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. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    My husband named our first four gilts Eenie, Meanie, Miney & Mo; who were duly followed by Pork, Sausage & Bacon.

    Owing to movement restrictions as a result of FMD, BTV etc some of our male kids ended up having to go for meat – what a dreadful day that was – but we managed to get the skins back & had them organically tanned after which they were given away as Christmas presents. One of my friends had hers made into a stunning handbag – & she often says to me, “Everyone admired Arvel when I took him out for his walk, today….!”

  2. gillie

    I’ve never been sold on the idea of caveys as food. Too small and fussy, by the time it’s prepared it’s less than an amuse bouche (with great apologies to all guinea pig parents). The rule in our house is if it has a name you can’t eat it. This worked fine until we had so many chickens, ducks and geese that even the children were struggling to remember who was who and became fearful that the risotto might contain a special friend. They are reassured that I cannot bring myself to eat the herd, named or otherwise(although Eloise’s pet snails, are IMHO fair game LOL) but when it comes to pigs and sheep only breeding pairs are allowed to be named.

  3. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    P.P.S. Moonroot –

    I notice you’re in West Wales – me too – check out my Blog & if you ever fancy visiting for a cuppa & chatting about the geese etc (we too have a pair of Brecon Buffs, named rather unglamorously Roberta & Dave), you’d be most welcome. Happy Beltane, BTW.

  4. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    P.S. Moonroot, you’ll be relieved to know this doesn’t apply to you for your guinea pig, as I assume s/he’s a pet – unless that is, you’re a Peruvian & planning to consume said cavy when they pop their furry clogs…!

  5. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    Just a wee word of caution here –

    make sure you check up on DEFRA’s regulations before encouraging people to do this.

    It is technically against the law to feed poultry or indeed livestock in general, on food which has been prepared in any kitchen. Basically you can feed fresh veg scraps straight from the garden – but NOT if you’ve subsequently taken those veggies into the kitchen to prepare them, & have some leftover stuff as a result.

    This is to prevent cross-contamination with meat products, which could cause diseases such as BSE in livestock – & the reason that you cannot obtain leftover fruit & veg from the supermarket with which to feed your pigs as supermarkets also sell meat, therefore there may have been opportunity for cross-contamination.

    Hence all those otherwise unwanted veggies are often sold to nursing homes etc instead – but that’s another story…!

    Meanwhile how on earth I’m supposed to feed all the waif-&-stray lambs, kids etc that end up living in the house with us every year & require warm milk….I dunno.

    Anyway it’s up to individuals I suppose – but I just thought I should point out that it IS technically illegal to feed your hens this way in case someone is unaware & ends up getting fined & their chooks, err, repossessed or summat!

  6. moonroot

    Wow, never thought of this before. Most of our other food waste is either composted, fed to the guinea pig or reworked into something else for us to eat! Our chooks occasionally get left over cooked potato, but mostly we eat it ourselves, either as bubble’n’squeak or in a soup. The chickens usually only get layers pellets and an afternoon supplememt of grain, apart from tomatoes & berries in summer when there’s a glut, or any unlucky slugs/pests I come across in the veggie patch!

  7. velvet goldmine

    I’ll be interested to hear how those of you with guineas make out. Because they’re almost always free range, I’ve heard warnings not to give your guineas scraps of things you don’t want them going after in the garden.

    Then again, I’ve never given them hosta scraps and they sure seem inclined to go after them!

    I read the links you provided, and they were very interesting. I did notice that part 3 in the first link mentioned in passing that the recipe, due to the organic ingredients, is MORE expensive than what could be bought at a feed store.

  8. Hi
    We have 5 chickens and 2 ducks so it would be good to save money on feed.

    I too give all veg scraps to the tribe each day. I have noticed they are not keen on onion skins as well. What about yours?

    I may try oats and bran with the scaps for a week a test period and see how the laying goes. Ours come out of their run most afternoons after lunch to make sure they lay in the nest boxes. We try to give them ago at the bugs, slugs and so on. Like yourselves we have to make sure the dogs cannot get to them.


  9. gillie

    I’ve never cooked for our herd, but we do have a comprehensive “recycling” system that divides left overs between us, the dogs, the herd and the compost! The herd are particularly fond of the end of the Optiva cereal packet, those crumbs that nobody eats and go soft and unappetising (well to humans, obviously not chickens and geese LOL)

  10. farmingfriends

    I will give this a go and get back to you on how Hatty and the guinea fowl receive it! Thanks for sharing your ideas.
    Sara from farmingfriends

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