A Guide to Formulating Rations and Making Chicken Feed

Happy hens are fed a balanced diet of different grains and ingredients.

The average chicken will eat hundreds of pounds of feed in its lifetime. Although many people buy their chicken feed, some hobbyists prefer to have control over what goes into the mixture by making their own chicken feed at home.

Formulating your own feed doesn’t just give you control, it can also be cheaper.

However, there are many factors in this somewhat complicated procedure. Therefore, it’s critical that you understand the nutritional basics required by your backyard chickens.

Feed Needed at a Chicken’s Different Stages of Growth

For the most part, chicks from 28 days of age and up are fed a “starter ration.” This ration contains high levels of protein (approximately 22 percent) to give the chicks the energy they need to grow and develop properly. From eight weeks of age and up to when they start laying (usually around six months of age), the pullets are fed a grower ration containing about 17 percent protein. Once laying commences, layer ration is fed to them.

Nutritional Composition Required by Chickens in Their Food

Some of the minerals needed in general chicken feed are zinc, copper, iodine, magnesium, calcium, sodium (0.15%, also equal to 0.37% sodium chloride), phosphorus, potassium, manganese, and iron. Some of the vitamins needed by chickens that must be in their feed are Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Thiamine, Niacin, Pyridoxine, Riboflavin, Pantothenic acid, biotin, Vitamin B12, choline and folacin.

When formulating and mixing your own backyard chicken feed, the following method will help you determine the amount of energy and protein ingredients needed in the feed. The equation is called the “Dairyman’s Square.”

1. Draw a square
2. In the center of the square, write the protein content desired in the final mixture (such as 20%)
3. At the upper LEFT hand corner write “corn” and its protein content (9%)
4. At the lower LEFT hand corner, write “supplement” and its protein content (40%)
5. Subtract diagonally across the square (the smaller from the larger) and enter (in the corners) the results on the RIGHT hand side (20-9=11; 40-20=20)
6. The number at the upper RIGHT hand corner gives the parts of corn, and in the lower RIGHT hand corner you have the parts of supplement needed to make a mixture with 20 percent protein. Thus, 20 parts of corn mixed with 11 parts of supplement gives 31 parts of feed with 20 percent protein.
7. To convert this to a percentage basis, divide 20 by 31 and multiply the result by 100. The ending result, 64.5 percent, indicated the amount of corn that will be used. The supplement is represented by the remaining percent (35.5). And so…in a 100 pound 20 percent mix, there would be 64.5 pounds of corn and 35.5 pounds of supplement.

The above is one of the simpler ways to compute and balance a poultry ration. Commercial feeds will have the required amounts of nutrients and minerals and proteins, but if you’re mixing your own rations, use the Dairyman’s Square to figure out how much you need of each ingredient.

Additional offline book resources:

1. Feeding Poultry: The Classic Guide to Poultry Nutrition for Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, Gamebirds, and Pigeons
2. Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens
3. University of California: Feeding Chickens

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