Friday, March 15, 2013

Organic Chick Starter Feed Recipe

By Vicki -

For young chicks you can make your own organic starter feed. Here’s the recipe I use:

Organic Chick Feed

- 3 parts soft white wheat
- 3 parts hard red winter wheat
- 1 part hulled barley
- 1 part oat groats
- 2 part sunflower seeds
- ½ part peanuts
- 1 part wheat bran
- 1 part split peas
- 1 part lentils
- 1 part quinoa
- 1 part sesame seeds
- 1/2 part kelp and oregano (fresh)
-1/2 part bird seed
- 1 oz of meat per 12 chicks
I have access to organic grains and seeds at my feed store. They have them in bins for planting so I am pretty fortunate. During the winter I only have access to summer leftovers and they are not as fresh. I then use bagged organic chick starter and buy fresh kelp/oregano at the grocery store and fine grind it.

I try to feed young chicks at least one boiled or raw egg every few days.  Eggs have all the vitamins a chick needs and I like the selenium levels you get out of an egg for young birds.  

I made pork roast last night and I fine ground about an ounce for 8 chicks and put it on their Fermented Feed (FF) this morning. I feed the older chicks chicken livers about once a week so a pound of liver lasts a long time. I probably feed an ounce of raw meats per week for 8-10 chicks. I give them all my leftover meats and fats. After cooking a roast, I keep all of the juices and save it to add to my FF to create a nice layer of fat on it.

I give all my birds leftovers, but I do not give my older, free range flock meat – these chickens find their own (mice, bugs, slugs – all kinds of goodies to be found about the farm). During this time of year I buy Spinach, peas, carrots, and kale. Once in a while I will buy a head of cabbage.  I buy one pound of each per month.

When the weather is warm enough I plant for my older, free-ranging flock… wheat, oats, barley, clovers, kale, spinach, melons, cucumbers…  all kinds of things. They have apples and pears and I am adding blueberries this year. They eat what they need and I do not give extra chicken feed to my free range flock.

I do feed all my chicks, my broody hens, and my breeders if they are not out free ranging. When the hens take the young out to free range I feed them at night. I should mention that the rest of my free range birds do have access to food at night if the mother hens with broods of chicks let the mature chickens have access to feed dishes.
Happy feeding –

- Vicki


  1. Thank you for sharing! Hope to get chicks soon!

  2. That looks like a great recipe! I do have one question - by "part" are you referring to weight or volume? I ask because I know some seeds/legumes are heavier by weight than the same volume of lighter grains.
    Thank you!

    1. Go by volume, and it doesn't have to be exact - just close to get the right balance of protein. :-)

    2. Hi, do you know what the protein % is and do you add the meat per serving? I would think that the meat would spoil if let out all day with the starter? Lastly how long do you feed your chicks this and then what do you transition them to? Thanks so much for your input! This is REALLY great to feed from homemade ingredients!

    3. As far as the meat, you don't want to leave it out all day. Only feed what they will eat in about a 15 minute time and keep the rest safely refrigerated until the next meal.

      As far as protein, you can get a rough idea with this:

      Additional Protein Info:
      Dried fish flakes 76
      Dried liver 76
      Dried earthworms 76
      Duckweed 50
      Torula yeast 50
      Brewers yeast 39
      Soybeans (dry roasted) 37
      Flaxseed 37
      Alfalfa seed 35
      Beef, lean 28
      Earthworms 28
      Fish 28
      Wheat germ 25
      Peas & Beans, dried 24.5
      Sesame seed 19.3
      Soybeans (boiled) 17
      Sunflower seeds 17
      Wheat bran 16.6
      Oats, whole 14
      Rice polish 12.8
      Rye 12.5
      Wheat 12.5
      Barley 12.3
      Oats 12
      Corn 9
      Millet 9
      Milo 9
      Rice, brown 7.5

  3. Thanks so much for your recipes and all your great info! I read somewhere that you need to soak and cook (for at least 15 minutes) any lentils or peas for your chicks. Do you do that? Will this recipe work if I am not doing the FF?

  4. I do not cook anything for my chickens. I do use the blender for the chicks


  5. Vicki, do you grind these grains or feed them whole for baby chicks?

    1. She grinds them in a blender for the little ones.

  6. Do you give your chicks eggshells or another source of calcium if not giving them bagged chick starter?

  7. You can offer them ground eggshells free-choice. Generally they get enough calcium from the meat, but if they require more, they will visit the free-fed calcium source on their own.

  8. So glad I found this site!! I have been using the standard medicated feed recommended by the feed store.. How can I switch them over to your recipe? Will I need to slowly introduce it? And.. do you think this mix is safe for ducklings too? We just rescued the abandoned baby (i.e. human tossed it out of the car) two days ago..

    1. You can switch them right over. Just be sure they have chick grit available to them for proper digestion.

      How sad someone tossed a duckling!! And how lucky for the duckling you found it! Ducks need slightly higher protein levels, so mix in some gamebird chick feed to it's portions to give it that extra little boost. I don't have ducks so I don't know all there is - check out the Duck Forum at Back Yard Chickens - here's a recent thread on Duckling Diet Needs.

      Good for you for doing your research and trying to give your critters a great start!!

