5 Tips for Raising Healthy Chickens On The Cheap

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Keep your chickens happy and healthy without spending an arm and a leg on chicken feed with these innovative feeding tips!

We all want to raise healthy chickens, but chicken feed can get pricey – especially if you’re trying to go organic – which for some homesteads can be downright unsustainable for financial reasons.

Those of us who get into animal husbandry usually do so for other reasons than saving money (no one will deny it’s cheaper to buy factory-farmed chicken breasts at Walmart for $0.99/lb), but homesteading isn’t usually a terribly lucrative profession. We do it because we want to lower our impact on the environment, care for our animals humanely, and have a deeper relationship with the natural world around us.

Chickens do very well ranging on pasture, but sometimes you don’t have enough space for this to satisfy all of their food needs – especially in the winter, when grass and bugs may be in short supply – or if you are an urban homesteader without much room for them to roam. So without resorting to nasty factory farming methods to cut costs, what’s a sustainably minded homesteader to do?

Fortunately, there are many ways to lower the cost of feeding your flock, while keeping them healthy and happy and productive at the same time.

1.) Raise insects to feed to your chickens

Although raising insects is not for everyone, when you see how it effects the bottom line, you might find yourself on board with the idea. Raising black soldier fly larvae is the most effective strategy to decreasing the cost of chicken feed. It only works during the warm summer months, but boy does it work well with very little effort!

The way it works is: You put food scraps in and get nutritious chicken food out…

The next insect, chickens go crazy for! Bad news is: They must be raised inside. Good news is: No one will even know they are there! This nutritious insect I am referring to is the common mealworm. Again, they are super easy to raise and will keep your chickens from getting bored… I raise these nutritious insects in an aquarium on top of my drier in my laundry room… The only input is wheat bran from the feed store and the occasional old potato for moisture. That is very little input for a huge output of nutritious food for your feathered omnivores!

2.) Feed your kitchen scraps to your chickens

Although this seems like a no brainer, I have a little twist on the idea. Several of my neighbors, who don’t have a compost pile or chickens, have wanted to contribute to my flock. Give your neighbors a compost bucket with a lid to be picked up or for them to drop off and you have doubled your kitchen scraps for your chickens…

3.) Ferment your chicken food

I recently started putting my chicken food through a fermentation process and I will never go back to conventional chicken food again. It is very easy to do. A 3-gallon food grade bucket from your store deli, chicken food and water is all you will need… If you are like me, you were experiencing a lot of waste with your chicken food being kicked around the yard. Let me tell you, they love this fermented stuff! They will not waste it. In fact, their bowl will look like it has been licked clean by your Labrador! Try it, you will see. Not only will you be serving out half the food you were using, but the nutrition of the food will be doubled by the fermentation process!

4.) Think outside the commercial chicken feed box

Organic non-GMO chicken food is a big business. Maybe, just maybe, we have all bought into that big business out of convenience or because the feed companies have convinced us that our flock needs a certain percentage of this and that…

…(One) farmer has started feeding her girls one third oats and the other two thirds wheat. Both these grains are livestock grade but organic non-GMO, just without the big price tag. She gets both these grains from a local feed mill for $6 per 50 lb bag!.. I live in the city so I cannot quite match this great deal, but I can come close at $10.00/50lb for wheat and $11.95 per 50 lbs for oats. The point is, maybe we urban farmers have bought into the idea, literally, that only packaged chicken food is good for our flock and we are paying the price for it…

5.) Grow green fodder for your chickens

Being an urban farmer, it is impossible for me to pasture raise my chickens…

In the meantime, I have been growing sprouts/greens for my egg-laying divas. I simply fill up a plastic tray, that I got free from a plant nursery, with soil out of my chicken yard. Potting soil could work, too… After I have my tray filled up with soil I sprinkle clover, wheat, barley or black sunflower seed liberally over the surface. Then I water, wait and repeat. Every few days I fill a tray with soil and seed, therefore enabling me to have continuous nutritious sprouts for my egg-laying divas…

Another way to provide green forage for your chickens is to build a raised bed just for them. Be sure to build a chicken wire frame around it to protect the food as it grows. Then take off the frame and let the girls chow down… Having two raised beds would allow you to always have one growing for your girls…

Read more at UrbanFarm.org

Note: We will be taking a blogging break next week to enjoy a spring holiday!  Stay tuned, as we will be back the following week with more sustainable and green living news and tips. In the meantime, check out our Facebook page for regular updates!

 

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