As some of you know, I have dreamed of having a farm since I was a child. In the next two years or less my husband and I are really hoping to make that dream come true! I'm planning it all out now, despite the fact that its a plan contingent on 3 big factors: 1. A job somewhere else 2. Selling our current house 3. Financing!
In planning I am considering feed costs for every animal I have or want to have and how to lower them. Here is what I have come up with for chickens.
2. Mix your own- Especially if you want to follow specific diets this is your best option (organic, no corn, no gmo, etc)
3. Grow your own mealworms- these are EXPENSIVE to buy at the store, however they are very low maintenance and virtually no upkeep costs after you start your own colony. Read HERE on a BYC'ers experience with it. The picture to the right shows their setup. Mealworms are prolific layers so they populate quickly, they are also cannabals though which is why the 3 bin/drawer is helpful to get the most live mealworms for your effort!
4. Worm Farm- I started a worm farm just to compost faster. I personally use red wrigglers. These are not super fast reproducers so mealworms are a better option if you are just wanting them for chicken food. I bought these for composting though so the fact they make great chicken treats and bait is just an added benefit. To make them a central part of your chickens diet you would need a LARGE setup with LOTS of worms.
5. Fermented Foods- some say birds eat 50% less of fermented feed that dry. One BYC user said with their flock it is closer to 30% less. I have only had 2 small successful batches to date so I can't speak on how much less my flock consumes.
5. Fodder- I have experimented with this option. It is explained fully here. All it is is sprouting seeds in under a week to create lbs of fresh food for just 1 lb of seed. Very cost efficient. I did have some molding issues though, and grew this for my rabbits (chickens are in tractors so they always have access to fresh vegetation and are moved to make sure of that). This is a great option for people who don't free range or use tractors!
6. Local Feed Mills- many BYC'ers pay about 1/2 of my costs because they buy direct from a feed mill... I bet the food is a heck of a lot better too. I don't have one in my area but if you do than check it out!
Since I mentioned mixing your own feed here are a couple chicken keepers blog posts with their recipes: