Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mix Your Own Chicken Feed - Some Information

Note: We recommend Fermenting all feeds, but it is not necessary if you do not wish to ferment.

Average Protein levels in Commercial Feeds: 

  • Chick Starter:    18% -24%
  • Starter/Grower: 18% -20%
  • Layer:               16% -18%

Sue Says -

Because I get my feed at a local feed mill made fresh, they require me to get a minimum of 300 lbs.  I hear that's good because some require 1000 lbs or even a ton!  Because of the minimum, I have to share with another chicken keeper who's close by and I have to do SOME things a little different than I'd do if it were just for myself only.  So...that's background you need to know to understand some of the "whys" to this formula.

Here is my recipe, but remember a couple of things:

  • This is a generic "all flock" w/lower calcium and only about 16% protein.  Since I have to order 300 lbs at a time, I make it useable for all.  If I were making smaller batches, I may make them more specific to the different needs (see my note below on Harvey Ussery.)

  • I Free-feed CalCarb (Calcium supplement), and grit is available at all times in addition to the feed.

  • This feed is "coarse ground" and the fish meal and Fertrel is quite powdery.  This is what I ferment BUT...before I was fermenting I would often mix it with raw whey, raw milk, or a bit of lard to make it a consistency that they would eat it all.  If I were making my own feed by purchasing all the single ingredients, there are parts of it I likely wouldn't grind the small grains at all.

  • To round out my flock’s diet, I feed other items as well.  Sprouts, meat when appropriate, the compost, etc., so they get a wider variety than just this simple recipe covers.  Any whole grains I buy are typically sprouted vs. the ground feed that gets fermented.  (I keep black oil sunflower seends (BOSS) by the 50 lb bag and other grains on occasion like spelt, barley, wheat...all organic except for the BOSS which is very costly for organic.  The BOSS is UNTREATED.  You have to watch your source for BOSS as it is often treated with an anti-fungal to keep mold from growing during storage.) In the winter they get various greens like kale as well.

  • They also get to "range" during the warm months where they also get lots of green grass, bugs, and anything else they can find. They also have access to the compost pile that they forage through!

Harvey Ussery's website has several charts/recipes/formulas for feed based on different needs (starter, grower, layer, etc.)  The sample formulations can be found HERE

That link is PART 3 of his article on making feeds.  Look at the other 2 for more info on how he makes them. He also has a whole section on feeding the flock that has very interesting ideas.  The links are near the bottom of THIS PAGE.  

Compared to his formulas, mine is very simple(!)  

I could have them mix it exactly like Harvey does and they would.  Ussery does state that barley or oats shouldn't be more than 15% of TOTAL feed but I haven't read any reason for that.  I like to know why he said that; I didn't find an explanation.

Right now my BASIC "All Flock" Feed consists of:

40% Organic Corn
45% Organic Peas
3.6% Organic Alfalfa Pellets
3.6% Organic Fish Meal
5% Organic Fertrel Nutribalancer
2.2% Cal Carb #20 (Free-fed separately.)

So… if you think in terms of a 100 lb batch, it looks like this (you can divide for smaller poundage):




Alfalfa Pellets

Fish Meal

Cal Carb #20



Organic Fertrel




Last time I got it, I reduced the peas a little and added some oats.  I think I'm going to go back to the formula above for next time.  I haven't started feeding from the batch that had oats yet.  I guess I'll see how they do on it.  For 300 lbs feed, it has 25 lb. organic oats / 110 lb. organic peas instead of what's listed above.


BlueMouse Says - 
Ok, so this mixed feed thing is a work in progress, I'm still reading everything I can get my hands on. Harvey Ussery's articles have been most helpful.... 

My current mix consists of:

1 part whole oats
1 part barley
1 part field peas
1 part scratch
1/2 part flax seed

This comes out to about 16% protein. I ferment the whole shebang, and then I top dress with kelp meal and ground eggshells. I think its low on animal protein, especially at this time of the year, so I give them a chunk of raw meat once or twice a week, and a half a can of mackerel once a week. this is reasonable because I have so few birds. 

