Is it Cheaper to Buy Chicken Feed or Make Your Own? a Full Guide

Is It Cheaper To Buy Chicken Feed Or Make Your Own?

The question of whether it’s cheaper to make your own chicken feed or buy it commercially is a common one among poultry farmers and backyard chicken enthusiasts alike. Poultry owners often grapple with the decision to buy chicken feed from stores or make it themselves. While it might seem straightforward, the truth is a blend of variables that impact the overall cost. This decision is influenced by various factors such as bulk pricing, labor, equipment costs, and more. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown:

Initial Investment

Homemade Feed: Detailed Breakdown of Initial Costs

  • Grain Mill: A high-quality chicken feed grinder machine can range from $500 to $2000. This is essential for grinding your grains and other hard ingredients into a fine powder, providing the base for your feed mixture.
  • Mixer: Mixing different ingredients evenly is crucial for balanced nutrition. A suitable chicken feed mixer machine could set you back by another $500-$3000, depending on size and features.
  • Storage Containers: Proper storage is necessary to keep your feed free from moisture, pests, and contaminants. Depending on the size and quality, storage bins could cost between $50 and $150.
  • Scales: Accurate measurements are vital for maintaining nutritional balance. A decent scale can range from $20 to $60.
  • Workspace: If you don’t already have a space, you may need to allocate an area specifically for feed preparation. The cost of this is highly variable, based on your existing setup and any required renovations.
  • Additional Tools: Smaller tools like scoops, gloves, and measuring cups may also be necessary, adding approximately $20-$50 to your initial costs.

Commercial Feed: Near-Zero Initial Investment

  • Feed Bags: When you buy commercial feed, it usually comes in durable bags that can sometimes be reused for storage, saving you the need for separate storage containers.
  • No Equipment Needed: All you really need is a scoop for distribution and a container for daily feed rations, reducing your initial investment considerably.
  • Immediate Use: Commercial feed is ready for immediate use, eliminating the need for preparation space and specialized equipment.
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Ongoing Costs of Ingredients

Cost Factors for Homemade Feed Ingredients

  1. Bulk Purchasing: One of the cost-saving strategies for homemade feed is bulk buying. Purchasing grains, seeds, and supplements in large quantities can significantly reduce the per-unit cost, although you’ll need adequate storage space.
  2. Local Sourcing: By sourcing locally, you can save on shipping costs and also get fresh, seasonal produce. The price can vary significantly, from $0.5 to $1.5 per pound, depending on the ingredient and location.
  3. Organic vs. Conventional: Opting for organic ingredients can increase costs by approximately 20-50%. While they offer better quality and are free from pesticides, they do come with a higher price tag.
  4. Nutritional Supplements: Adding supplements like calcium or vitamins can increase the cost but may lead to healthier, more productive chickens. Expect to spend an additional $5-$20 per month, depending on your flock size.
  5. Seasonal Variations: Grain and feed prices can fluctuate seasonally, affecting your ongoing costs. Budget for this variability to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Cost Aspects for Commercial Feed

  1. Brand and Quality: Different brands offer various qualities of feed, and prices can range from $15-$40 for a 50-pound bag.
  2. Specialized Feeds: Layer feed, starter feed, and grower feed all come with different costs. Specialized feeds, like medicated or organic options, can increase the expense by 10-30%.
  3. Bulk Discounts: Similar to homemade feed, commercial options also offer bulk discounts but require proper storage conditions.
  4. Retail vs. Direct Purchase: Buying directly from a manufacturer can cut down costs but usually involves buying in larger quantities, suitable for larger flocks.

Time and Labor

Time and Labor Requirements for Homemade Feed

  1. Ingredient Sourcing: Depending on your location, finding quality ingredients may require extensive research and travel time, possibly adding several hours to your monthly schedule.
  2. Mixing and Preparation: Creating your own mix can be time-consuming, typically taking around 2-4 hours a week, especially if you’re making specialized diets for different life stages of your chickens.
  3. Quality Control: Testing the nutritional content or checking for contaminants adds another layer of time and labor. This can vary greatly depending on how rigorous you are but expect at least an hour per month.
  4. Storage and Management: Storing bulk ingredients, rotating stock to ensure freshness, and protecting against pests add to your list of chores, which could be around 30-60 minutes per week.
  5. Consistency: Homemade feed demands a consistent effort. If you’re unable to allocate time regularly, this might not be the best option for you.

