Complete Guide On How To Feed Chickens Without Buying Feed

Article Summary

  • Chickens are omnivores and can eat various foods other than store-bought feed.
  • Kitchen scraps like grains, fruits, vegetables, eggshells, and meat scraps can serve as excellent chicken feed.
  • Chickens can forage for bugs, seeds, and plants in areas like wooded areas, overgrown fields, and your garden.

Raising backyard chickens can be a rewarding experience, but feeding them can get expensive. Fortunately, there are many inexpensive ways to provide your flock with proper nutrition without buying commercial feed. Read on to learn frugal feeding tips and discover what you can feed chickens from your own backyard.

What Can I Feed Chickens Instead of Feed?

Chickens are omnivores that will eat a wide variety of foods. Here are some nutritious alternatives to store-bought feed:

Kitchen Scraps

Leftover grains, fruits, vegetables, eggshells, and meat scraps from your kitchen make excellent chicken feed.


Avoid feeding them anything moldy, salty, or sugary, as these can be harmful to their health.


Allow your chickens to roam and forage for bugs, seeds, and plants. This provides free food and enriches their diet. Good foraging areas include wooded areas, overgrown fields, and your garden.


Pull weeds like dandelions, clover, chickweed, and plantain for your flock to eat. These unwanted plants provide protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Homegrown Feed

Grow high-protein crops like corn, wheat, oats, and sunflowers to supplement your chickens’ diet. Let some heads go to seed for the birds to peck at.

What to Feed Chickens Naturally?

In addition to foraged and homegrown foods, make sure your chickens receive a balanced diet by providing:


Chickens need grit to help digest food. Offer a dish of sand, crushed eggshells, oyster shell, or commercial grit.


Layer pellets, ground oyster shell, and limestone provide the calcium chickens need for egg production.


Mealworms, soldier fly larvae, chopped boiled eggs, and cooked beans supply essential amino acids.


Chopped kale, spinach, lettuce, and sprouted seeds offer vitamins and fiber.

Cheap Ways to Feed Chickens

Getting creative with food scraps and natural sources is the key to reducing feed costs. Here are more money-saving ideas:

  • Check for outdated or spoiled food at local grocers.
  • Save veggie trimmings and overripe produce to mix into feed.
  • Sprout beans, grains, and seeds for nutritious green fodder.
  • Offer cheap grains like barley, rice, and oats boiled till soft.
  • Ferment corn, wheat, or oats in water to increase digestibility.
  • Allow chickens to clean up under bird feeders.
  • Gather acorns and seasonal fruits like apples for the flock.

With a bit of effort and innovation, you can keep your chickens well-fed and save on store-bought feed. This self-sufficient approach will reward you with healthy, productive birds.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I feed chickens instead of feed?

While commercial chicken feed provides essential nutrition, you can supplement their diet with kitchen scraps such as leftover grains, fruits, vegetables, and meat scraps. Additionally, chickens can forage for insects, weeds, and seeds in a free-range environment.

What is the cheapest way to feed your chickens?

The cheapest way to feed chickens is by mixing your own feed using locally sourced grains, like corn and barley. You can also incorporate kitchen scraps and allow chickens to forage for natural foods. Keep in mind that while this approach may be cost-effective, it requires careful attention to their nutritional needs.

How can I feed my chickens for free?

Feeding chickens for free involves utilizing resources you already have. This includes offering kitchen scraps, allowing them to forage for insects and plants, and, if possible, sharing surplus produce from your garden. It’s essential to ensure that the food is safe for chickens and meets their nutritional requirements.

What did old timers feed chickens?

In the past, old-timers fed chickens a diet that primarily consisted of grains, table scraps, and whatever the chickens could find foraging in the yard or pasture. This traditional approach often relied on fewer commercial feeds and more reliance on locally available food sources.

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