To save time in scrolling you can click HERE to check out the calculator, but I encourage you to read this page at least once. This is a link to Google Spreadsheet. You cannot edit it as is, but you can download it as an Excel sheet and then begin editing. Thank you!
This year I have decided to grow a few items that could be used to feed my chickens. It is doubtful I am growing enough for more than 1-2 months of feed, but I wanted to ensure the things I am growing can be grown and harvested successfully. In planning what to grow, I had to plan in advance what I can incorporate into the feed and still provide balanced nutrition, so that means I need to formulate feed ratios before I begin growing.
There are many poultry feed recipes available online, but few of them incorporated what I am capable of growing in my region. For example, lentils, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, peas, sunflower seeds, and soybeans all grow well in Zone 6B. Wheat, rye, quinoa, sesame seed, and flax seed typically do not, and these are frequent flyers on many ingredient lists. What is available online does not typically work for my region. To calculate my own recipe, I needed a tool to “plug and play” ingredients to reach a desirable protein and fat content. However, many tools I found did not contain the ingredients I was interested in using, were difficult to edit, overly complex, or geared to the wrong breed of animal.
With inspiration from some nutrition calculators I’ve found, I decided to make my own to suit my needs. My math skills were a little rusty so a friend volunteered to help with some of the formulas and more complex Excel editing, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome and the solid collaboration.
The tool contains three pages. The first is an instruction page, the second is the fat and protein calculator, and the third page is the cost calculator. The Nutrition Calculator is linked to the Cost Calculator, so if you enter in the quantities desired ingredient weight in the Nutrition Calculator they auto-populate in the Cost Calculator so you only need to enter your information once instead of switching back and forth. Entries into the Cost Calculator do not carry over to the Nutrition Calculator. In the Nutrition Calculator I have put a lot of time into researching the fat and protein levels of each ingredient, but keep in mind these numbers can vary based on the source, but also based on the method, location, and soil quality in which the products were grown. In the Cost Calculator, I have hyperlinked to the most affordable items I could find in bulk. Feel free to find your own product source, but adjust the unit weight and cost accordingly, and make sure the ingredient lists in both worksheets are identical so the auto-populate feature would work.
Modern day chickens live years longer than their ancestors and a large reason is because we have gotten their nutrition needs down to a near-exact science. I am absolutely not an expert in animal or poultry nutrition, and chances are neither are you. If you decide to mix your own feed, it is critical to understand the basic nutritional needs of your animals to ensure they are as healthy as possible. It is important to incorporate a wide range of grains, seeds, and legumes to ensure a variety of nutrients, and amino acids. Any time you mix your own feed, you could be taking a risk. Please do your research on each ingredient before including it. Ensure it is safe for the animals to eat, and check if the ingredients need any special processing before feeding. Finally, ensure that all essential amino acids are present. Generally speaking, a well balanced feed should also meet the protein and fat targets for your desired poultry: starter, grower, layer, or broiler.
Examples of foods that are safe, but need extra processing include amaranth and quinoa. Both foods contain anti-nutrients which affect proper nutrient absorption when ingested. To reduce the anti-nutrients, amaranth should be cooked or toasted before use and quinoa must be washed to remove the bitter saponin. According to some sources, neither amaranth nor quinoa should make up more than 15% of poultry feed. However both of these grains, along with buckwheat, are among the few grains that contain high amounts of Lysine, an essential amino acid for chickens. While wheat contains relatively low amounts, durum wheat contains more Lysine than soft wheat. For laying hens it is also critical to provide free choice crushed egg shells or oyster shells for calcium. For poultry unable to free range, free-range grit must also be made available. Those tips are by no means comprehensive so please do your own research before formulating your own poultry feed.
Make no mistake: unless you grow the majority of your own feed, it will likely cost more to make your own than to buy pre-mixed feed. It costs me $22 to buy a 40 pound bag of organic feed at Tractor Supply. The cheapest formula I could make, without growing my own feed, equaled around $31.48 and comprised of barley, brewers yeast, corn, flax seed, lentils, millet, oats, peas, sunflower seeds, and soft and durum wheat. It totaled 16.2% protein and 4.2% fat, which is on target for layer or grower feed. That’s not too bad, but to get that price I had to factor in Tractor Supply’s corn, oats, and black oil sunflower seeds. If you’re wanting to stick with organic and non-GMO, the price increases to $34.55 for 40 pounds, which was only a small increase, and both prices were more expensive than the scientifically formulated organic feed from Tractor Supply.
Now that you have made it this far I’m gonna hit you with the link again, CLICK HERE for the to view calculator. This is a link to Google Spreadsheet. You cannot edit it as is, but you can download it as an Excel sheet and then begin editing. Happy Chickening! Please feel free to comment with any feedback, comments or questions.