How I Cut My Chicken Feed Bill To Zero
Categories: On The Farm
We are in the process of buying 200 chickens for egg production and for meat. As we are trying to source the feed for them, I stumbled upon this article just in time, it has changed the way we are going to go about it and hope it helps you too.
A tractor trailer dropped off a pallet of organic feed onto my tiny dock. This cost me $800 and would only last 3 months. I had organized a feed co-op to save $2 a bag. That brought my 50 pound bag of organic feed to $34. That was the fall of 2013 and it ended up being the last time I ever bought commercial feed for my flock.
In this article I’ll talk about how I weaned myself from commercial chicken feed and replaced it with free compost and kitchen scraps! Towards the end I’ll offer a free action plan that includes printable instructions on the process and a guide for creating your own compost.
Ok, back to my story…. $34 for a bag of feed is not sustainable. My chickens need about 1/3 pound of feed a day. That’s a cost of 23 cents per chicken. On commercial feed, my Black Australorps, at best, were producing an egg every other day. That means I was paying $5.52 a dozen, just on feed! If you added in my cost of equipment, housing, watering systems and labor, I was better off buying my eggs, even at premium free range organic prices, at the farmers market.
I knew commercial feed wasn’t going to work so I tried completely free ranging (no fences) and had great success except for all the chicken poop my family and I (especially my wife) kept stepping in. On top of that, they were scratching up the yard and my mulched areas. It seemed like some of their strong points were mis-directed. Soon after my commercial feed purchase, my mind was officially blown away by Geoff Lawton’s Chicken Tractor on Steroids.
In this video. Essentially, Geoff developed a mobile chicken operation in which the chickens are fed solely on kitchen scraps and compost!
This was all well and good, but at the time I didn’t need a mobile system. My chickens were confined to a traditional run with deep mulch. I began to brainstorm and developed what I call, the “Compost Run On Steroids”.
Introducing The Compost Run on Steroids
This is a compost program that works inside a large chicken run that produces 3 square yards of compost weekly. The chickens feed on the compost biota (not the compost itself) and food scrap ingredients for a complete food source.
What You’ll Need:
You’ll need plenty of material for making compost on site. I highly suggest gathering all of your needed material before assembling. Pile it just outside your fence, or at the entrance so you can easily access it. In order to generate enough heat for your pile, you’ll need at least 1 cubic yard of material.
You will need both carbon “brown” and nitrogen “green” materials.
Most of your material should be carbonatious. Imagine enough material to fill a bin of pallets as you build your stash.
If your not sure how to properly mix a compost pile. Download my free (compost action) plan here. This plan also includes a weekly checklist for creating the Compost Run on Steroids.
If your not already, start a “chicken scrap bucket” in your house and throw ALL your food scraps in this as feed. Since your composting, you can include “organic”, non edible material like flowers, cardboard, paper etc… If the chickens doesn’t eat it, your compost will!
For a larger source of scraps, check out your local health food stores and ask a produce manager if you can have their “throw away” fruits and veggies. Most co-op’s and health food stores are probably already saving this stuff for folks to pick up. They save money on dumpster costs and keep this useable “trash” out of the landfill. One of our health food stores always has at least 3 – 10 trash bins full of food scraps outback for a local composter. The managers allow anyone to collect it as long as they clean up after themselves.