So you decided on chickens, got them brooded, and built the coop.  At this point, they are probably getting hungry.  You should probably feed them right about now.  The question becomes though, what do you want to feed them?  Chickens, in case you didn’t notice, are living garbage disposals.  They will eat anything that’s smaller than them.  I have seen them hork down leaves from the neighbour’s tree, lizards, baby frogs, snakes, mice, dirt, fluff, and anything they can find.  Suffice it to say, if they aren’t eating what you are giving them, you are doing it wrong.

There are three main schools of thought on chicken food, free ranging, table scraps, and grain feed.  There are pluses and minuses to each, and in all likelihood you will end up using some combination of the three.

First, free ranging.  This is where the chickens run around your property eating whatever strikes their fancy.  The pluses are that this is completely free, and you won’t have a pest within sight of these beady eyed little food monsters.  The downside is that the chickens won’t put on much weight for slaughter, and unless you plant food specifically for them, they will strip your property bare.

The second, is to feed them table scraps.  My wife and I certainly see the value in this, as it prevents waste from entering the landfill.  Our problem is that we eat almost everything we make.  We would have veggies peels and cores, but very little actual food for them, so for us, this was an impractical way to feed them.  We continue to give them any scraps that come up (except for chicken), and they love them.

The last way to feed them is with grain feeds of the kind you get at Wal-Mart or a feed store.  We did do this for several months, but have swayed away from it for two reasons.  One, you are what you eat, so just as eating McDonald’s is bad for us, eating grain processed to crap is bad for chickens.  In the words of a friend of ours, you don’t want to know what goes into them.  The other is that my wife Jenn is highly gluten intolerant, and we both are living a paleo lifestyle. Too much grain in the girl’s diet was being passed on to us, and it was making my wife sick.

So in honour of chicken week, and in response to a reader question from Christi Wellington, we have decided to make our own homemade chicken food, and unlike so many sites, we are going to share the recipe.

So our goal was to make something healthy for the girls that would meet their needs nutritionally, and be cheaper to make than store bought feed.  In our area, chicken food averages 33 cents a pound in the store, our homemade chicken food cost us 25 cents a pound.  We found that in our area, Costco and Sam’s have great deals on huge bags of rice and beans.  They were the best deal we found, but since flavor isn’t an issue, shop around.

Homemade Chicken components

Here are the ingredients we used.  If you can boil water, you got this covered.  We used rice, pinto beans, some leftover mung beans (future batches will be just pinto), and we add cracked corn in the yard.  We used four cups of rice, in 9 cups of water.  If you soak the rice in the water first before turning it on, it will cook faster.  Make sure the rice is cooked through.  Chickens don’t care if the rice is mushy, be sure its cooked through.

Then we used 2 cups of pinto beans, and two cups of mung beans we happened to have left over.  The next batch will just be pinto, but why waste them?  Soak your beans overnight to reduce cooking time, but again, the key is to cook them through.  Chickens don’t mind mushy.

Homemade Chicken food

Time is usually the most precious resource in a house, so don’t hesitate to boil these while you do other things.  Homemade chicken food doesn’t need much attention.  Once it’s all done, mix together in a big bowl.  As you can see, ours filled two bowls.

Bin of Chicken Food

We feed them about half a shoebox full of food a day for our twelve girls, then throw about a cup of cracked corn on their mixture when we give it to them.  They dive right in and love it, and it lasts them right about 24 hours.

The only thing you have to do, is make sure you supplement their food with oyster shell.  If you don’t, their bones will start to deplete with egg laying.  If you don’t want to use oyster shell, you can feed their own egg shells back to them.  You just have to roast them in the oven, and grind them up.  So far we have chosen to use oyster shell, I just screwed a little bowl into the wall so it doesn’t get spilled.  We factored this into our costs when computing the homemade chicken food.

Our observations so far are very promising.  The girls love their food, and they don’t seem to be nearly as hungry during the day.  They don’t stand outside our door and belly ache for food nearly as much as they did in previous days.  We have also noticed their poops getting smaller.  It seems their bodies are absorbing more of the food, rather than passing it as waste.  We still plan on giving them our table scraps for random vitamins, but their food should meet their basic needs.

So that’s our recipe for homemade chicken food.  For whatever reason, websites seem unwilling to give one out.  Feel free to use ours, and have some happy, healthy clucks.