Time and Labor Considerations for Commercial Feed

  1. Shopping and Transport: This involves traveling to the store, purchasing the feed, and transporting it back home. Depending on distance and quantity, this can take between 30 minutes to 2 hours per month.
  2. Storage: Commercial feeds are generally easier to store and manage, thus reducing your labor time to approximately 15-30 minutes per week.
  3. Distribution: Since the feed is pre-mixed and ready to use, the distribution process is straightforward, usually taking no more than 10 minutes a day.
  4. Quality Assurance: Most commercial feeds are subject to strict quality controls, reducing the time you need to spend on this aspect.
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Nutritional Aspects

Nutritional Aspects of Homemade Feed

  1. Customization: One of the most significant advantages of homemade feed is that you can customize it to meet your flock’s specific needs, including special diets for broilers, layers, or chickens with health issues.
  2. Quality Control: You have the power to choose high-quality, natural, and organic ingredients, thereby avoiding any preservatives or synthetic additives that could compromise the nutrition.
  3. Nutritional Balance: Achieving a balanced diet requires careful calculation and proportioning of ingredients. This can involve a lot of trial and error and possibly consultation with a poultry nutritionist.
  4. Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: While essential, adding these to homemade feed can be challenging. It’s crucial to know what, when, and how much to supplement to avoid deficiencies or excess.
  5. Freshness Factor: Homemade feed is often fresher than commercial alternatives, provided you store ingredients properly. This could mean better nutrient retention.

Nutritional Aspects of Commercial Feed

  1. Consistency: Commercial feeds are formulated to offer a balanced nutrient profile, ensuring that your chickens receive a consistent level of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
  2. Specialized Formulas: From starter feeds for chicks to layer feeds for egg production, commercial options are specialized to cater to the specific needs of different chicken types.
  3. Certification: Many commercial feeds are fortified and certified by animal nutrition bodies, providing reassurance about nutritional quality.
  4. Convenience: Pre-mixed commercial feeds eliminate the guesswork involved in nutrition balancing, ensuring that each serving your chickens get is nutritionally complete.
  5. Additives: While convenient, some commercial feeds may contain preservatives, which is a factor you may want to consider, especially if you’re aiming for organic poultry farming.

Operational Expenses

Operational Expenses in Homemade Chicken Feed

  1. Ingredient Costs: Sourcing high-quality ingredients like grains, vitamins, and minerals can be pricey. Depending on market rates and source locations, costs may fluctuate, impacting your overall operational expenses.
  2. Storage Solutions: High-quality, pest-proof storage solutions are essential for keeping bulk ingredients fresh. This adds an initial as well as ongoing maintenance costs to your operation.
  3. Equipment: Scales for weighing, mixers for blending, and potential grinding equipment all contribute to initial investment and may require occasional maintenance.
  4. Labor Costs: Even if you’re handling the operations yourself, your time has value. If you have a large operation, additional hands may be needed, thereby incurring further labor costs.
  5. Quality Control: Frequent lab tests to check nutritional balance can be an extra expense but are important for ensuring the homemade feed’s effectiveness.
  6. Waste Management: Poorly formulated feeds or errors in preparation may result in waste, which is an additional operational cost.

Operational Expenses in Commercial Chicken Feed

  1. Purchase Costs: Buying pre-made feed often entails a markup for the convenience and professional formulation it provides.
  2. Transport Costs: Depending on the proximity of the retailer or distributor, you might incur additional charges for transportation.
  3. Storage: While generally easier to store than raw ingredients, commercial feeds still need proper storage solutions, adding to the cost.
  4. Quality Assurance: While most commercial feeds are consistent in quality, any quality issues would require product returns or exchanges, thereby costing time and possibly money.
  5. Time-Saving: Operational expenses aren’t just monetary; time saved in labor is an expense saved for the farm owner. Commercial feeds can offer significant time savings.
Is it better to make your own chicken feed

Quality Control

Quality Control in Making Your Own Chicken Feed

  1. Ingredient Sourcing: You have the complete freedom to source your ingredients, offering you the opportunity to opt for organic, non-GMO, or specialized elements that meet your specific needs.
  2. Nutritional Testing: While you can customize the feed, you’ll need to regularly test its nutritional values to ensure it meets your poultry’s needs. This often means sending samples to a lab, an added expense and time commitment.
  3. Freshness: One of the most significant advantages of homemade feed is its freshness, as long as you properly store the ingredients and the prepared feed. This often means better nutrient retention.
  4. Batch Consistency: Ensuring that each batch you create matches in nutritional content can be time-consuming and demands rigorous attention to detail.
  5. Contamination Risks: Without professional manufacturing settings, the risk for contamination from pests or environmental factors may increase, requiring strict hygiene practices.

