Homemade Non GMO Chicken Feed with No Corn or Soy

Laying Flock300.jpg
There is organic feed on the market that uses non-GM corn and soy; it is very expensive. I’m looking for something affordable and easy to obtain and sustain. That means searching for acceptable alternatives to corn and soy that the chickens will eat and that are readily available. This way of feeding chickens will be more labor intensive than opening a bag of feed, but (hopefully) worth the effort.
When it comes to protein in livestock feed, soy is king. At first, it was overwhelming to come up with a suitable alternative. The Internet supplied some answers. There is a company that makes feed for chickens and pigs that contains no corn or soy. Reading the labels got me headed in the right direction, as did Andy Lee’s chicken books.
Animal protein is usually not an ingredient in standard chicken feed, even though chickens are omnivores. Free ranging chickens eat bugs, dead animals and even rodents. When I feed Kent’s Extra Egg, which contains fish meal, my chickens lay better and have better overall condition. Some form of animal protein will replace some of the soy in the new ration. What can I grow or source that will give my chickens the protein they need while avoiding soy?


This easy to grow pond weed is often a nuisance because it is so prolific. Chickens and ducks relish this nutritious plant and it can supply 25% of the diet. According to the Centre for Duckweed Research & Development, duckweed contains up to 43% crude protein.


There is plenty of this stuff growing around our homestead. I started with three root pieces about eleven years ago and the comfrey flourished. “The Alternative Crop’s Manual” lists the protein content at 15 – 30%. I have never seen my chickens eat fresh comfrey even though they have access to it. When I dried it, they gobbled it right up.

Field Peas

I thought finding a source for field peas would be easy. Not so! The grain mills will have some peas for planting available in the spring. That will be fine as long as they are untreated. The best information I could find on this crop was from a 2002 NDSU publication. At that time, 70% of the field peas grown in this country were exported. For folks feeding just a few hens, the split peas that you buy in the grocery store are field peas and contain 24.5 % protein. Lentils are also high in protein. I soak both of these for a day to soften them for the chickens.


Now we get into creepy crops. You can grow your own nutrient-rich insects and choose among meal worms, super worms, compost worms, black soldier flies or roaches. Meal worms we’ve grown for a home school project and they were easy to house in a Tupperware container. Super worms are like a much larger model of the meal worm. Compost worms are definitely worth a second glance since they can turn kitchen waste into a valuable garden amendment plus feed the birds. I am intimately familiar with roaches from living in Florida for 15 years. Frankly, they make my hair stand on end. If roaches don’t make you shudder, there are several varieties that are grown for gecko food. I’ve seen a lot of discussion about black soldier flies in various forums, so how-to-grow info is readily available.


I’ve found the easiest source is the packing house. We buy meat for our dogs that’s referred to as something like “sled dog”. Everything that is not packaged for sale is ground up. The dogs and chickens love it.

Fish Meal

A brief search yielded no source that sold this product. Some people are feeding Koi fish food to their chickens. I need to do more reading on what else besides fish meal is in this type of food.

Whole Grains/Sprouted Grains

There are, of course, plenty of grains that can be fed to chickens. My birds like wheat, barley, oats, bran and linseed meal. Soaking the grains for 12-24 hours makes the nutrients more available to the birds.
Sprouting grains for chickens is fairly simple and increases the availability of nutrients and enzymes. I use a simple system composed of an ice cream bucket and drain buckets with holes drilled in them. I soak the grain for 12 hours and then dump in a drain bucket. I do this everyday and feed the grain on day four or five when it has small sprouts.
If you are intrigued enough to want to grow your own protein sources, place a call to your local pet store to see what is available. You may be able to pick up some duckweed, meal worms or super worms and try your luck with these.
Please comment with thoughts and advice. Feel free to share how you plan to work around the Franken Food and still feed your livestock a balanced diet. I’d like this blog to be a place where we can share ideas on how best to avoid the calamity of tainted food.

Ideas for Further Reading

Chicken Tractor: The Permaculture Guide to Happy Hens and Healthy Soil, Homestead (3rd) Edition by Andy Lee

The Worm Book: The Complete Guide to Gardening & Composting with Worms by Loren Nancarrow

Sprouting to Enhance Poultry Feed by Harvey Ussery

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Homemade Non GMO Chicken Feed with No Corn or Soy — 30 Comments

  1. I’ve been researching how to make my own laying mash. That stuff is so expensive, and I just don’t like feeding who-knows-what to my chickens. Still haven’t found a good recipe to try yet. Thanks for sharing your ideas for homemade chicken feed!

  2. I too am thinking of making my own, expense, expense and of course GMO’s being a huge concern, on a side note…I use to live in Michigan… near T.C

  3. I may be interested in the comfrey offer… do you know what strain you have? Is it the bock 14 (Russian) one? I wouldn’t mind if it invaded the whole pasture, but my husband (or my neighbors) might!

