How to keep the cost of chicken feed down... and some ideas for other animals.
I keep chickens, ducks, bantams, sheep, cows, a goat, a dog and a parrot. So far! Last week I added ten new chickens to the mix because I want to be sure that as my hens get older I have younger ones coming on. I want to ensure I have plenty of eggs at all times. I love keeping chickens but I also know I have protein to feed my family and eggs to gift or barter. So this is important to me.
There are lots of ways to feed chickens pretty inexpensively. As prices of all animal feeds seem to be going up I wanted to write about what we can do to keep these costs down. Animal diets can be a bit of an area of argument so I am writing what I do and if there is anything that can help you I will be pleased.
Also we all live in different places with varying rules and regulations etc. I just want to encourage you do do what you can where you are. I know not everyone can do some of these things. That said if you have a little space and you want to increase your food security chickens are a great way to do it!
So here goes...
The most basic chicken food supplements will come from your kitchen. Every peel, scrap and leftover is potential nourishment for your chickens. And they love it. They will go for scraps every time given the choice over grain and leftovers! Chickens love protein. Out in the open they love bugs so your protein scraps are their idea of wonderful! I keep a little bucket in the kitchen and everything goes in there and really nothing is wasted.
In the garden I usually grow a couple of extra rows of silverbeet or spinach especially for the chooks. Each day I pick some leaves and add them to the feed. While I am there I watch for weeds as they will go to the chooks too. Anything going to seed is great too. (After I have saved some seeds!)
I have space so I free range some of my chickens during the day. We have foxes so I am very careful about this and lock them up at 4 pm. Our dog hates foxes so she is on the job! Free ranging is the easiest way to save a lot on food. I will work on about half a cup of grain or layers pellets per chicken per day if they are free to find their own food. They have grass and bugs and they have a great time spending the day scratching around. These chickens get some scraps too. These will include all of the spent veggies at the end of summer, the weeds, grass clippings etc.
I keep scissors, plastic bags and baskets in my car. Because I live in the country I often come home with all kinds of things I have found and picked on the side of the road. Apples for the cows, thistles for the chickens. I am completely unashamed about chicken keeping. If I was at someones house and they had thistles in their garden I would ask if I could take that home for my chooks!
A trip to the beach means I will take a bucket and get some shell grit. This is very good.
Another idea is to have a moving chicken house/chicken tractor that you shift daily. I am working on this one. This works well when you have just a few chooks and a smaller coop to move around. But each day some of their food will be the grass in that spot.
Mum keeps a container in her kitchen for either Chloe's chooks or mine. I would ask anyone near by, family or friend, to be saving their scraps. A bit of a barter system can work well here. A dream come true scenario would be having friends with a cafe, restaurant or green grocer! In that case you would be set!
If you or a family member work somewhere with others there are bound to be food scraps. I would arrive with a lidded bucket and label it chicken scraps. Most people these days are quite into the idea of reducing waste. I boldly ask. I am game! I don't care if people think I'm a crazy chicken lady. I hate waste, it just seems dumb to me.
I am so game I will happily arrive at a party with a bucket for food scraps and ask if it can go into the kitchen. I also ask at the supermarket and green grocer if I can collect the green leaves. Our local supermarket usually has lettuce leaves that people remove and leave behind. I bag them up and at the checkout I confess. No one has ever said no. I guess one day I will strike a grump up until now a trip to the supermarket means at least a good bag of free greens.
Once a week I buy a big bag of home brand frozen peas. These are a treat for my ducks but the chickens pinch quite a few.
Vicky told me her genius idea. With items like lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, they are usually sold per item not per weight. If that is the case when bagging them up you can carefully add some of the loose left behind leaves into your bag and voila once again you have free greens. I consider cleaning up the messy leaves to be doing them a favour. :)
Ask neighbours and family to save their garden greens, lawn clippings and even autumn leaves for you. These all make food, compost, bedding... people throw this stuff out! If anyone has saw dust or shavings this can be animal bedding also. People let fruit fall even... I get in and ask for that too.
When cooking and there is fat left in the frypan I will soak that up with some bread or rice. This will all go to the chickens too and they love it. I often keep a bag of rolled oats as these are cheap and good for soaking up oils and liquids... and make good food.
Left over milk, whey, yoghurt etc is also good food. I had some older milk power so I mixed it up and made bowls of milk for the gang. I found this out when I lived next door to a dairy. Each day bowls of milk went to the cat and the chickens. No one bought such things as canned food for cats. They got eggs and milk and mice!
In winter we collect wood for the fire. I keep a spade and a bucket handy as sometimes when you lift up something from the ground there are bugs underneath. Chickens love bugs! Also we have a Mozzie zapper outside. As far as chickens are concerned this is a Sizzler Restaurant. We empty all the bugs out and they go to the chooks too.
Having a lot of animals sometimes I have to decide who gets what. They all have favourites. Just now I am peeling apples to cook. The parrot loves a few apples corers. He loves apples seeds. Eddie... he likes them too so he will get some. He also loves pumpkin peel. He just goes mad for that and no one else likes it so that one is easy.
The cows love apples. Mainly they like greens so they get cabbage leaves and things like that as a treat.
In summer I grow sunflowers and so does Mum. These provide a lot of the seed for Ricky our parrot. They are good for chickens too.
Our Grandparents probably never purchased much in the way of animal food. They had great tips on how to feed the animals. Actually they had great tips on how to save on everything! My old blog has a series called How to beat rising prices like Nana did.
Animals bring so much joy. I want to be the Nana with all the animals and good things at my place. But I also want to know I can always provide at least eggs for us all. It does not have to be expensive to get set up or to keep chickens at all.
I hope something here might be a help to you. If you have tips to share please do! I do not have to consider freezing conditions for one thing! How do you keep your hens going when it is snowing? We have heat at times and I usually will put a sprinkler on so they have a kind of evaporative air conditioning and this works well.