How to Avoid Chicken Feed Storage Mistakes

Avoiding Moldy Chicken Feed Problems

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Chicken feed storage is not something that many of us put much thought into. We’re usually more concerned about coop design, predator control, and keeping our birds healthy. As important as these things are, proper chicken feed storage is just as important, and it doesn’t take too much effort to do it right! Unfortunately, if stored incorrectly, your chicken feed can make your birds sick, make them stop laying, or in extreme instances, kill them. You may be feeding chickens table scraps and other treats, but it’s still imperative that you provide your hens and roosters with good, palatable, and well-balanced chicken feed.

Chicken Feed Storage

Livestock feed is a relatively stable product, but there are a few common reasons that feed is lost or spoiled. Rodents, insects, fungi, moisture, and rancidity are the most common reasons that feed is lost on the farm.

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Rodent Damage

Chicken feed storage isn’t just about finding a place to park your extra bag of feed. Mice and rats are good at finding your stores, and if your feed is hanging out in the bag you bought it in, then it’s likely that a rodent will chew your bag open. If you have a large rodent population, or if you give them enough time, mice or rats can easily relieve you of lots of feed, which is money down the drain. What’s more, mice and rats carry diseases your birds can catch. If rodents infect your feed supply, you can quickly make your birds ill. Additionally, giving rodents an easy and plentiful food supply makes your life harder when trying to rid your coop of disease-carrying vermin.

Insect Damage

Chickens love to eat bugs, but not all bugs are clean. Insects, just like rodents, can be carriers of disease. If those carriers live in your feed, then you could be feeding your birds diseased feed.

Moths, weevils, and beetles love to eat livestock feed. Just like rodents, if there are enough of them, they can make a serious dent in your feed stores. You want to feed your chickens, not the pests. These unwelcome guests thrive and reproduce the best between 75 and 100 degrees, so summertime is when you can expect to see issues with insects.

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Fungal Damage

Proper chicken feed storage is essential, especially if you want to prevent your feed from going moldy. Mold in the feed is not uncommon, and you may even find small chunks of moldy feed in a bagged feed from the feed mill itself. Moldy feed in the milling process is unavoidable since little nooks and crannies of the system collect bits of feed that spoil in the system. Eventually, those bits will detach and wind up in a batch of feed. Small chunks of spoiled feed are nothing to be concerned about, but when your entire feed store is infected with fungi, you have an issue. The fungus that grows in feed can create mycotoxins that can poison your birds and can give your feed an off flavor that your birds will not like. Fungal growth is most likely to occur when the humidity hits 65 percent or higher outside, and 77 degrees or higher.

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Feed mills are large, vast systems. Sometimes you’ll find chunks like this in your feed. These chunks are common and are simply remnants that were hidden in the system.

Humidity

The biggest challenge of chicken feed storage is moisture. Humidity can encourage the growth of fungi, break down pelleted feed into mush and outright spoil your feed. The most common reason that fed gets wet is rain or the natural condensation effect that occurs in storage containers. Many people use barrels or bins to keep their feed safe and dry, but as the heat rises and falls with every day, these barrels collect condensation on the inside walls. This process can be exaggerated if these bins are in direct sunlight.

If you live in a climate that has big swings in temperature, keep your bins out of the sun. If you can’t keep them out of the sun, consider insulating them with reflective insulation to reduce the heat and slow the change of temperature. Insulating bins will help reduce the accumulation of moisture because of inside temperature changes. Additionally, allowing your containers to vent, will let the moisture out. Make sure your ventilation doesn’t allow bugs, rodents or rain into your feed.

Rancid Feed

Mixed feeds don’t last forever. Just like food in your refrigerator can turn rancid, so can your feed. Fats used in the production of chicken feed will eventually oxidize, which turns the feed rancid.

A rancid feed will have an odor about it, and it’s not a pleasant odor. Feed that has turned rancid contains toxins that will stunt a bird’s growth, and the taste will be off-putting. This poor taste will lead to your birds to avoid eating it as well, and if you’re raising meat birds, that will mean you’ll see lower weight gains. Fungi and insect damage hasten this process, which is why proper chicken feed storage is critical.

