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 this post 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 shells, or commercial grit.


Layer pellets, ground oyster shells, 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  • Check for outdated or spoiled food at local grocers.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.
Children Feeding a Plymouth Rock Chicken
Children Feeding a Plymouth Rock Chicken

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.

Benefits of Raising Chickens Without Buying Feed

Raising chickens without buying feed can be a cost-effective and sustainable approach for poultry enthusiasts. Not only does it save money, but it also allows you to have more control over the quality of feed your chickens consume. Here are some methods on how to feed chickens without buying feed:

Free-ranging Chickens

Allowing your chickens to roam freely in a secure area, such as a backyard or pasture, can provide them with a diverse range of natural food sources. They will love to forage for insects, worms, seeds, and vegetation, which can supplement their diet and reduce the need for purchased feed.

Kitchen Scraps

A lot of kitchen scraps of β€œpeople food” can be fed to chickens as long as they are not spoiled or moldy. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and even meat scraps can be given to chickens as a nutritious treat. However, it’s important to avoid feeding them toxic foods like chocolate, onions, or avocado.

Kitchen Food Scraps to The Bin
Kitchen Food Scraps to The Bin

Growing Your Own Feed

If you have access to land, consider growing your own feed for chickens. Planting crops like corn, sunflowers, oats, or wheat can provide a sustainable source of feed. Additionally, growing fodder crops like barley or alfalfa sprouts can offer the right nutrient-rich supplement for your flock.

Waste Composting

Composting not only helps reduce waste but also produces nutrient-rich material that can be used as chicken feed. By composting food scraps, yard waste, and chicken manure, you can create a valuable resource that can be added to their diet.

Insect Farming

Another way to feed chickens without buying feed is by raising insects. Mealworms and black soldier fly larvae are rich in protein and can be easily bred at home. This not only provides a sustainable source of feed but also allows chickens to exhibit natural foraging behaviors.

Bartering or trading

Consider reaching out to local farmers or gardeners who may have surplus produce or grains that they are willing to exchange for something you have or can offer in return.

In conclusion, nourishing chickens extends beyond merely pouring store-bought feed into their troughs. Human beings have long found innovative ways to provide for their flocks, from utilizing kitchen scraps to cultivating homegrown crops. A little bit of knowledge about their dietary needs goes a long way in ensuring their health and productivity.

Many times, it’s about understanding the kind of natural resources available around us and harnessing them creatively. By adopting such methods, not only do we make feeding our feathery friends more sustainable, but we also build a bond rooted in care and resourcefulness.

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.

What is the best natural feed for chickens?

The best natural feed for chickens includes a combination of grains like corn and barley, kitchen scraps, and access to a free-range environment where they can forage for insects, weeds, and plants. This varied diet provides chickens with a balance of nutrients and a more natural, healthier way of eating.