14 Clever Ways to Feed Your Chickens for Free

feed your chickens

In October of 2016, my husband and I got the idea to start expanding our
tiny homestead. We decided to do this with chickens.

The only problem was the cost of feeding them.

See, I wasn’t just looking to be healthy and self-sufficient. We had endured a
lot of financial hits the year before and to be frank, were busted broke and
had 3 small mouths to feed.

We didn’t want to feed them junk, but we couldn’t afford the ‘good stuff’ at
the grocery stores either.

So off we journeyed even deeper into homesteading. When we dove into
our chickens we realized the only way to make it work was to feed them for
practically no cost.

And that is exactly what we did.

Here is how:

1. We Grew Their Food

Chickens are not picky eaters. To say they are bottom feeders is probably
an understatement. With this understanding, it means that you can grow
them a variety of food to where it will cost you nothing.

When it is cold out, you can grow foods such as:

1. Turnips
2. Radishes
3. Carrots
4. Beets
5. Rutabagas
6. Parsnips
7. Onions
8. Garlic
9. Potatoes
10.Kale
11. Collards

food for chicken

When it is warmer you can feed them basically any scraps from your garden.
By feeding them a homegrown variety, you can ensure that they will get the
vitamins that their bodies need in order to function properly.

2. We Fed Them Hunting Scraps

Yes, this may sound a bit disgusting, but the chickens love it!
When you go fishing, feed your chickens the scraps after gutting your fish.

When you hunt for deer (which we do each year) you can also feed the
scraps.

fish for chicken

You might actually have a lot leftover. In that case you can freeze the extras
and feed it to your chickens over the colder months when it is harder to
grow as much or fish. But I don’t like the idea of leaving deer guts lying
around our property as it draws unwanted guests.

Finally, when we cull our rabbits for meat I save the excess as well and feed
it to our chickens too. Since they’re mostly made of protein, your chicken
will appreciate it.

But the best part is that I’m not drawing predators nor letting any part of an
animal we raise for food go to waste.

Giving the excess to chickens is like killing three birds with one stone.
If all else fails, you can always feed your chickens road kill. I know that
doesn’t sound like a desirable option but if it is just lying there, take it home
and put it to use.

3. I Pull Weeds

Let me start of by saying I loathe pulling weeds. I truly do.

But what I hate worse than pulling weeds is looking at them.

So I get up every morning during the spring and summer and start my day
by pulling weeds. It is great exercise and it is also a free food source for all
of our animals, including the chickens.

Weeds for chickens

The funniest part of my morning picking ritual is that as soon as our rooster
sees me he starts clucking to let the girls know that food is coming by the
bucket loads.

Now, if you garden, grow flowers, or have any grass at all around your
property, you will be amazed to see that you will most likely have weeds 3
out of the 4 seasons.

(Don’t think about it too much. You might start tearing up!)

Weeds are a viable and free food source that your chickens will love. Yes, it
takes work to get them up and to the chickens. But that’s okay. It is all part
of living the homesteading life and dream.

If you don’t feel like you have enough weeds to sustain your flock, you can
always raise your own duckweed. It is very high in protein and chickens love
it.

4. We Raised Bugs and Worms

There are multiple bugs that you can raise with little investment that are a
great source of protein for your chickens. You can raise mealworms, red
worms, hunt for crickets, and scrape up maggots.

Now, I realize none of this might sound very appealing to you. But if you are
looking to raise chickens on an extremely tight budget then this is a viable
option.

We raised our own mealworms and found that it was quite easy to do.
Red worms are almost as simple to raise as mealworms.
But if you are like me and have a bunch of boys running around your
homestead then you can always put them to work on a job they love:
chasing bugs.

So give them a container to catch some insects in and your boys and your
chickens will be happy!

5. We Fed Them Scraps

I have a large family. We have quite a few children, my mother in law lives
with us too.

I cook like I’m feeding an army.

It should come as no surprise that we often have table scraps.

table scraps

But that is no problem because my chickens are all too happy to finish them
off for us. You can feed your chickens garden scraps and table scraps. If you
have an orchard, you can feed them scraps from that as well.

As I’ve said before, chickens are not picky animals. They are thankful for any
food you bring their way and will most likely eat it.

6. We Grew Sunflowers


When my husband and I took up this homesteading venture, we have to feed both our rabbits and chickens. Sunflower is the perfect solution for this. You can grow sunflowers without hassle and then save them.

sunflowers

So, grow as many sunflowers as you can. Cut the heads off of them when they have bloomed. Then, string the heads up so they can dry. And then you’re able to feed them to your animals over the winter which is a fantastic treat for them!
It has been our experience that sunflowers are very easy to grow and they also create great shade around the chicken coop too which our birds certainly appreciate.