How Long Does Feed Keep?

When grain is ground at the mill and your chicken feed is mixed together, it’s contaminated with fungi and insect larva. It’s unavoidable just like those errant chunks of moldy feed, just because the feed mill’s system is bound to have some contaminated feed somewhere in the vast production system. It’s an unfortunate, but unavoidable fact of livestock feed.

Most chicken feed is pelleted before it’s bagged, which does a lot of good for the shelf life of your chicken feed. When feed is pelleted, it’s pressed through a blazing hot pellet die. This cooking and the pressing action heats the feed and kills the lion’s share of contaminants in the ration. If properly kept, your pelleted feed should store for a minimum of three months, and if conditions are well-regulated, up to six months.

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Steel and plastic barrels are good options for feed storage, but be aware that non-food-grade steel barrels may react with your feed.

Does Feed Type Matter?

All feed should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place, but some feedstuffs are more prone to spoilage than others. Manufactured and pelleted feed that does not include extra fats, such as molasses, should all keep between the three to six-month window. Your feedstuffs will store longer if given the right environment but will spoil quickly if exposed to moisture, sun, and rodents.

Where to Keep Feed

Formulated feed likes to be parked in a cool, dry place. If you have the luxury of having a feed room to store your feed, lucky you. For those of us who don’t have that luxury, it’s wise to keep your feed in a container that stays out of direct sunlight and is watertight, but not necessarily airtight.

What About Containers?

Drums and trash cans are a popular place to keep feed, especially for chicken feed storage. Be aware that feed can react with metal containers. If using steel, or a galvanized trash can, keep bagged feeds in the bag instead of spilling them into the steel container. Food-safe steel barrels have a non-reactive liner in them, usually made of porcelain or food-safe paint. These liners will protect your feed from reacting with the steel. Plastic or “Polly” barrels are best for avoiding reactivity. However, they don’t resist light as well as metal, and they don’t resist chewing by rodents as well as steel.

Keeping Your Birds Happy

You’ve spent the time to learn how and what to feed chickens, now take it a step further and make sure your feed stays in top form. For those of us who have only a handful of chickens, buying and storing 50 pounds of feed at a time can be a challenge. The bottom line is; as long as you keep your feed safe, cool, and dry, you’ll have no issues with spoiled feed, and your chickens will have clean, fresh feed to support their egg laying!

Do you have a preferred type of container where you store your feed? How well does it work for you? Let us know in the comments below!

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Comments
  • I keep my food in galvanized trash cans with trash bag in can. Works great. Have been thu 2 summers and one winter. ☺❤

    Reply
  • I have a small flock of 11 hens. We keep their food in the pet food containers with the screw top lid. These bins are stored in our temperature controlled garage. I keep a small, two pound bucket in the coop filled with pellets. Since we live in the South where temperatures and humidity can soar during the summer, I keep like keeping a small amount on hand and replenish it as needed. Thanks for your informative article.

    Reply
  • I use a chest type freezer is this safe for my chicken feed

    Reply
  • We live in the Sandhills of NC and experience A LOT of hot, humid weather. We only have 3 chickens, so I usually only buy their food in 25# increments. The problem we’re now having is that roaches and water bugs are becoming an issue, both inside our home and out in the chickens’ yard and coop. Currently, our chickens’ food and our dogs’ food is kept inside our house in closed containers (flip-top containers with a rubber seal). We didn’t have the bug problem until we adopted our chickens but we’ve made a commitment to the chickens just like we did when we adopted our dogs, so our silly birds are staying. I welcome any helpful suggestions. Thanks, y’all!

    Reply
    • Steph M.

      The author says: I hit Craigslist.org and look for food-grade barrels. I also pick them up at food processor plants, usually for free.

      Reply
  • I use galvanized trash cans and leave the feed in the bag. The cans live in back of my coop under the roof overhang, and are on the north side so not in the sun. I have had a raccoon figure out how to open one of the cans and get into the feed, but putting a large stone on top took care of that 🙂

    Reply

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