Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Price of Chicken Food

I hope I don't make any enemies with my ideas of feeding chickens. I really do have healthy and happy birds. I don't stand for animal cruelty but I do believe that chickens are animals for utility purposes. To me they are not pets...

When we first got chickens the only place we could buy chicken feed was at a feed store 30+ minutes way. Trust me I looked. I would buy the cheapest stuff they had and forget the grit and oyster shells (once on layers ration). If you allow your chickens access to outside and offer a variety of table scraps they do just fine. Sometimes I consider buying the grit but I know my helpers won't remember to give it to them anyway and for 15-30 chickens the small bag of grit for $9.99 would be gone in a flash. I discovered early on if allowed free access to grit they eat it like candy. Filling their gizzards with grit instead of food. I was shocked by that kind of behavior. I would ration their grit and things worked out much much better for all of us. It kinda makes me think of all those poor souls who buy hay for their rabbits in pet stores. Seriously, you just spent $9.99 on ONE flake of hay. Buy a bale (or two, even three depending on where you find it) for that price! A bale. Many, many flakes. I digress.

Back to chickens. If you have baby chicks and/or don't allow your chickens access to the outside PLEASE buy them grit. They really do need it. You should feed crushed oyster shells but we don't. My chicken's egg shells are hard as a rock and they get a pretty varied supply of kitchen scraps several times a week. The greens provide calcium and the other scraps help supplement the worms and bugs they eat when outside. Oh yeah and they LOVE fresh cut grass. We don't treat our lawn with any toxic chemicals (or anything at all) so feeding them grass clippings isn't concern. However it has been a long time since grass clippings and many bugs were available to our birds. The cold Ohio weather sort of puts all of that on hold for quite sometime. Off to the feed store we go.

Now we live near a large number of horse barns. In fact, that is how Gary and I met. It made great sense for a feed store to open in our local shopping center just around the corner and Gary and I both kick ourselves repeatedly for not thinking of it first. Trying to support local, save on gas money, and enjoy great convenience we mostly buy there now. I have long thought that they were priced roughly $2.00 to $3.00 higher that the feed store 30+ minutes away but the three reasons for shopping around the corner overrode that dollar difference.

Today we needed to get food for the chickens and we were going to be out by the "far" feed store so we decided to pick it up there. I was pretty thrilled about the idea of saving a buck or two in the process. Wow, was I wrong! In the 2+ years we have had chickens feed prices have crept up. There was no price savings between our local, just around the corner feed store and the 30+ minutes away feed store. None. A 50 lb bag of chicken food now costs over $13.00! The price whether driven up by inflation, trend, or who knows what certainly is making keeping a backyard flock on commercial food expensive.

An idea has been playing in the back of my head about cheaper ways to feed my animals. I will confess I always think about and even worry about how to do all things cheaper. I can not believe that throughout history we are the only successful animal raisers because we have invented convenience feed that comes in the form of a pellet. Granted I am not willing to spend more or buy crazy never heard before grains to feed my flock. I am, however, all the more motivated to find ways to feed our chickens and rabbits in noncommercial ways. There has to be some better way!

The research has begun. I will be looking for books, reading article after article on the internet and hoping to discover a way. A way we can afford. A way that is good for the animal and good for us. We keep animals to provide fresh and healthy foods but we certainly aren't making more money and prices are certainly going up around us on all things. So it is time to find a better way...

How do you feed your chickens?


  1. I know this is late, but this year I'm planting twice as much as usual in my veg garden specifically for the chickens. I am also growing Mangels, a beet used for livestock feed, to stretch their feed over next winter. Unfortunately my chickens cannot free range so they depend on their feed far more than free-ranged chickens would, but the price of it is driving me nuts!

  2. I'm a little late too but just found your blog today. :) This is our first year with chickens and we are trying to reduce the amount of feed we give them as well. We buy organic feed from a person who produces it locally which is great - but it's $18 a bag! In the garden this year I'm planting extra veggies, especially broccoli, greens and corn since I know for sure that they like those. I'm also growing pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, cabbage and mangels that I can store and feed in the winter. They also get first choice on things heading to the compost pile or good table scraps.

    As far as grit, they will free range (they only go out a little at a time now since they are 8 weeks and I'm scared for them!) so I won't give it to them. And instead of oyster shells, I plan on just crushing up egg shells and sprinkling it around their coop area or over the supplement food I give them.


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