Homemade feeds can work and at one point in my life worked well. Between my first and second years of college my parents moved to the warmest part of Idaho the Lewis-Clark Valley just south of the Palouse where peas, lentils, barley and spring wheat are farmed in large areas. I could get a feed called screenings that was a mixture of the above made when bins were cleaned and it was coarsely ground. The poultry loved it and did very well including hatching very well. All I ever added was an occasional bag of cracked corn and they had some outside runways for forage as well as left over garden produce. All in all they thrived.
The nutritional make up of this mix must have been fantastic. Another advantage here is winters are short and warmer and the birds had outside access nearly 12 months a year and green grass from late February to late November. If someone has access to a good supply of mixed grains and legumes like that I would highly recommend it.
Moving to Iowa the land of corn and soybeans brought a whole new development to the feeding of poultry. Here corn is king and in everything. Not a bad thing just a different system to work with. Corn at times is cheap but by no means can be used as the only source feed. One of my first few years here a neighbor bought a large number of ducklings from me to raise for the fall butchering season and “Feather Parties”. These are slowly disappearing but were very popular when I first moved to Iowa in the 1980’s. People took home butchered ducks and geese for prizes at these events. This man figured ducks were simple to raise and would make a decent profit on some ducklings raised on his surplus corn. As the ducks approached 4-5 weeks of age he contacted me as to issues. He thought it was his children stepping on them as they would not walk much anymore and just sat on the ground. I went to visit and discovered they were in a small enclosure and had only ground corn for feed, no access to grass or bugs etc. They were not getting the necessary nutrition and developed serious bone development issues. Had the ducks been on grass and free ranged they would have done fine. My ducklings get 18% starter feed for 3 weeks and then it gets cut back as they go out on a forage area and then from late August on they get fed a mixture of 50% maintenance feed which is 13% protein and 50 % cracked corn and they are on pasture in the orchard eating fallen fruit, bugs an grass. They fatten up and develop nicely. The corn alone would be a determent and the ducks would not do well. Using home made feeds can work very well for many people and when flock sizes are small it is easy to manage and locate nutrients. When flock sizes get large it is more of a challenge and for select areas of the country locating certain items is a challenge. A few years back I wanted to experiment with using wheat as a feed source again on a small group of chickens that lay dark brown eggs. I had a theory I wanted to check out that the chemical make up of the feed might haven impact on egg color. I had plenty of experience with corn and soy based feeds but had not tried wheat based diet on this type of bird. Locating wheat in Iowa for feed is challenging and was rather pricey. The reverse was true when I lived in Idaho and wanted to use corn for feed. The average back yard poultry person who wants to make their own rations may have to find what they can locally and experiment and adjust.
When using a prepared feed there are 2 distinct types for adult birds: laying feeds and breeding feeds. Laying feeds are developed to provide the nutrition to lead to the production of maximum egg production. Breeder feeds while developed for egg production as well have additional nutrition to lead to healthier embryos and more regulated calcium levels for proper egg shell development. Methionine is a key ingredient in the breeder feeds. I have provided more detailed recipes and ideas of feed items in my book Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry fourth edition. We also offer several combination packages for seeds to grow for small flock owners to basically raise the majority of their poultry feed. A person with a half dozen birds can easily raise most of the poultry feed they need to find a prope
r nutritional balance.