FAQ: Chicken Feeding Tips

Here are my most reliable tips on feeding your chickens: feeding them simply, feeding them cheaply, and feeding them well.

1. How Can I Save Money on Chicken Feed?

Here are some tips:

  • Girl feeding free-range chickens by handAvoid “cheapskate feeds.” There are a lot of cheapskates out there who don’t care about quality. Most mills have a line of cheapskate feeds that you need to avoid, because they’re bulked out with fillers like wheat-milling byproducts that have little nutritional value. Cheapskate feeds often have keywords telling you what they are; words like “Country,” “Thrifty,” and so on. You’ll save money if you quality feed.
  • Buy from the best. Ask your practical-minded acquaintances who the best feed mill is. Usually the verdict is almost unanimous. Buy from the best feed mill: it’ll saves you money.
  • Use the “grain-on-the-side” method described further down in this FAQ.
  • Minimize feed waste. Most feeders on the market are really just baby chick feeders, no matter what the manufacturers say. Their feed pans are too shallow, and the chickens throw feed in all directions. In some tube feeders, it pours over the side on its own! Losing at least 10% of your feed to the poor design of the feeder is very common. Find the deepest feeders you can get your hands on, or make them yourself. Never fill trough feeders more than 1/3 full. Spend more time watching your flock. If you slow down, you’ll notice things and everything will magically improve, including the bottom line.
  • Get a book about poultry nutrition. A lot of what you’ll read on the Internet or hear from your neighbors will be nonsense, and you’ll want to immunize yourself. Also, it helps to have a complete reference manual handy! The best poultry nutrition book in print is the one I reprinted myself, Feeding Poultry by G. F. Heuser. There are other excellent books on the topic, but they are all out of print. (I can’t figure that out.)
  • Read my blog postings on saving money on chicken feed.

2. Do I HAVE to Feed Free-Range Chickens (or can they find their own feed?)

Remember: Chickens can’t find feed that isn’t there, and the more chickens you have, the less feed there is to go around. You have to match the number chickens to the feed supply, or nature will do it for you through poor health and starvation. Read more...

FAQ: Deep Litter in Chicken Coops

Deep Litter for Chickens: Another Lost Technique From the Golden Age

deep_litter_poultry_lime
Stirring hydrated lime into deep litter.

Many poultry techniques that were once well-understood became shrouded in mystery after the poultry business shifted to factory farming. The old-time diversified farmers passed away, and there are generations of industrialized farmers between us and them, breaking our cultural continuity.

The Deep Litter Method. One of the lost ideas is the deep litter method (deep litter is also called “built-up litter” or “compost litter.” People think they know what the deep-litter system is, but often they don’t. The descriptions floating around these days are more folklore than fact. The article below is the real deal. Read more...

FAQ: Simple Electric Fences for Chickens

To a lot of critters—raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, dogs—your free-range flock is a 24-hour all-you-can-eat chicken buffet. Maybe, must maybe,  the local predators are afraid to run off with your chickens today. But it won’t last.

Trust me on this. I have been almost put out of business by predation several times. If it weren’t for the techniques described here, I wouldn’t have any chickens today. Read more...

FAQ: Baby Chick Care

Getting started with baby chicks? Robert Plamondon, author of Success With Baby Chicks, tells you what you need to know.

1. How should I brood day-old chicks?

For a complete list of steps, see my baby chick checklist.

Baby chicks in their mailing boxBaby chicks need an external source of heat. Naturally brooded chicks are warmed by nestling against their mothers. Groups of chicks can maintain body heat by huddling together, which is why day-old chicks can be shipped by mail. Read more...