    I’m bookmarking this post for future reference. One of our goals in the future is to replace the soy in our chicken (and hog) feed.

  4. Kendra: I don’t have any idea of ratios. There are vitamin and mineral supplements you can add to be certain they are getting all they need.

    Andi: I live about 30 miles sw of T.C. Where did you used to live?

    Quinn: I’m sorry I’m uncertain of the strain. I don’t even remember where I got it.

  5. Comfrey is something I’ve been meaning to get for our chickens. I’ve heard they like them. Is it something you have to feed to them while fresh? In other words it doesnt store for winter feed, right? I would love some starts either way. Not sure how to contact you. My email is daleandtam AT gmail DOT com. Thanks.

    Also I heard that mangel beets are something that can be grown at home and used to be chopped up through the winter to feed chickens (and other stock) back when people grew their own feed. I tried some last year but that part of my garden did so poorly they didnt get much bigger than a carrot. LOL I read about it here but can’t find the post now http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/ I am going to try them again this year too.

  6. We need a better plan for having greens for winter for our ducks. I’d love to try growing duckweed indoors somehow.

  7. I feed my chickens organic feed but never even thought to look to see what is really in it! Your post is quite intriguing. I will be checking back to see your findings.Thanks for doing all this work!

  8. Does the comfrey spread or do you need to propagate by cuttings and divisions. The bock 14 is simply a sterile strain. I’m interested in it in particular since we live on a small place and I’ve read that common comfrey can easily get out of hand. If you haven’t noticed it spreading like crazy, then I’d feel fairly confident to say you have the “right” kind. Thanks 🙂

  9. Tammy: I sent you an email:)I’ve bought mangels to feed to goats. The goats seemed to like them. Good luck with them. I’d like to try something like that next year with beets or turnips.

    Maggie: I’m thinking the same thing about growing the duckweed in the basement during the cold months. If it it tasty, maybe we humans will enjoy a duckweed salad on a snowy winter day.

    Lady Farmer: Will you share the ingredients on your feed tag?

    Quinn: I planted the original five plants from root cuttings. I moved it to different places and if a root piece is left behind, it grows again. I have it in about three places and it has spread in those places. It doesn’t spread at the rate that mint does, but it does definitely spread.

  10. I talked it over with my husband and reminded him of the differences (sterile vs. seeding; forage vs. medicinal; less vs. more alkaloids) and he said I could go for it if the offer is still open. You could email me about it at onjustacoupleacres at att dot net

    Thanks 😀

  11. Excellent post. I’ve been thinking along the same lines. I didn’t realize that about split peas, good to know. Have you found a field pea source yet? I found some at Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, bought a pack, and will save that crop to replant for a future source. I grew amaranth last year too, which at first no one was interested in. When fresh greens went dormant for winter, the amaranth was more in demand by goats and chickens alike. I hadn’t thought about meal worms and didn’t know about duckweed, so I appreciate the info. Like you, I want to avoid soy, though am willing to feed homegrown corn to the chickens. Not to the goats though, they really don’t digest grains all that well.

  12. Thanks for all the great info. We plan on growing an extra two rows in our garden just for the chickens, mainly greens. Keep us posted on any other info you find.

  13. Quinn: Yes, the offer is still open to anyone who wants some root pieces to start their own comfrey. I’ll send you an email.

    Leigh: In the spring bulk field peas are available from the feed store. Baker Creek is a better source, I think. Let us know how the field peas do for you. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to buy some split peas at the grocery and see how they like them. You already grow wheat and corn for you chickens don’t you?

    Diane: What kind of greens are you planting for them? I’d like to try that too:)

  14. Love your blog! We are working on finding alternatives for corn & soy also. It just makes everything a little more time consuming.

    I would love to have some comfrey roots….when you get a chance email me bloomwhereyoureplanted @ yahoo(dot)com

    I’ll gladly send you the cost of shipping, plus some homemade candles or soap.


  15. Great article!

    I am looking for an alternative to feed my chickens as a lot of my customers, and family have food allergies to wheat, soy and corn.

    I will definitely be looking into the plants and possibly, insects that you mentioned.

    Chicken farmers need to band together to create a healthy, feed alternative that is affordable because the 14 dollars a bag for chicken feed that I’m not 100% sure whats in it is getting old.
    But the problem is, what would be the best affordable alternative?

    I bet a lot of people would be interested in this type of product though.

    Thanks again for the article and I am looking forward to doing more specific research 🙂

  16. Jared: I hope you’ll return and share the results of your experimentation and research. I agree that we need to band together to find more affordable and sustainable food for our animals and ourselves.

  17. you guys have alot of great ideas and I know how hard and time consuming what your doing is because I’m trying to do the same things. somethings I might add are redworms, they can be raised on scraps, also I know it sounds gross but roadkill let me explain maggots contain some nutrients chickens need, can’t remember witch but if the roadkill is elevated above the chickens the maggots will drop off and the chickes will eat them both work for fish food also. a good read for living healthy on the cheap can be found at journeytoforever.com look at the small farm library unbelievably it’s free.

