The two main reasons chicken owners decide to mix their own feeds are cost and value. Although reputable chicken feeds are available for both layers and chickens being raised for meat, making your own provides added value. You know what is going into the chickens that are producing your food when you make your own feeds. It can also save you money, and in today's economy that's not "chicken feed" anymore.
Ground Versus Whole
While grinding your chicken feed is an option, it's not always necessary. Chickens do not have teeth, but like all birds, food is processed and "ground" in the inner pouch at the base of their neck called the crop. The crop holds small rocks picked up from the ground called "grit" to help mash the foods the birds eat. Chickens can be successfully fed whole grains, and often whole grain is more nutritious than ground, says the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. You can also feed a combination of whole and ground grains. Grind a portion of the seed used to create your mix into a coarse powder so that your chickens can digest it easily and make the best use of it. If you transition your birds to whole grains, do so gradually to allow their gizzards to adapt and further develop.
One of the most essential ingredients in a good layer mash is the appropriate level of protein. Chickens need enough protein to produce an egg every day. Layer mash needs to have a 15.5 percent protein content to give your chickens enough energy to do their job. Soybeans, alfalfa and fish meal provide generous portions of protein per pound used and are vital ingredients in layer feeds.
Premix and Pre-Ground Grains
Some of the ingredients for your chicken feed can be purchased already ground, such as the fish meal. These also include probiotics, crab meal, kelp, salt, cultured yeast and flax seed. Whole grains can also be purchased pre-ground in the following varieties: wheat, oats, corn, barley, peas and alfalfa pellets; or you can grind these yourself.