7. You Can Grow Wheat

I didn’t have the land to grow a large crop of winter wheat. I certainly wish I did, but we don’t have a section cleared for that yet.
But if you have the land available to grow winter wheat, you should do it. Not only because you can literally grow your own wheat to make flour, but you can also feed it to your chickens too.

Wheat for chickens

Growing winter wheat is simple. 

You basically just sew it loosely in the field and watch it grow. It is great for protecting your soil over the winter too.

Wheat is a great crop that can benefit you in a lot of different ways. But it can also be a great way to grow food for your chickens over the winter that won’t cost you a dime beyond the seed.

8. Call Your Butcher


As we’ve discussed above, you can give the leftover of your hunt to your chickens. But what if you don’t hunt, fish, or raise other form of meat?

There’s one option:

You can simply call your butcher and ask if they will save any of their scraps for you. We are fortunate to have a very friendly butcher in our town so sometimes we get the scraps for a really cheap price (or even free!)

Butcher

However, I know some states have laws in place that they can’t give away their scraps as some people have actually sued companies because their animals got sick.

So make sure to check with your local butcher to see what the laws are and if they’d be willing to help you out.

9. Call Your Local Bakery

First, I have to tell you that while chickens like bread, you have to be careful giving them too much bread because it will make them fat. J ust as it does us and any animal.

Just keep that in mind.

bread

Most local bakeries have plenty of excess breads and cakes that they have to toss when they are day old. Again, we are very fortunate that we have a friendly local baker; they give us all of their day old bread and cakes.

Needless to say, our birds love it. It is hilarious to watch them dive beak first into a cake. 

But please keep in mind, some states do have laws forbidding companies from giving away their scraps.

10. We Grew Fodder

Growing fodder is a great way to feed your chickens for virtually no money. It allows you to turn 50 pounds of seed into about 400 pounds of food!

Grew Fodder

In my area, I can buy a 50-pound bag of wheat for around $7. It’s not exactly free but $7 for 400 pounds of food is a total bargain. Still, if you want to be able to feed your birds for no cost then you can grow your own wheat as I mentioned before.
Fodder is a very economical way to feed your chickens a nutrient rich diet for almost no money.

11. We Let Them Free Range

Free ranging is a good option for feeding your chickens at no expense to you.
The only catch is you have to have the land.

Now, if you have a large chunk of land then your birds should pretty well be able to sustain themselves all year round. However, if you don’t have the land then you can still allow your birds to free range and just supplement their diet as needed.

chicken11

But one thing about free-ranging:

You place your chickens at a higher risk of being preyed on because they are obviously out without any form of protection. And you also have to realize that your chickens can easily help themselves to your garden if they so desire when free ranging.

One solution is to allow your birds to free range within a fenced yard but no farther. This is exactly what we do because I didn’t want them in my garden.
Just keep these things in mind when deciding to free range.

12. We Fed Them Their Own Shells

Chickens need calcium.

Without calcium they will have weak shelled eggs, or worse, they will begin eating their own eggs. That is terribly counterproductive.

So what we did in order not to have to purchase calcium, we made sure that we ate eggs daily. Then we made sure that all of the egg shells were tossed back to the chickens.

egg

You can toss the egg shells back in their regular form, or you can make the extra step to grind them up.

The choice is up to you.

13. Call Your Local Farmer

We are very fortunate that my husband has family that farms large pieces of land in our area.

One of his uncles raises corn on his land.

corn

After he would go through his fields with his large pieces of machinery to pick the corn, he would allow us to glean the fields for what his machines missed and take home to our chickens.

(And I’m thankful to say that his machines missed quite a bit which made our job that much easier)
But you don’t have to have a farmer uncle to do this. You never know, someone in your community might be more than happy to have you glean their fields so none of their hard work goes to waste.

14. Ask Your Local Mill for Some Help

We are very fortunate to have a great local feed mill. I know, I said it a lot, but we really do. They are very friendly and more than happy to help anyway they can.

Often times, feed mills will package grains or receive packages of grains that were damaged. They won’t be able to sell it, and they will often give the damaged grains away or sell it at an extreme discount.

free feed

Now, I’m not saying all feed mills will do this.

But it never hurts to ask. The worse thing they can do is tell you no. The best that can happen is that you score free feed for your chickens.

So there you have it guys, 14 ways to feed your chickens for free.

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