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Healthiest homemade chicken feed

Brilliant homegrown egg yolkWhat the Cluck?! by Andrew and Jennifer Ayers is a chicken-keeping memoir, detailing the couple's life with a backyard flock.  While many parts of the ebook were geared toward the beginner, I was intrigued by the Ayers' feeding campaign.

The Ayers subscribe to the Paleo diet, and their own dietary choices made them wonder whether buying bags of grain to feed their chickens (who then fed eggs to the family) might not be a good idea.  So they came up with an alternative.  The chickens free range widely; are given all the family's food scraps; get special treats of on-sale dairy products, tilapia, fruit, and vegetables from the grocery store; have access to free-choice oyster shells; and then get a mixture of cooked rice and beans as their main staple.

Homemade chicken feedI emailed Andrew to ask him for more information on his rice-and-bean chicken feed since I'm always looking for cheap and healthy ways to feed our flock.  The Ayers' egg yolks are the first ones I've ever seen that are oranger than ours, so I figured they were doing something right.  Here's Andrew's recipe for one week of feed for twelve chickens:

  • 4 c. pinto beans
  • 4 c. rice
  • 7 c. cracked corn

The Ayers cook up the beans and rice just like you would if feeding them to people, then they scatter the uncooked cracked corn on the top of each day's portion.  The concoction clocks in at 15.6% protein, just a hair less than you'd get in laying pellets from the store.

Chicken feed calories

Although the percent protein looks great, once I really crunched the numbers, I discovered that the Ayers' recipe is probaby only providing about a fifth of the chickens' diets.  Each hen in his flock receives about 72 calories per day from the beans-rice-corn concoction, versus 371 calories per hen per day for a chicken getting their recommended daily allowance of 0.25 pounds of dry layer feed.  In the Ayers' situation, the other 80% of the flocks' feed is clearly being made up of wild food and on-sale grocery store items, which is probably why their eggs' yolks are so amazingly bright.

What this means for those following in the Ayers' footsteps is that you either need to copy their whole feeding campaign, or increase the feeding rate of rice, beans, and corn to five times the amount given in the recipe above.  I'd recommend the former approach, since the latter is unlikely to give you such brilliant egg yolks, and will definitely cost a lot more than a bag of chicken feed.

Our chicken waterer rounds out the healthy chicken diet with clean water.

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