  18. I came across your blog in searching for chicken feed ideas… I have family members with digestive issues & allergies to corn, soy, wheat… Next spring we’ll be getting a few chickens. Those family members cannot have eggs if the chickens are fed soy, wheat or corn, so I am doing my homework now on best feed options. I’m in lower Michigan (between Port Huron-Flint) so my biggest concern is what to feed thru winter.

    If I dont pop back on here anytime soon – feel free to email me – JaydasCritters AT yahoo DOT com

  19. I read a post where someone was grinding up cat food (Taste of the Wild – non GMO, non-grain based food) and using that as a source of protein in their chicken feed. I haven’t looked into it yet.

  20. Thanks for your web site. The price of chicken feed is only going up – and that is the poor quality stuff! We live in Georgia so the winters are usually mild enough our birds can get some greens year round. I am looking for a source of non-gmo grain to supplement, but would rather grow my own. Your road kill idea sounds great! Also a great way to feed them some good protein by maggot and by carcass would be the squirrels we kill. Thanks for the idea. If you still have excess comfrey, I would be glad to pay you for some. I’m at lalalanna73 at hushmail dot com. Would love to grow the meal worms, too. Wanting to get started in aquaponics, that is something the fish would like, too. I’ll be on the look out for some duckweed. We have a small pond that would be excellent for that. I do grow extra pumpkins and other squashes for winter food for my peeps. Thanks to all of you for the great ideas.

  21. Thanks for this information, all! I am getting ducks soon for eggs and have been researching foods. We have a worm bin specifically for supplementing their diet and are counting on the vast amount of Miner’s Lettuce we have in our yard in the spring (California) for a supplement to start the heavier laying season. Is comfrey OK for ducks, too? I heard they also eat kale. So far the best laying mash I’ve heard of is Magill Ranch Cascade Feed which is soy and corn free, but I think it is a west coast product available only in a small area. And it isn’t cheap.

  22. The black soldier fly larvae are something that would be easy to do because they harvest themselves! The worms are also a great way to go, I was worried about the fact that red wigglers are a hybrid variety. It makes me wonder if that means that they are GMO. Anyway, be careful where you get your duckweed!!! It is a filter plant, so not only does it absorb good nutrients but it also absorbs any bad things in the water. Particularly in Michigan my concern is arsenic, apparently Michigan has a lot in our water.(I live southwest of Ann Arbor) As for feed, check out Scratch and Peck. They are certified by the Non-GMO project, they are soy and corn free. They aren’t organic but they only use local naturally grown grains. I am looking into the 3 grain scratch they make. The grains are whole so I would be able to sprout them or feed them dry. The only problem is that they are on the west cost, so they don’t have a distributer in Michigan or any other state near us. They have a bulk option but I don’t know how much shipping is. For one ton of the scratch it’s $826.50. It comes in 40 pound bags, and if you don’t include shipping it’s 16 a bag. So if half of your chickens diet is the bugs and duckweed you grow, then I think it’s affordable. You just have to be prepared to store that much feed. Hahaha! Anywho, does anyone know what’s involved with growing and harvesting your own grains? My email is tricia16221@aol.com

  23. Are you breeding black soldier flies? I’ve contemplated it, but never attempted it.
    I sure didn’t know that about duckweed! Thanks for sharing that.
    I buy whole grains from a local farm and feed whole, sprout or grow into fodder for the animals. Chickens seem to eat them all those ways. The superworms boost the protein.
    I hope someone will give us info on growing our own grains.

  24. There is a feed that has all those good things in it, but yes it’s a touch pricey depending on how many birds you have. If you have a small flock it’s not pricey. lol!

    It’s called H & H Old Fashioned Chicken Feed. l-o-v-e it.

  25. I found a couple of sources for feed:
    Modesto Milling in California, which has Organic Corn & Soy-Free Layer Pellets #5615. My ducks love these pellets.
    and McGeary Organics (Pennsylvania). I can get McGeary through a local distributor, and if you call McGeary they will tell you who carries their feed in your area.

  26. I would love some Comfry root! Jen AT fairyforge DOT com
    Thank you for the great info.
    We have gone paleo and are trying to get our chickens paleo as well.
    We give them flax seeds, coconut shavings and some grain. I look forward to learning more from your blog and hope to cut grains out all together.

  27. I have been looking also. I free range my chickens and dont supplement when their is enough forage, but been looking for an organic soy free feed for winter. I found some at countryside organics in waynesboro VA. Their layer is $30 for 50lb bag. Not sure how much shipping would be though I havnt ordered yet.

    • Thanks for sharing that resource, Danielle. It may help a lot of people, especially anyone within driving distance.