 (Photo Courtesy of Justine Lewis of Les Farms)

I've been putting batches of fermented feed through my food processor for my young chicks. I process enough for that day and keep it in a sealed container on top of my fridge. I top dress the chick feed with kelp meal prior to serving. I also give a chunk of fodder and all my kitchen vegetable scraps every day, since there's still nothing green ANYWHERE where I live. I've been running hard stuff like broccoli stalks and carrot tops through the food processor and stirring into the fermented feed. Everything else I throw out for them to pick through. They especially love things liek squash guts and green pepper guts it seems. 

I would like to replace the scratch with something else, because I'm not so excited about the GMO (genetically modified organism) corn in it, but my options are limited. I asked for wheat at the local feed store and they looked at me like I'd grown two heads....  I'm going to try another less local feed store for my next round. 


Vicki Says - 

I feed more bagged feed in winter since most of the grains I use throughout the rest of the year are not available at the mill during the winter. Usually by late November the mill is running low. My feed mill does not refill any of the bins after November’s last harvest.  I try really hard not to purchase more than I can feed in a month as I think feeds attract to many rodents and I refuse to feed my hens mouse poop.

My recipe consists of:  

4 cups oat groats (Or steel cut oats if the mill is out) great for sprouting
4 cups BOSS (never out of stock and great for sprouting)
4 cups hard red wheat berries (run out in winter)
2 cups soft white wheat berries (never out)
2 cups kamut (grass seed and great for sprouting)
2 cups millet… they do not like it and it’s the last to go. I will substitute bird seed.
1 cup lentils (from grocery store when mill is out – good for sprouting)
1/2 cup sesame seeds... expensive and I do not buy in the store or replace
1 cup flax seeds – crushed or ground (available at grocery store when mill is out)
1/4 cup kelp /spinach (frozen in my freezer)
I have also added the alfalfa cubes


Harvy Ussery:

Formulating Poultry Rations With the Pearson Square

WSU research on protein needs of poultry (Link)

Additional Protein Info Chart:


Dried fish flakes
Dried liver
Dried earthworms
Torula yeast
Brewers yeast
Soybeans (dry roasted)
Alfalfa seed
Lean Beef
Wheat germ
Peas & Beans (dried)
Sesame seed
Soybeans (boiled)
Sunflower seeds
Wheat bran
Oats (whole)
Polish rice
Brown rice



  1. You certainly made this sound easier than some articles I've read. I am debating mixing my own. Not quite there yet tho.

    I worry about too much corn which can put weight on hens. Also the GMOs since I might as well just feed regular feed if I can't escape them!

    I think the oats have to be limited since htey are very low in protein? That's the only explanation I can think of. I use them to cut the protein in my duckling feed. Great post!

    1. Hi, Lisa!
      Avoiding corn (if you wish to) is certainly one of the benefits to mixing your own feed. Depending on what is available in your area there may be some good ways to replace the corn with other healthy grains. Raw meats are also wonderful for the chickens if it is feasible for you to provide it for them. Plenty of protein without the carbs/sugars of corn.

      If you want to try mixing your own feed, also check out This Link for some ideas of where to find what you are looking for.

      Wishing you a super day!

    2. Oh - and an answer on the oats - Ussery reports that his flock began to have runny stool if the feed was comprised of more than 15% oats.

      Hope that helps -

  2. Anyone know where we can get dried liver and dried earthworms?

  3. There are ads covering your blog with no option to X close them. So I couldn't read your blog. Very disappointing.

  4. I did not see how many chickens your recipe feeds per day. Sorry if I missed it. The last 2 bags of organic layer feed I bought from Southern States co-op (New Country Organics) looks off to me. I call the company and gave them the lot # and was told it was fresh. The had used golden split peas instead of green. Even with that info, it just does not look right. I am considering making my own, but money is a huge factor. I have 21 hens, so try to figure out if I can do it. Thanks for your help.

    1. It depends on your hens - Large fowl? Bantam? Do they free-range? And much more. The best thing to do is try it and see. If you ferment it, it will go further, too. :)


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