If you’ve got a flock of chickens, then you probably have a 50lb bag of feed sitting around somewhere. It may be partially empty, depending on how much your birds eat, but it’s still bulky even when there is only a couple of scoops left.
The proper way to store chicken feed is in a rodent proof container that is located in a cool, dark and dry place. Additionally, it would be helpful to store it close to where your birds eat as the more you traverse back and forth with the feeder, the more you inadvertently feed the wildlife as the pellets spill out onto the ground.
It’s also worth noting that mice don’t have very big stomachs. And it only takes a couple of feed pellets to make a rodents whole day. This is not desirable for you or your flock. So it’s good to take as many precautions as you can.
Chicken Feed Storage Bins
So now that we know that we have to keep the critters out of our chicken feed, which container really is the best?
While there is a host of custom chicken feed storage bins on the market, I have found that a plain old-fashioned garbage can provides me exactly what I need for the most economical price. A 32 gallon can is just big enough to hold two 50lb bags of feed. This works well for us as we tend to go through feed pretty quickly.
FYI, there are two choices when it comes to garbage cans; metal and plastic. And while both of them tend to do a pretty good job of preventing rodents from accessing the feed, they do have affects on the chicken feed itself.
- Metal – If you have rats in your area that can chew through galvanized steel, then I really wouldn’t suggest you raise chickens there! Galvanized steel is tough and quite frankly, is the most reliable deterrent you can buy. But there are a few notable characteristics regarding metal storage bins that you should be aware of.
Metal will collect condensation and this is bad for chicken feed as it will promote mold and dramatically shorten the shelf life of your feed.
Also, a shiny metal garbage can will get quite hot if in direct sun. This will also directly affect the shelf life of your feed.
- Plastic – I have used a plastic garbage can for years and have been very happy with it so far. The price was less than 10 dollars and it slides around the concrete floor without too much difficulty.
However, it’s worth noting that a very hungry rat could potentially chew through the plastic. It would not be easy for them, but not impossible like galvanized steel. This would be less than ideal as once a rodent knows how to get food, then they will keep coming back.
For this reason, we are very tidy when filling the feeders. Any feed pellets that spill onto the ground are immediately swept up and thrown away.
Also, for those who are concerned with appearance, the colored plastic can doesn’t look too out of place sitting in the garage. And for some, this is greatly preferred over the glaringly obvious presence of a shiny metal garbage can that screeches like a banshee when you try to slide/move it!
How Long Can You Store Chicken Feed?
With regards to the shelf life of any feed product, it’s always best to consult the manufacturer. That being said, here are some observations that we have made with our feed (your results may be different).
When stored properly, an opened bag of chicken feed should still be good even after two months.
If this sounds a little off to you, then consider this.
We generally get at least one batch of chicks every year and with the new little fuzzballs, we’ll get a 50lb bag of Chick Starter feed.
Baby chicks don’t eat a whole lot, so when you look at that enormous 50lb bag of feed, it’s not unrealistic to wonder if the feed will still be good by the time the chicks actually get through it all. However, it’s been our experience that even at the eight week mark, the chicks are still happily gobbling down the two month old feed.
### Important Note ###
If you are having reservations regarding the quality of your feed after two months, then… I recommend you get rid of it.
I’m currently paying about $15 a bag for layer feed. This is relatively inexpensive when it comes to feeding an animal. So for me, personally, I’m not going to worry about the last few scoops of feed if the whole thing only cost me $15. Throwing away, even a quarter of a bag, is completely worth it if it gives me peace of mind.
Does Chicken Food Expire?
If I’m being honest, I have never once looked for an expiration date when purchasing a bag of chicken feed. This is for a few reasons. First, the feed moves pretty quickly through the store where I buy it, so I’m not worried about it setting on the floor for too long.
Second, my flocks are usually free-range, meaning diet is supplemented with whatever they find in the outdoors. This is important as it provides me a kind of buffer against any feed that might be less than satisfactory.
