Last Updated: March 22, 2023

Chicken feed prices keep going up, so some people are making their own instead

chickens scratching in the dirt

My chickens testing feed

Last April I wrote about sticker shock at the feed store because chicken feed had nearly doubled in cost. Still, eggs prices at the store were rising fast ($6 for 18 eggs back then), so I calculated what it cost for our hens to supply the eggs, and it turned out to be a pretty good bargain — just about half of what store-bought eggs cost.

Fast forward to today. Feed prices haves risen about 14% in over the past 10 months, but eggs have risen nearly 50% to $8.89 for 18 eggs — 50¢ for a single egg! Yikes!

Still, it hurts to shell out $100 every few weeks to keep the flock fed, so I’m always looking for ways to keep costs down by supplementing their feed with forage, vegetable scraps, and the like. (They’re currently cleaning the vegetable garden, which is full of weeds and leftover plants from last fall.)

The other day, one of my friends forwarded an Instagram post from someone who was saving money by sprouting grain for her flock. That led me down a rabbit hole full of posts from people who were sprouting and/or fermenting grain for their flocks.

Here are just a few of the posts:

@theluckyhen gives her flock barley sprouts she starts in plastic trays from the Dollar Store.

 

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A post shared by RosieQuinn (@theluckyhen)

@oakstreampastures takes that one step further and sprouts wheat before burying it and turning it up a couple days later for their chickens. (Bonus: chickens get to scratch and dig — one of their favorite activities.)

@afarmgirlinthemaking takes it in a different direction by fermenting poultry feed before giving it to the flock. Fermenting is supposed lower feed costs by allowing the birds to get more nutritional from smaller amounts of feed. (As a fan of fermented food, I like this idea, but, based on my general “dad bod” condition, I’m not sure I actually eat less.)

Finally, the folks over at Cluckin.net decided to take this to the extreme and tested 17 types of sprouted grains for chickens.

chickens eating feed

Cluckin.net tested 17 type of sprouted grain

My own results were mixed

I picked up some whole wheat kernels from the store and tried this myself, with mixed results.

While the chickens ate the sprouted wheat, they didn’t seem to have a preference for it over other greens (grass, weeds, leftover veggies from the garden) or their regular pelleted feed.

More importantly, the wheat was $1.75/lb, roughly 3-1/2 times the cost of the chicken feed. Even with the additional weight of the water in the sprouts, it was still about twice as expensive as pelleted feed. Plus there was the additional work of sprouting the grain, so it wasn’t any less effort.

Admittedly, my chickens roam a pretty big area with a variety of plants, bugs, etc. to forage on. Also, we don’t get snow, so, even without supplemental feed, there’s food available for them year round. As a result, sprouting and/or fermenting grain for chicken feed doesn’t actually save me any money or effort, so I probably won’t be doing this again. But you shouldn’t let that stop you from trying it yourself, especially if food isn’t as easily available for your flock as it is for mine.

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Sage Osterfeld
I’m just a guy with nearly an acre of dirt, a nice little mid-century ranch house and a near-perfect climate. But in my mind I’m a landscaper survivalist craftsman chef naturalist with a barbeque the size of a VW and my own cable TV show. I like to write about the stuff I build, grow and see here at Sage's Acre.