  9. I just wish I could find an easier way to look up where to buy these grains. Where should I begin? Google takes me all over the place and TSC is very limited. Thanks. :-) I found an organic soy free started I am going to switch my 6 week old chicks. I'm interested in FF. By the way I just joined your forum. Can't wait!

    1. Look around your area for feed co-ops and feed mills. Those are the best places to find all the ingredients you want. For more ideas, check out THIS article.
      Hope this helps!

    2. Ask your local health food store, or any food coop, and see if they can order for you, from Azure Standard, and/or UNFI. You can get all you need from those two sources.

  10. Thank you for the wonderful recipe! I am picking up 2 new chicks tomorrow. My questions are- do you bake the eggshells or wash them or anything? And, since we don't eat meat at my house, can I grind up some good quality dog or cat food and add it? My adult chickens and ducks eat dog food everyday along with tasty critters that they forage. And could I add coconut oil or olive oil for a healthy fat? I used to work at a wildlife rehab center and we fed birds like crows and jays a blend of ground dog food and melted peanut butter. When cooled, it made a nice crumbly yet slightly oily treat. Would this be ok? Or too messy?
    Thank you!!!

    1. There is no need to bake or wash the eggshells. I just leave them out to dry for a bit and then crumble them up. Chances are your chicks won't be interested in them until they are close to the point of lay (POL) so don't worry if they show no interest for the first 4-5 months.
      Dog/cat food should be OK as long as the first ingredient is meat. Another thing to consider is picking up a small container of chicken livers. I divide it into small portions, put the portions in freezer baggies and freeze them (it helps to place a paper towel between each baggie so they don't freeze together. I thaw out 2 a week and feed the livers on Tuesdays and Saturdays (any two days will work - LOL).
      Congrats on your chicks!

  11. This says for young chicks. Do you also feed this to brand new baby chicks? Can fine sand be used for baby chick grit? Do you ferment the above recipe for brand new chicks? Do you also offer it to them dry? Do you grind the grains for new baby chicks, and then ferment them prior to feeding? Sorry for all the questions, but we have baby chicks coming this week and trying to get all my chicks in a TY!

    1. This recipe is for chicks ages 1 day to 12+ weeks. I would suggest grinding the grains and fermenting the mix - they'll get more nutritional benefit from it that way. Sand isn't really coarse enough for chicks. You can buy chick grit at your local feed store, or you can get a larger bag of chicken grit and put it through a colander to sift out the smaller pieces for your chicks.
      Good for you for doing your research! And congratulations on your new chicks!

    2. Thanks so much, for your fast reply! I have all but two items on this list. Can I substitute millet for birdseed? Would it be ok to make this without the quinoa, until I can get some ordered? Thanks again. You've been a huge help to me tonight. Much appreciated!!!

    3. Millet should work fine, and yes - the mix should be fine as-is for a few days until you can get the quinoa. :-)

    4. One more set of questions: How finely do you grind this baby chick mixture for fermentation? Should it be very finely ground, or more of a medium grind, for a more mealy texture when fermented? I've read that if it's too fine, it will stick to their beaks. I'm guessing that things like millet will expand in the water, and so even tiny millet should be also ground up for them? Can they choke on such things, even if they're softer from being fermented?

      Also, what kind of grinder do you use? I have a small Back to Basics manual grinder, that is supposed to be adjustable, but it still makes things very fine, like flour. I could use a coffee grinder for a less fine grind. Any suggestions? Thank you, again!

    5. Also, is hard white wheat an ok substitute for the soft white wheat in the recipe? ty again!

    6. OK - for very small chicks, the grains should be ground rather fine - not quite as fine as flour - you still want some texture. As they get older, the grains may be fed progressively more coarse.

      Wouldn't worry about feed sticking to their beaks - chickens are notorious for using their bedding and their friends as napkins and wiping their little beaks all over everything - LOL.

      Normally choking is not a concern. There are a few less-than-brilliant birds out there that may gorge, but that is a rarity.

      As long as it is ground, the hard white wheat should be a fine substitute.
      :-) Leigh

    7. Thanks, so much, Leigh, for all the detailed responses! I think I'm close on the texture and grind. Maybe a few larger bits here and there, but mostly finely ground with a mealy texture. Good news about the beaks. Do they need oyster shell at this age? TY again! The chicks are on their way. Could be another couple days, but soon. :)

    8. They won't need oyster shell until they are closer to laying age. :-)

    9. Hey, ya'all!!! Come over to the forum and discuss feed with us all! We will all benefit by the conversation :D

      Natural Chicken Keeping Forum!

  12. Lively activity about the chick feed. I alternate this feed all the time depending on what is available at the mill. This recipe does not have to be exact. I have written out a good foundation with good bones. Tweeking it here and there will be fine. I use an old glass blender that is 50 years old to grind my grains. I picked it up at a rummage sale after my last grinder bit the dust and it works wonderful.

  13. Not sure how to enter a comment but will keep trying. I have several feed grains and seeds that I would like your opinion on with regard to feeding day old to 12 week chicks.
    Corn gluten, golden amaranth, milo also called down here grain sorghum,casava also called tapioca,and dried coconut meat. oat grouts, barley, hard and soft wheat and kelp are all imported and I need to stay with local products if possible.


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