Thirdly, when you grab a handful of chicken feed and really look at it, you will see a compressed and dried material. And for those of us who are familiar with dried goods, we know that the shelf life for these types of thins tends to be pretty long.
It’s worth noting that a good portion of the ingredients in chicken feed are agricultural products such as soy, corn or wheat. These kinds of plants are usually harvested once a year and have a very long shelf life of their own.
### Important Note ###
Again, it’s worth stating that a manufacturer’s advice regarding the shelf life of their product she be the bench mark for your decision. Always consult the manufacturer first. Should you still have any reservations after that, simply replace the ‘questionable feed’ with a fresh supply.
Can Chicken Feed Go Bad?
Now that we’ve established that chicken feed can have a long shelf life, we should remember one important thing. All food has an expiration date.
Chicken feed is made from organic material and as such, will eventually deteriorate to the point of being bad for consumption.
And there are three easy ways to know if your feed has gone bad. The first, and probably the most obvious, is the chickens will stop eating it.
I’ve seen chickens gulp down the most unappealing things imaginable with seemingly no effect. If they have stopped eating the feed that you are providing, then that’s worth noting!
The second easy indicator of bad feed is how it smells. Dry chicken feed doesn’t really have that much of a smell to it. So if you notice a pungent odor, then I would immediately suspect the feed.
And finally, if you see mold on the feed, discard it immediately. Chickens have remarkably tough constitutions but feeding them moldy chicken feed is just not a good idea. It’s not guaranteed to make them sick, but it’s not guaranteed to be good for them either.
What If Chicken Feed Gets Wet?
To understand the dynamics of chicken feed, consider something else that is made of soy, corn or wheat – breakfast cereal. When stored properly, breakfast cereal can last a really long time. However, once you pour the milk on it, you have a very limited amount of time before it becomes an indiscernible bowl of mush.
For long term applications, moisture is the worst thing for chicken feed as the ingredients of the feed consist of organic materials that break down quickly in wet/humid conditions.
This is another reason why I use a plastic storage container instead of a metal one. Plastic is much more immune to the temperature swings that produce condensation. And as someone who appreciates the responsibility of raising animals, I want my flock to have healthy nutritious feed – not moldy and potentially harmful feed.
Can Chickens Eat Wet Feed?
Using the analogy of breakfast cereal, it’s easy to wonder whether or not chickens can eat wet feed. For most of us, cereal in milk is preferred over eating it dry (rice crispy treats not withstanding!).
Provided certain conditions are met, there is no harm in feeding a chicken wet feed. In fact, some flock owners will give their birds a homemade concoction of ‘hot mash’ as a type of treat. Remember, chickens don’t have teeth so giving them something tasty and malleable isn’t a bad thing.
However, if you are going to feed your chicken wet feed, then make sure it is fresh! Mold can set in very quickly and you don’t want your ‘treat’ to end up giving your birds a sick stomach. I would highly recommend you throw away anything that isn’t immediately consumed.
How Long Does Chicken Feed Keep?
It’s generally a good idea not to purchase chicken feed too far in advance. There’s no harm in planning a month or so ahead, but I certainly wouldn’t buy a year’s worth of feed, just because it was on sale.
If stored in optimum conditions, an unopened bag of chicken feed can keep up to six months.
Remember, a large portion of the ingredients in chicken feed is agricultural and is only harvested once a year. Consequently, some of the ingredients might be older than you think. That being said, it is still dried food and should have a fairly long shelf life.
### Important Note ###
It’s worth noting that chicken feed really should be given to just chickens. So if you find yourself in position where you have leftover feed and no chickens to feed it to, then you should probably dispose of the feed.
Mice and other rodents will be more than happy to feast on any leftovers. And since I find it undesirable to have them around, I’m certainly not going to feed them!
*** Disclaimer – This article was written from my personal experience. Any claims/recommendations from a feed manufacturer should be held in the highest regard.