I've had a lot of people ask me recently what and how I feed my chickens. I wrote blog posts previously about my homemade food and fermenting, but I've changed what I do so I am writing a new version.
First, my homemade food. I used to order my grains from Azure (www.azurestandard.com) but they suddenly raised their prices 50% which didn't make it economical anymore. Now a friend and I split a pallet of grains from Modesto Milling. Shipping is pretty high but if you order a full pallet it comes to $3.50/bag. They have good prices on stuff so this is still reasonable (if you can use a whole pallet or can find someone to split with you).
My recipe is this:
5 parts whole wheat
3 parts barley
2 parts oats
1 part milo
1/5th part flax seed
I use a large feed scoop as my measurement. So I put 5 scoops of wheat, then 3 scoops of barley, etc. into a large trash can. When I've made it through the list once I mix it all up, then repeat until the trash can is full.
I am lucky the cats keep the room I store the feed bags in, clear of mice, so I don't have to do anything special for those, but if you aren't as lucky, you'll want to put them in a couple trash cans or other mouse proof containers.
You can feed this to the chickens dry, which I do in the winter, but be prepared for a mess because they knock their least favorite (oats) out all over the place. Every few days I'll skip feeding them so they'll clean up the oats.
In the warm months I ferment their feed. This helps them digest it easier, they get more nutrition from the feed (just like fermented foods for us, think probiotics), they waste less, and the feed goes further. When I ferment, the flock comes running and devours the food. If I feed dry, they come running and then look at me waiting for the good stuff.
To ferment I took 2 small buckets (2gal maybe?) that nest inside one another. I drilled holes all around the bottom half of the inside bucket. Not too big or your grains will fall through, and not too small or it will take forever to drain. Place your inside bucket into the other one.
Scoop your dry food into the bucket. Leave at least 3-4 inches at the top, the food will swell a lot. Add enough water to cover the food by at least an inch of water (2 is better). Lightly cover to keep stuff from falling in. I place the cover on but don't snap it down.
Leave this sitting for 48 hours before feeding. Some people add a little ACV with the mother (apple cider vinegar), but I don't find it necessary. Now SLOWLY lift up on your inner bucket. Do this too quick and water will come pouring out your holes all over the floor. Drain all the liquid out (or as much and you have patience for, if you leave some in be prepared for it to drip on you as you feed). Scoop out for the chickens and watch the feeding frenzy. Refill the feeder with food and top off with more water. You can now feed every 24 hours since the bacteria are already in the water. Do not replace the water, just add to it. If you need to replace for some reason, you'll have to give it the 48 hours again.
You know it's working if you see bubbles, a white film on the top (healthy yeast), and it has a distinct smell. It's hard to describe the smell but it's not bad. If it smells like garbage something went wrong and you'll want to start over.
You can ferment with pellets/crumbles, but I, personally, don't like the consistency of it, and I've read of some feeds smelling really bad, but try if you want!