The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Cooking for your chickens: supplementing your layers pellets

Carol sampling mashWhy not supplement your chicken feed with homemade mash?

The cost of chicken feed is rocketing. It has already gone up 30% on last year’s feed prices. With a small flock of just five hens and the guinea fowl couple, the impact isn’t huge but any saving could be put towards maintenance and equipment costs. These can be big for people who have just started with chickens. And if you find a market for your eggs and want to expand, the investment in extra chicken housing and runs can be large. Unlike the UK human housing market, chicken houses are at a premium now. Suddenly everyone wants to keep chickens. I’ve heard of chicken houses swapping hands for £400 ($800 dollars).The market is booming.

I try and maintain our chicken houses and shelters well, so that they will have a decent innings. If I see chicken wire going cheap or thrown out – I snap it up. I always offer to buy redundant feed and water hoppers if I discover them in garages or sheds in houses that I visit. We were lucky to be able to buy a galvanised double grain bin a couple of years ago from someone who was leaving the village. This means that we can store food for the flock and the birds in a rat proof place. But there’s no point in stockpiling masses of feed as the sell by dates are not long on commercially made chicken food.

A few weeks ago I noticed that The Chicken Lady was softening kitchen vegetable scraps in a casserole dish for her chickens. I was curious.
“We simmer the peelings until they are soft and then add bran to bulk it out. The chickens love it and it makes a huge reduction in the feed bill.” Husband, S explained.

Up until now we have fed our flock of seven with fresh leftover greens, carrot peelings and chopped cauliflower stalks occasionally in the morning. Initially they were suspicious until Carol and the guinea fowl couple dived in. Now they all love the morning health bar. It’s snaffled in minutes. Layers pellets are on offer in the hopper 24/7. The latter might be nutritious but who would turn down the crunchy fresh veg?

I hadn’t thought of actually cooking for them. When I dug up a few too many Jerusalem artichokes, I tossed them in a pan with some potato peelings and water. When they were soft I stirred in some oatmeal and wheat germ. It looked like the nightmare meal from hell so I added some fresh greens to tempt them. Once Carol had given thw dish the thumbs up, the whole flock tucked in.

I worried that the flock would scorn the layers pellets with the vitamins and minerals if we supplemented the feed. The trick is to give them a smallish portion. Initially with a few fresh leaves to attract attention. Just enough for every bird to scoff and want a little more. Even chickens get bored and fractious. Supplementing their diet has lifted our flock. Egg production has improved since we started feeding them the Chef’s Special for Discerning Chickens.

It took a while for us to retain ingredients and not automatically scrape them into the compost bin. Now the Chef’s Special is a regular pot that bubbles on the stove. We are saving money, they are eating a more varied diet.

If you have the time and determination you can also make all your own chicken feed. I’m sure that it’s like moving your flock from a life of cook in sauces to delicious meals made from scratch. I have found two excellent sites with wholesome recipes.
If you try them I’d love to hear how they turn out for you and your flock.

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  1. Ive been cooking leftovers for my girls since i can remember, the trick with anything new is to make it look exciting for them. Even hanging up some cabbage or sprout stem gives them hours of activity, aslong as there kept occupied theyll do fine

  2. hi,
    I would love to supplement the layers pellets we feed our hens. We tried raw lettuce but they won’t touch the stuff, do they prefer cooked?

    They like corn and sunflower seeds, but I haven’t go them to eat anything fresh from the garden.

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