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Acreage to grow my own chicken feed

Rye

I've posted before about how much land you need to pasture your chickens, but what if you wanted to become totally chicken self-sufficient and grow your own feed too?  For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to use Joel Salatin's feed recipes, and will assume you want to keep buying the ingredients other than grains and soybeans.  (I've also included all of my math so you can correct me if I'm wrong.)

Let's start with laying hens.  How much corn, soybeans, and oats does a single bird eat per year?  (Keep in mind that these figures assume your hen is getting no nutrition from pasture, so hopefully your actual feed usage will be a bit lower.)

Ingredient
Pounds/hen/day in summer
Pounds/hen/day in winter (coldest areas)
Total pounds/hen/year (assuming 120 day winter)
Corn
0.12425
0.1988
54.29725
Soybeans
0.077
0.1232
33.649
Oats
0.02725
0.0436
11.90825

Now, let's convert that into land area.  In the following table, bushels per acre will depend on your climate and the quality of your land --- I've used U.S. figures from factory farms.  What I haven't factored in at all is succession planting --- you could potentially grow a winter grain then soybeans in the same field during one year.  So, if anything, I'm overestimating the acreage you need to feed your flock.

Ingredient
Pounds/bushel
Bushels/hen/year
Bushels/acre
Acres/hen/yr
Corn
56
0.9696
150
0.00646
Soybeans
60
0.5608
40
0.01402
Oats
32
0.3721
63
0.00591

Based on my math, a single hen would consume the harvest from 0.02639 acres of corn, soybeans, and oats.  Our current flock of eight hens and a rooster would need just shy of a quarter of acre to feed them --- not too bad!

How about our broilers?  Our first batch of broilers in 2012 ate 11.9 pounds of feed apiece during their three months of life:

Ingredient
Total pounds/broiler
Bushels/broiler
Acres/broiler
Corn
6.188
0.1105
0.00074
Soybeans
3.451
0.0575
0.00144
Oats
1.309
0.0409
0.00065

So, our broilers needed 0.00283 acres apiece to produce their feed.  Since we're planning on raising around 45 broilers this year, that comes to about an eighth of an acre to feed the meat flock.  (Keep in mind that my heirloom broilers are very different from Cornish Cross.  You'd probably raise half as many mainstream broilers to match the same amount of meat we get from our Australorps, but would feed roughly the same amount or a little less.)

That means our total acreage to keep two people very well fed with chickens and eggs for a year is:

Land use
Acres
Pasture
0.1371
Feed for 8 hens and a rooster
0.23751
Feed for 45 broilers
0.12735
Total
0.50196

Giving two people all the white meat, eggs, and bone broth they need from a quarter of an acre apiece seems like a bargain!  If you aren't sick of math, you might also like to read my math on the total land area we use to grow the rest of our food.  And please do let me know if you check my  numbers and they don't come out straight.

Our chicken waterer  is the POOP-free alternative to traditional filthy waterers.



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Raising my first heritage broilers this year so I really appreciate this post! Growing grain for the chickens is probably a way off for me since I'm just growing corn for the first time this year. Have you raised cornish x broilers in the past and prefer the taste of heritage birds? Or is it getting away from hatcheries?
Comment by Dave V. at lunch time on Monday, June 18th, 2012
Dave --- Taste is hard to be objective about --- since we grow them ourselves, we think the heirlooms taste better, but who knows? :-) The real incentive is to be more self-sufficient --- to breed birds that do well on our farm and that don't have to be bought in every year.
Comment by anna early Sunday morning, June 24th, 2012

Thank you so much for posting actual numbers--they are hard to find and rarely mentioned.

I was wondering about your crop yield numbers: are those for the weight of the whole corn/oat/soybean harvest, or just the part that the chickens can eat?

I'm using a less common (although high yielding) form of agriculture and so my yield numbers come out a bit different than most people's.

thanks very much,

Paul

Comment by Paul late Tuesday morning, April 30th, 2013
Paul --- Unfortunately, my memory isn't too great, and I wrote this post about a year ago. I seem to recall that I got information from USDA's agricultural data, so it's for very mainstream, industrial farming. I'm pretty sure the weights were for the whole seed. I hope that helps, even though it's vague!
Comment by anna at lunch time on Monday, May 6th, 2013

Hi Anna,

Thanks for your reply. I did my numbers and ended up with similar ones to you--about 1,000 sq ft per hen, although as little as 600 sq ft per hen for people who can get "advanced level" grow biointensive yields. I've put my calculator up for anyone who wants to use it: http://thegroundview.com/?p=1584

Comment by Paul at midnight, May 21st, 2013






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