DIY Chicken Feed Recipe: Affordable & Nutritious

Make a balanced feed for your chickens based on their age and dietary needs

Chickens feeding outside

The Spruce / Katie Sauer

Farmers and homesteaders who aspire to greater self-sufficiency often want to make DIY chicken feed. It is often cheaper to make your own chicken feed, especially if you grow the ingredients yourself. Plus, if you mix your chicken feed from bulk ingredients, you'll be able to control its exact composition. For example, you can avoid corn or soy or use only organic ingredients if that's your preference.

Take a closer look at vital chicken feed ingredients, essential nutrients and supplements, different textures, and treats to consider for a homemade chicken feed that's cheap and easy.

How to Make a Balanced Chicken Feed by Age

Much like humans, chickens have different needs at different stages of development. When they are chicks, they need a lot of protein to encourage healthy growth. In the adolescent stage, they still require protein but not as much. And as they mature into egglayers, their needs shift. Calcium becomes a priority if you're going to make chicken feed for layers, as it's important for eggshell stability. Chickens raised for their meat will also require an increase in their protein.

Stage Age  Requirements
Chick Up to 6 weeks 22 to 24% protein
Pullet 6 to 22 weeks 16 to 18% protein
Egg-Layer 22 weeks+ 16 to 18% protein; include calcium and minerals
Grower-Finisher 12 months+ 18 to 20% protein; 16% protein if heritage or pastured

When you make your own chicken feed, first take a close look at the ingredients list and nutritional content in commercial poultry feed to get an idea of what percentages to aim for. You will need to balance all the macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins and enzymes). And you will likely need to customize your chicken food to the specifics of your geographical region, figuring out what's available, what's inexpensive, and what you can grow yourself. You can also find many different DIY chicken feed recipes online.


The right feeding for poultry will vary depending on the breed of chickens and other factors. Consider consulting a vet if you wish to make DIY chicken feed.

Example DIY Chicken Feed Recipe

Here is a basic chicken food recipe for the egg-layer group; percentages can be adjusted based on age.

  • 30% corn
  • 30% wheat
  • 20% peas
  • 10% oats
  • 10% fish meal

Main Feed for Chickens

About 80% of the chicken feed should consist primarily of grains. The following food items are high in carbohydrates and protein and are commonly used for chicken feed.

 Food Item  Benefits
Alfalfa meal High protein, good for winter
Corn Easy to digest, low fiber, includes protein
Field peas Protein-rich, good soy alternative
Wheat Higher in protein than corn, contains amino acids

Vitamins and Supplements

Vitamins and minerals are essential components of a chicken's diet. Without necessary nutrients, chickens are prone to illness, deformities, and deficiencies.

Food Item  Benefits
Aragonite or feeding limestone Rich in calcium
Oyster shell Rich in calcium
Grit Aids digestion
Salt Sodium is necessary for proper growth
Probiotic Aids digestion
Crab meal Rich in protein and minerals
Flaxseed Rich in omega-3 amino acids
Mineral supplement Minerals support bones, egg-laying, and electrolyte balance
Kelp Mineral source
Fish meal Rich omega-3 amino acids and protein
Cultured yeast Rich in vitamin B, minerals, digestive enzymes
Duckweed Rich in protein
Cinnamon Antibacterial, antioxidant
Oregano Supports immune system against infections
Cayenne Supports circulation, especially during winter

Equipment Needed

Making DIY chicken feed for more than a handful of chickens requires a commercial, heavy-duty feed or flour mill. It's an investment, but it will set you up to make cheap poultry feed.

With a mill, you can freshly grind the grains you purchase for your hens. If you only have a few birds and do not want to purchase a food mill, you can use a hand-operated meat grinder. You can get a fine grind using a food processor when making a mash or crumble for chicks.

You will also need to think about storage for the bags of grains you buy. Consider building a storage bin with partitions for each of your grains and a lid on the top. You can naturally rotate the grains if you can use a sliding gate at the bottom to dispense them. You might need to clean the bins out entirely once or twice a year to prevent pest infestations.

Feed Textures

When grinding feed, it's essential to know how long to crush and to what consistency. Commercial feed has three standard terms: mash, crumble, and pellets. The type of texture you need depends on the age of your birds.

  • Mash: Much like human babies, chicks are new to eating. Their digestive system is just kicking in, and their beaks are too small for large items. For the youngest chicks, start with a mash. It's similar in consistency to potting soil. Feed from birth until 8 to 12 weeks.
  • Crumble: Crumble is a lot like the consistency of granola. It has some larger bits, and it's the halfway point between mash and pellets. Crumble is usually started by the 12-week mark until the chicken starts laying eggs. Before switching to pellets, mix crumble with pellets to help the chicken get used to the next texture.
  • Pellets: Pellets are like whole grains; much larger and tougher to digest. This food texture is best reserved until the chicken is at least 18 weeks old.

To aid the chicken's digestive system, you can also serve fermented or sprouted grains. Fermented feed is rich in probiotics, easy to digest, and more nutritious. Similarly, sprouting makes the grain easier to digest by breaking down seed coatings; however, it also increases tannins, making the feed taste bitter, and some birds don't like it. 

Chicken feed closeup

The Spruce / Katie Sauer

Treats for Chickens

Even chickens like a bit of variety in their diet. Chickens can have one or all of the following treat items every day as long as these items do not exceed 10% of their total daily diet. Because these are snacks, it's best to present them in the afternoon after the birds have filled up on their primary chicken food.

Food Item Benefits
Oats or barley Contains vitamins and nutrients
Grubs or mealworms Protein-rich
Bread (not moldy) Contains protein
Fruits and berries Rich in vitamins and minerals
Leafy greens Rich in vitamins and minerals
Vegetables Rich in vitamins and minerals

Besides not overfeeding treats, there are several foods you should not feed chickens. They include chocolate, onions, garlic, avocados, raw potatoes, citrus, uncooked rice, and uncooked beans. Discuss appropriate foods with your veterinarian before adding something new to your chickens’ diet.

Fun Fact

Baby chicks that have some oats in their feed might have a leg up over their non-oat-eating counterparts. Ground raw oats can help clear up a case of pasty butt, a potentially life-threatening condition when the chick's vent gets clogged. This condition can be brought on by stress or temperature changes.

Raise Chickens on Pasture

One easy and cheap way for feeding poultry and reducing the amount of chicken feed required is to raise your chickens on pasture (i.e., free-range). As long as they have enough acreage or consistently fresh pasture (e.g., a movable coop), chickens can self-regulate their diet. It's easy for them to find enough insects, weeds, grasses, and seeds to stay healthy. And this provides them with a more natural diet.

Even if your chickens are primarily foragers, it's a good idea to have supplemental feed for them. And if you live in a place where the grass stops growing in the winter and food sources are scarce when temperatures plummet, your chickens will need supplemental chicken feed.

One of the drawbacks of pastured birds is you can't see what they're eating all the time. Chickens tend to chow down on hazards including styrofoam, nails, screws, staples, peeling paint, and strings. You should walk the pasture area regularly and remove any potentially harmful items, so your birds can forage safely.

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Article Sources
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  1. Feeding the Flock. University of Maryland Extension.