Along with the general questions about my sanity, I am often asked what I feed our new chickens. People are surprised to learn that the girls will eat just about any safe foods from our kitchen scraps, with relatively few exceptions (citrus, for example, is toxic to them). I found a great chart for those items here. They went wild over the corn cobs I tossed them this weekend, and they didn't say no to kale ribs, spinach or grapes either. Those things count as treats, though. The chooks need a balanced diet to be healthy.
In the Pittsburgh area, chicken feed is available locally through Agway and Tractor Supply, but neither source is organic. I am looking forward to delicious, nutritious eggs, and the better the hens eat, the better I eat. I want their feed to be fully nutritious, ideally organic and hopefully GMO-free, even better if I can make it corn- and soy-free too. I'm not ready to become too engaged in the Great Food Debate here, but there are countless articles online if you want to find out more about why I'm planning to avoid corn, soy and genetically-modified foods. Of course, this leaves me in a bit of a quandary, because most commercially available chicken feed is heavily based on all that stuff I don't want. Until the organic (soy-/corn-/GMO-free) chicken feed I ordered online arrives, I thought I'd try making my own (see opening comment about my questionable sanity).
While on a family holiday in New Zealand a few years ago, I picked up a copy of A Home Companion: My year of living like my grandmother by Wendyl Nissen (a very entertaining book for liberal tree-hugging types which I highly recommend). I was already in the throes of chicken fever at that time, and I also had a serious case of the greenies*. The book converted me (and several friends) to homemade laundry detergent and many other homemade home and beauty products. Wendyl is also crazy about her chickens. She prepares for them what she rightfully names "Incredibly Expensive Hen Food", but the nutritional content looks amazing. I thought I'd give it a try.
To make your own super-pricey hen food, stir together:
1 kilo rolled oats
1 kilo rye
1 kilo bran
1 kilo wheat
1 kilo brown rice
1 kilo sunflower seeds
250 grams flax seed
250 grams sea kelp granules
500 grams brewers yeast
Preferably, most or all of these ingredients will be organic.
Wendyl says her hens will each eat about 100 grams per day of this feed. So far, mine pick out the sunflower seeds and oats like they are going out of style and slowly peck at the rest over the course of the day.
Will I repeat this homemade food batch? Probably yes, but as a supplement to the organic chicken feed I ordered (which is cheaper, even when I include the shipping cost of a 50lb bag).
* case of the greenies: the desire to greatly reduce my family's chemical exposure in the home
If you are seriously interested in this, you might want to try reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck. Notably, the full title in Canada, Australia, NZ and the UK includes "How the toxic chemistry of everyday life affects our health" but the US market changed the last part to "The secret danger of everyday things". I personally found the original full title more accurate and less sensationalist.