your chickens to grow, you’ll need to make sure that they have plenty of protein available. Chickens love to eat bugs, which thankfully are a fantastic source of protein.
If you’ve got a big yard or pasture, the chickens may be able to find enough bugs to supply the protein they need. Another thing you can do is raise crickets, mealworms, and other low-maintenance bugs to feed your chickens with.
Feeding Chickens Eggs
While we’re on the protein topic, you can also feed chickens eggs as a protein source.
Yes, it may sound a bit weird, but chickens will gobble up their eggs in a second. It will be a bit of a feeding frenzy if they see any cracked eggs in the area.
Once your chickens start producing eggs reliably, you can take out some of the eggs and ration them to your birds.
Raising Chickens on a Pasture
For people with the land space and the right kind of property, chickens can easily be raised in pastures without too much trouble. There needs to be enough greens, insects, grains, seeds, and other foods available to them, though, to keep them full of what they like to eat.
If you’re worried about whether your land is suitable, talk to a vet or fellow chicken farmer and describe what your property looks like, and hear what they have to say.
Feeding Them Human Food
Chickens love table scraps. Leftovers from dinner or food that’s been sitting in the fridge for a few days is perfect for feeding chickens in a pinch when you’ve run out of feed.
If you find yourself using your chickens as a garbage disposal, you’ll just want to make sure you’re not giving them a lot of processed foods, too much sugar, or anything else that is bad for them.
They should, for example, stay away from foods like avocados because they can be toxic and fatal for chickens that eat them. Again, it’s a good thing that chickens tend to be resilient animals when they’re fully grown despite being so fragile when they are young.
Finding the right food for your chickens is key to keeping them healthy and happy. If you’re relying on them as an egg or food source, then you certainly should put some time and effort into feeding them the right types of food.
The more you invest in feeding your chickens, the better the eggs will be and, if you’re harvesting them for meat, you’ll enjoy eating them more.