Homemade Chicken Feed without Soy or Corn

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by brenda on June 6, 2013

When we first bought our property, I wanted to create a chicken feed that would not include soy or corn. I was not able to find a ready-made feed that worked for us, so I researched (a lot!) and came up with this ration. It works great for layers, but it does not have enough protein for growing meat birds. A few years ago, we were able to find soy-free, corn-free feed through Magill Ranch. It is cheaper than this homemade feed, and easier (we get it delivered by the ton). If we had not found this feed, we would still be making our own, with this recipe. 🙂 Note that you can bring this recipe to your local feed store and ask if they will mix you a custom feed. Many feed stores are happy to do this with a minimum order.

Homemade Chicken Feed without Soy or Corn

4 parts soft white wheat
3 parts hard red wheat
2 parts sunflower seeds
1 part hulled barley
1 part millet
1 part oat groats
1 part split peas
1/2 part fish meal
1/2 part flax seeds
1/2 part kelp
To find these ingredients cheaper, ask around at your local mills, to see if you can get the leftover grain. You can also find many of these ingredients through Azure Standard. If you are interested in a more comprehensive look at feeding chickens & meeting their nutrient requirements, I recommend this book: Feeding Poultry: The Classic Guide to Poultry Nutrition for Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, Gamebirds, and Pigeons, by G.F. Heuser (from 1955!).F or more information about the dangers of soy, I really enjoyed the book The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD., CCN.
I hope this helps you!

What are you feeding your chickens?

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Caleys Kitchen Garden June 8, 2013 at 4:48 am

What have I missed? Why shouldn’t chickens have soy or corn? I give mine some scratch pretty regularly since they are grazers and eat mostly greens and bugs. Our egg count is lower when they don’t get the extra calories. They certainly aren’t fat. They have no problem flying over the six-foot chicken-yard fence!

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Liz J June 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm

People are trying to avoid GMO’s and most soy and corn is contaminated even if it’s supposed to be organic. Also, soy gets into the egg in large amounts, and many of us are going to great lengths to avoid it because it has an estrogenic effect and is goitrogenic so it can damper your thyroid. I’m not sure what else we can feed them to give them more calories. I’ve seen a contraption that attracts and catches a certain kind of fly larva, and everyday there is a huge protein meal for the chickens but it’s 200$ or something :/

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Marisa Marino June 17, 2013 at 9:55 am

My compost bin attracts black soldier fly and tons of larvae are thriving. Chickens love them. What attracted the flies was chicken poop we added to bin. I hope they stay for ever.

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Wendy Ray June 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I used to take my little ones to feed ducks at a nearby pond. The ducks knew us by sight and would leave any bread-throwers when we came because we would bring them wheat sprouts. Now we have chickens and a duck and they seem to LOVE grains (even cracked grains: 9-grain, brown rice, wheat, etc) that have been sprouted or soaked overnight SO MUCH MORE than dry. It’s more work, since I have to give them fresh food each day, but if they have access to both dry AND soaked, they prefer soaked and are healthier. They also have access to some weeds. I love the idea of having a pallet in the chicken yard so that weeds (or wheat grass) can grow up through and they can eat greens that keep growing back.
Some people insist that chickens NEED corn for keeping warm in the winter. Living in very cold Vernal, Utah, we have seen some evidence to support this. Growing a little popcorn or other excellent corn to crack for them looks like a good idea.

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Wendy June 17, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Soaked lentils are a great source of protein that they love too.

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Anonymous June 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm

We live in the high mountains of NM, and we have very cold winters (sometimes the night temps go down to 25 below). We do not feed our chickens corn, and they have had not problem. We do, however, give them fat during the cold weather. We get fat trimmings from our butcher, and grind those up for the chickens.

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Rachel June 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Do you have to grind everything up or do you leave it whole…?

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April Larcher June 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm

FIsh meal like in the fertilizer?
Thanks

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Maureen Garver June 22, 2013 at 8:28 am

Ditto on this question.

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Maureen Garver June 22, 2013 at 8:29 am

…and may I add another (probably stupid but I have no pride) Are the sunflower seeds shelled or not?