Quality Control in Buying Commercial Chicken Feed

  1. Manufacturing Standards: Commercial chicken feed is often produced under regulated conditions, ensuring the feed meets specific nutritional and hygiene benchmarks.
  2. Nutritional Consistency: Pre-formulated and tested, commercial feed provides a consistent nutritional profile, eliminating the guesswork involved in homemade recipes.
  3. Certifications: Many commercial feeds come with quality assurance certifications, providing peace of mind about the product you’re buying.
  4. Quality Checks: Large-scale manufacturers conduct regular quality checks and tests, reducing the risk of contamination or nutrient imbalance.
  5. Shelf-Life: Commercial feeds have a known shelf-life and usually include preservatives to extend it, though this can also be viewed as a downside if you’re looking for an all-natural option.

Wastage and Spoilage

Wastage and Spoilage in Homemade Chicken Feed

  1. Ingredient Shelf Life: Most raw ingredients for homemade feed have limited shelf lives. Grains, for example, can attract pests or become moldy if not stored correctly, leading to waste.
  2. Measurement Errors: Homemade feed requires precise measurements of various ingredients to maintain a balanced diet. Any errors can result in an imbalanced feed that might not meet nutritional requirements, potentially leading to waste.
  3. Storage Challenges: Without proper storage solutions, spoilage is a real concern. The type of container, the storage temperature, and even humidity levels can all affect the longevity of your homemade feed.
  4. Batch Mixing: While mixing large quantities can be cost-effective, there’s also a risk of spoilage if the feed isn’t consumed in time, given the absence of preservatives commonly found in commercial feed.
  5. Time Sensitivity: Homemade feed often lacks the preservatives that extend the life of commercial feed, making it more susceptible to spoilage if not used within a certain period.

Wastage and Spoilage in Commercial Chicken Feed

  1. Packaging: Commercial feeds usually come in well-sealed bags designed to minimize spoilage and are often easier to store in bulk without degradation.
  2. Preservatives: The addition of preservatives in commercial feed extends shelf life but may not be ideal for those looking for natural feeding solutions.
  3. Consistent Quality: Given the regulated manufacturing environment, the risk of spoilage due to imbalanced nutrient mixtures is generally lower in commercial feeds.
  4. Particle Size: Commercial feeds are often formulated to minimize dust, which can be a significant source of waste in feeders.
  5. Ease of Use: The convenience of commercial feed minimizes waste related to preparation time and the likelihood of human error in mixing and storing.
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Economies of Scale

Economies of Scale in Homemade Chicken Feed

  1. Bulk Purchasing: Buying ingredients in bulk can result in cost savings per unit, although this also increases the risk of spoilage and wastage if not used within the shelf life.
  2. Labor Costs: The more feed you make at home, the more time it will require. It’s essential to factor in the value of your time and any help you might need.
  3. Equipment Scale: As your operation grows, you may need to invest in specialized mixing and storage equipment, which could initially be costly but could reduce per-unit costs in the long run.
  4. Variable Costs: Costs like electricity and water might rise proportionally with production, without the benefits of scaled economies that large operations might enjoy.
  5. Limitations: At a certain scale, it might become impractical to continue making homemade feed due to storage, labor, and time constraints, offsetting any economic benefits.

Economies of Scale in Commercial Chicken Feed

  1. Volume Discounts: Larger operations can often take advantage of volume discounts from commercial feed providers, which can be more difficult to access when sourcing individual ingredients for homemade feed.
  2. Reduced Labor: Commercial feed requires less labor for mixing and measuring, providing more time for other farming activities.
  3. Consistency: Large-scale production in commercial settings means a consistent product, eliminating the variable quality that can sometimes plague homemade feed.
  4. Logistical Benefits: Commercial providers often have more efficient distribution networks, which can reduce shipping costs per unit as you scale up your operation.
  5. Fixed Costs: Certain costs like storage and distribution become more efficient as you scale up, especially when using commercial feed.

Final Takeaway

The cost-effectiveness of making your own chicken feed versus buying it is not a one-size-fits-all answer. It’s heavily dependent on various factors including, but not limited to, the scale of your operation, your location, the time you can commit, and your expertise in poultry nutrition. Weigh these factors carefully to make the best financial choice for your situation. you can learn how to make chicken feed in here.

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