We’ve been there. Buying bag after bag of chicken feed can get expensive. And sometimes you just run out and can’t get to Tractor Supply or wherever you buy your feed before the chickens are going to get hungry again.
We don’t recommend it for chicks, but in a pinch, we’ve bought bird seed, especially the kind that has lots of sunflower seeds and corn, from the grocery store. The chickens love it and it’s not that expensive. Nutritionally, it’s not good for long-term, unless your chicken is also free ranging to get the nutrients and vitamins it needs, but it’s a good temporary solution that isn’t that expensive.
We also checked out some chicken-raising sites where people had the same questions. Here are some of the most common answers:
1) If your chickens don’t free range, grass in trays in easy and fast to grow.
2) Hack tall weeds and spread them around the run. (Do check out which vegetation is potentially harmful to chickens first though. Here’s a list of toxic plants to avoid!)
3) See if grocery stores or restaurants give you some scraps. (Make sure they are not spoiled or going bad though as this can make your chickens sick).
4) Slice up a watermelon and freeze individual pieces. This keeps them busy and cool for awhile. Freeze other fruits and veggies in blocks and let melt in pans.
5) Table scraps, such as rice, pasta, oats, fruits, vegetables and wholemeal bread. We give our chickens corn on the cob after it has been boiled and they go crazy over it, pulling out the kernels. We even give them the cobs that we have even off of and they still love those, finding pieces of corn and working the cob down to a nub. Don’t feed them fatty foods or food with a lot of salt though, and, again, don’t feed them anything that’s going bad. Here’s a great list of what chickens should NOT eat.
6) Try breeding mealworms. Here’s a link to how to get started raising your own little mealworm farm. This is actually an endeavor that we’re about to try as dried mealworms are super expensive and our chickens and peacocks go crazy over them. They are also very nutritious. Growing your own stuff obviously takes some planning ahead, but it’s worth thinking about. We have our own blueberry bushes, which have grown huge, and they helped feed our chickens all summer long.
7) Oatmeal and cereal. Store brand cereals are often really inexpensive and, as long as the cereal pieces aren’t too big or can be pecked with their beaks so they can ingest them, this seems like a good choice. We have tried oatmeal ourselves and the chickens did not like it.
8) Scrambled eggs and eggshells. Breakfast of chicken champions. 🙂
9) Join a local chicken page on Facebook and see if others can loan you some food.
10) Grass clippings
11) “Fishing” for worms is cheap, use a little soapy water on the ground to bring up the worms. We haven’t tried this, but we imagine you then rinse off the worms before you give them to the chickens!