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Handcrafter June 17, 2013 at 5:55 pm

I have read about people feeding them meal worms for protein. Meal worms are really easy to grow, I have been raising them for over a year for our reptiles. I would imagine you would need a bigger bucket/colony for the chickens, I grow them in a gallon sized container that sits on top of the reptile tank. Just fill the container 1/2-3/4 full with whatever meal you have (they like flour, cornmeal, wheat germ, etc), add your worms (we ordered ours from Petco, you can get them in qty of 1000+), and let them make themselves at home. When you see little, flightless black beetles they are mature enough to reproduce. We scoop them out to feed to the reptiles with a mesh strainer, and shake it to keep the meal, eggs and baby worms in the colony to continue growing, then dump the bigger worms and beetles in the tank for the critters to eat. When the meal level drops you add more.

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miwah June 22, 2013 at 7:52 am

we replaced regular chicken feed (grain based) with nettles, organic veg and fruit leftovers, chickweed and supplemented with dried seaweed, nut waste, some worms( meal worms mostly) and only a small amount of grain ( as too much grain of any kind is not good for anyone and it will give chick fatty liver. It took some time for them to adjust but now they are laying no problem. Healthy diet and it cost much less too (more time/labor intensive – collecting nettles etc-but who cares?!)

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Maureen Garver June 22, 2013 at 8:27 am

I always worry about them eating nettles because of the stingers…are they fresh or dried? (thank-you)

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miwah June 22, 2013 at 10:22 am

Maureen, yes, mostly fresh and they are happy eating them.
If we let them out to forage freely on the wasteland( with plenty of nettles), they will help themselves, too.
We also dry some to stock up for winter and those can be broken down afterwords into powdery stuff and added to the feed/ sprinkled on their fruit and veg salad 🙂

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Vicky Ables June 22, 2013 at 8:59 am

I don’t know if anyone will have an answer to my question or not but does the wheat in chicken feed stay in the egg? I an gluten intolerant and I’ve been wondering that since our chickens are almost old enough to lay

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Kim June 22, 2013 at 9:30 am

Interesting question! I don’t know for sure, but you got me thinking about it. If a chicken eats gluten (a protein), the gluten needs to be broken down to be absorbed into the chicken’s body. Once that happens, it’s not really gluten any more. To make the egg, my understanding is that numerous biochemical elements need to come together using the building blocks that are naturally in the chicken’s body, but none of them are any longer the original source they came from. Thank goodness — my chickens ate LOTS of slugs which, thankfully, were completely transformed before we got the eggs! Chickens have been eating all sorts of things for years, and eggs have never been listed as a source of gluten, so I think the eggs would be naturally gluten-free. I’d love to hear other ideas, though.

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Vicky Ables June 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Thank you for the input. Ours eat chicken layer and everything around and in their moveable pen. I just got to thinking about that

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-K August 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

I know that my family members that have celiac disease are able to have wheat as long as it has been soured (fermented/soaked) you could try to do that (that’s what I’m doing since I’m allergic to wheat) with the wheat before feeding it to the chickens. Allegedly, the soaking (with an acidic element) breaks it down and makes the nutritive value available for digestion (same with oats, etc) otherwise the enzyme inhibitors and phytates that present in grains and legumes make the nutrition obsolete and our (and I’m assuming the chickens) bodies can’t assimilate the nutritional value of the food. (soak one cup grain/legume in enough water to cover, plus an inch or so, to 1 Table spoon yogurt, whey, lemon juice, or raw apple cider vinegar) Hope that helps!

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Jen June 28, 2013 at 6:35 am

This is actually not exactly true. Soy isoflavones have been found in the eggs of soy-eating chickens. There are no studies of gluten, but there are numerous reports around the web of *some* with severe gluten sensitivities being able to eat the eggs of gluten-free chickens but not others. It all depends on how sensitive you are. For the extremely sensitive, the gluten protein does not have to be in very high concentrations nor does the protein have to be completely intact to cause a reaction.

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Roma Seiker January 20, 2015 at 10:07 pm

My sister is a severe Celiac and has no problem eating our eggs. She cannot even be in a room with gluten without having a reaction. You have to test it on a case-by-case basis.

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Anonymous June 22, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Wow! How frustrating!! I just typed up a thoughtful response to this, and when I was asked to sign in, the message went “poof!” I’ll try again, and hopefully I’ll touch on everything I need to.

