Chicken food is just about everywhere because chickens are for the most part omnivorous – they eat just about anything.
They eat and grow well on commercial feed, but having natural food for your flock is also very important.
Natural Chicken Food
Let’s look at various types of natural food for chickens. Some they will find on their own, and other types you’ll need to provide for them.
Either way, natural food should be a part of their diet.
I want to focus on four types of natural food for your flock.
Although natural, some of this might seem a bit odd. Let’s ease into this by talking about forage first.
Forage – natural chicken food
Chickens will do well foraging for themselves. If you don’t have free range chickens, you’ll have to provide them with forage material in their enclosure.
Grass is a fine forage material for chickens. It’s something that they eat naturally. Whether you provide them with cut or pulled grass, they will enjoy it.
Another natural forage for chickens is weeds. Hack down a bunch of weeds and toss them in with your chickens.
They will peck at it until they wind up as just a bunch of stems. Pig weed and Amaranth are common weeds that chickens love.
Leaves of plants are another natural chicken food. One plant in particular that my chickens love is Lamb’s Ear.
It’s has long velvet looking leaves and sports tall stalks with small flowers that the bumble bees love.
If I let my chickens loose, my lamb’s ear plants would be gone in a matter of a day or two.
Other items that chickens love to forage for include bugs and worms. Whether it’s a green worm or an earth worm, chickens are usually game to give it a try. If they can scratch it up out of the earth, chances are they’ll eat it.
Worms – another natural chicken food
I’ll be getting into vermiculture soon enough. I think there is something to be said for raising worms for the garden, the occasional fishing trip, and my flock of egg layers.
Worms are tremendous producers of more worms, so they would go well with the rodent and rabbit explosion here at Best of Both Worlds.
If we were to keep a set of bins with lids sunk relatively deep into the ground and filled with soil, leaves, garden waste and kitchen scraps, it seems to me that it would be a breeze to raise worms.
My thought is to connect the bins to allow the worms to migrate through them, and then open up one of more of the bins periodically to allow the chickens to scratch around and find the worms.
It’s also possible to throw a digging fork load or two of the composting material into the yard for the chickens to sort through.
Worms are a natural chicken food, and they are also good for making compost as well.
I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s on my radar screen. I’m determined to supplement my chicken food with cheap natural sources that are renewable, and do my garden some good as well.
Maggots – a unique chicken food
Okay, now we’re going to venture into the bizarre, so hold onto your hats.
If you have a source of dead animals or carcasses from butchered animals, you can provide your chickens with maggots.
They’ll eat them much like they will worms.
The technique is relatively simple and it requires these 7 simple steps.
- Drill a couple dozen half inch holes on the bottom and lower sides of a bucket that has a bail attached.
- Create a way to hang the bucket about 2 feet above the ground in your chicken yard.
- Place carrion in the bucket and put a top on it. Either use the original bucket top or make one to prevent animals from getting inside.
- Hang the bucket in the chicken yard.
- Watch the chickens eat the maggots that drop out of the bottom and sides of the bucket.
- Discard remains after the carcass has no more flesh remaining to attract flies and produce maggots.
- Refill with more carrion.
I don’t know about you, but maggots give me the creeps. They are tough little squiggly buggers that are disgusting, but chickens love them.
My dad once said that he thought chickens had no sense of taste. Well, if they can hang around a bucket of maggots, then I suppose they have no sense of smell either.
In any event, maggots can be natural chicken food, and it doesn’t have to cost anything for you to produce it during weather conditions that favor flies.
Mice – the other white meat
If you’ve never seen a chicken catch a mouse, you’re in for a treat. Once I was around in the late afternoon while my chickens were strolling about. I moved an item on the ground, and a mouse darted out from underneath it.
One of my chickens spotted the mouse, and two steps and two seconds later the mouse was history.
The chicken struck the mouse with it’s beak with pinpoint accuracy, tore it apart by holding it down with it’s strong toes, and then swallowed the thing in one gulp.
It was all over before I could say, “Hey, look at this.”
In light of this experience, why couldn’t we create a little home for mice in the middle of our chicken yards?
When mice venture out across the yard for food, they could become lunch or dinner for the chickens that will soon realize that this rodent delicacy resides in their kingdom.
It seems to me that one of the advantages of this is simply that mice are prolific, and you’re going to have them in your chicken yard anyway – they’re there for the chicken feed. Several drawers of my tool boxes in the shop are filled with “scratch grains” that I was feeding my chickens nearby.
The big drawback to this plan is that mice are active during the night, and chickens are inactive at night, so the chance of them crossing paths is rather limited.
That’s why so much grain was easily stolen from the chicken yard near the shop and tucked away in the drawers that are supposed to hold my tools.
I’ll have to do additional thinking on this.
The main point is that there is natural chicken food out there, we just need to be imaginative about how we might go about creating it and providing it to our flock.
Just because there’s a bag in the store that’s labeled as chicken food doesn’t mean we have to rely on that alone to keep our flock fed.
My plan for frugal living includes creating renewable sources of natural chicken food that will be better for my birds and easy on my wallet.