I have heard some people say that they react to eggs from chickens fed gluten. But I don’t know if they verified that by trying eggs from chickens NOT fed gluten. My son and I have celiac, so we have a bad reaction to gluten. We do not react to eggs from the store (which are sure to come from chickens fed gluten). We do, however, react to touching gluten, so we don’t want to feed our chickens gluten. Like the author here, I researched extensively and made a recipe that is gluten-free, corn-free, and soy-free. A regional distributor mixes up the whole grains for us and bags it up and trucks it to the feed store.

There are some folks who can’t generally tolerate eggs but can tolerate ours. I don’t think it’s the lack of gluten, since some of these people eat gluten. I suspect it’s the soy. There is research showing that active compounds in soy do go through to the eggs and meat of the chickens fed soy. Others tell me that our eggs are far superior to any others they’ve found (including from other backyard flocks). However, I know we used to get eggs from a farmer who had eggs of a comparable quality (fed them whole grain scratch, but mostly let them scrounge in his garden). I will say, though, that our chickens are extremely healthy, and have had no health issues over the 4 (5?) years that we’ve had them.

So, while I don’t feed my chickens gluten, I do not think that gluten is likely to go through to the eggs. I do think that being gf, cf, and sf have made the chickens quite healthy, though, and helps them to make fabulous eggs.

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Vicky Ables June 22, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Thanks I’ll have to check my feed for soy and see if it is in there.

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Tina August 22, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Jc, could you share your source for the distributor and what part of the country you are in?
Thanks!

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Anonymous August 22, 2014 at 3:38 pm

We live in New Mexico. The distributor is in Colorado. Here’s their website: http://excellobirdseed.com/ They require a large minimum order (one ton, I believe). So you’ll need to have a good place to store the feed, or someone to split with. The good thing is that whole grains don’t lose their nutrition quickly like ground-up grains, so storing it long-term is fine. This distributor doesn’t sell organic grains, but they are of a superior quality. And I do not have any potentially GMO grains in my mix (at least at this time the grains/legumes in my mix are not GMO). If you need to find a different distributor, ask your feedstore where they get their bags of grain, and ask that distributor if they do custom mixes. I hope this helps!

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Anonymous August 24, 2014 at 12:24 am

Hmmm…I don’t know if my response was lost, or if it is in moderation. Since I don’t seem to be able to do this commenting thing right, I’ll assume it was lost and I’ll try again. We live in New Mexico, and the distributor that mixes our feed for us is in Colorado. Their website is: http://excellobirdseed.com/ They have good quality grains. But they’re not organic. Since I don’t use any potentially GMO grains/peas in my mix, I don’t worry about it. To have a custom mix made, we have to order a large quantity at a time (I think the minimum is one ton), so you’ll need a place to store it or someone to split with. Storing is not an issue for the nutrition, since it’s whole grains (prepared feeds are made from ground grains, so they lose nutrition quickly).

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Guest August 24, 2014 at 12:27 am

Oh shoot! The comment was there all along, just not showing up for me until I posted again. Sorry for being redundant!!

Susan Chamberlain July 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Just curious about the protein issue you had with the meat chickens. Would quinoa work for you?

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NMHeckel July 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Has anyone figured out way to get chickens to eat the split peas? Ours always pick them out. Does soaking them help?

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LadyMaryChicken August 23, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I have heard that chickens actually prefer whole peas and that somehow the splitting makes them taste more bitter. Mine do eat the whole ones. Soaking and softening also helps but takes more work.

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Mayme July 27, 2013 at 8:33 am

Azure now carries a layer feed and a grower feed that are non-processed (I.e. no pellets) that is also free of soy and corn. It is the scratch and peck brand. It also contains different strains of probiotics in it, which is a nice added bonus, but mine will still be getting homemade yogurt 🙂

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JT October 2, 2013 at 12:16 am

Can you give a link for the feed you purchase through Magill Ranch?

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Jamie May 1, 2015 at 1:19 pm

What about baby chicks? We will be getting ours in a few days and want to find a good feed for them

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Shannon Berridge February 18, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Hello, I would like an update on how your laying hens with this feed, have you made changes to the receipe in 3 years, and what type of birds do you have (hybred or dual purpose heritage type)? thanks

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Cecily June 6, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Is this feed recipe just suitable for chickens on pasture, or does it work for penned chickens who are getting pretty much nothing else? I am trying to convince Amish farmers in the area to get away from corm and soy.

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