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When you have a number of animals on your homestead farm, you have to figure out how to store animal feed. If you have enough animals, I suppose you could have a silo.
You could call the feed mill and get them to deliver your feed mix and dump it right into the silo. Silos are expensive though.
Maybe you don’t have enough animals to make getting a silo worth while. Or maybe, like me, you are a cheap Dutch girl. Here’s what we do.
Use a freezer to store animal feed
We go to the local shopping mall (also known as the local DUMP) and shop for freezers. When people get a new deep freeze, what do they do with the old one?
In our area they bring them to the dump and then we get feed storage freezers for free. We don’t care if the freezer works or not. We won’t be plugging it in – it will sit down at our barn in the breezeway area.
We buy our bags of feed at the local feed store (because even though we would love to provide 100% of the feed for our animals off of our own land….well, we can’t.)
It’s far too cold for gardening in winter here.
Information on animal feed storage guidelines
You should have a designated building or space that can be locked for animal feed storage. This area should protect your feed from rain and other inclement weather patterns with a secure roof.
Create ventilation areas that are low on the ground so the wind and rain can’t get at the feed containers. This ventilation can even be tiny holes in the bottom of your storage building.
Don’t forget to place a mesh or similar protective material over the ventilation holes to prevent field mice and other small creatures from getting into your animal feed storage shed. The material used should be breathable so the ventilation works properly.
Keep the area clean where you plan on storing your animal feed. This will help ensure the safety of your food so that mold or mildew doesn’t grow within the storage shed. Plus it will keep down the risk of pests getting inside to steal animal feed.
Always use any broken containers of animal feed first so the food is fresh and you’re not wasting money and feed from an accidentally broken bag or container.
Lastly, make sure your newer animal feed deliveries are placed behind your current feed. Consider making small stacks of sacks of animal feed within your food storage space to deter insects from getting into your food supply.
Shelf life of purchased animal feed
The shelf life of purchased animal feed will vary from region to region. The general rule of thumb for the shelf life of purchased animal feed is:
- 1-3 months for ground ingredients
- 3-6 months for whole grain and oilcakes
- 1-2 months for compounded dry feeds
- 6 months for vitamin mixes when kept in a cool storage area
- 2-3 hours for wet ingredients
- 2-3 months for frozen materials
Moisture levels necessary for safely storing animal feed
You’d ideally like to keep the humidity at 10-12% inside your animal feed storage space. I know this is difficult in extremely humid regions, so if your humidity level is around 75%, just note that the shelf life of animal feed may be lower.
Fungi can grow in areas that have a moisture content of 15% or higher. Do your best to keep the moisture level of your animal feed storage space lower than that. This will be ideal for a maximum shelf life time.
Storing Chicken Feed Outside
After going to the local feed store, we bring the bags of feed home and put it into the freezers. Here’s the mix that we feed to our laying hens.
It’s 16% lay pellets, wheat and cracked corn. We try to buy 10 bags at a time, as we get a discount for 10 bags or more.
Here’s one of our deep freezers. Since it has a “shelf” on one side, I can store my empty egg cartons in there. This makes it easy to gather eggs every day.
In Winter, I usually come to the barn with a jug of water in one hand and kitchen leftovers in the other. I have no extra hands to carry an egg carton down with me.
Into this deep freeze, I will empty one bag of lay pellets. Then I will add one bag of wheat and give it a good mix with my hands. Then I add one bag of the corn and mix it all together again.
We keep oyster shell separately for the chickens. Often we just feed eggshells back to them, which works very well but you have to make sure the shells are crushed very fine.
Storing Pig Feed Outside
In the other deep freezers, we keep extra unopened bags of feed. Once late Spring hits and we get our weaner pigs, their feed goes into the big freezer and the hens feed goes in one of the smaller freezers.
We do it that way so we can order in lots of bags of chicken food to have on hand before we have too much snow. It gets more difficult moving feed to the barn when there is several feet of snow.
We have a third freezer down there. While we are raising meat birds, this freezer will hold their feed.
Meat birds are fed a different ration of feed than laying hens. Meat birds get 20% protein feed in order to get them growing quickly.
These are all clean when we put them in the freezer for storage.
Once the meat birds are butchered, we wash and bleach out all the containers and then rinse them very well. I like to leave them out in the sun to air dry.
Other Ideas For Storing Animal Feed
If finding and claiming old freezers from the local dump isn’t an option for you, there are a number of other ways you can store your animal feed, depending on the climate where you live and the predators from whom you are protecting the food.
Basically, you need a place that will protect your feed from the sunlight, is either airtight or properly ventilated (to keep it from growing mold, etc.). It should also be easily accessible, neat and well-organized.
Some great livestock feed storage options are:
Ideally, you want large trash cans (at least large enough to hold the feed you want to store in them) with well-fitting lids. Metal cans are a great option since they are less likely to be chewed through by mice and other animals.
But sturdy plastic trash cans are reasonably chew-resistant and their lids often fit more snuggly.
Bungee cords are always a good idea! Use these to make your feed containers even more secure.
Other Roomy Boxes
There are many other types of boxes and containers that can pull double-duty as livestock food storage containers, depending on your needs.
Some examples are old toolboxes or tackle boxes, large restaurant bread boxes, large cargo boxes, and even old sewing boxes if they are large enough.
Basically, any box that has enough room and a lid of some sort will work. If it isn’t very sturdy, you’ll want to keep it in a more protected environment, like a garage, shed, or larger storage bin.
Make Your Own Storage Bins
Making your own storage bin gives you the opportunity to design it to perfectly fit your needs. You can create the outside walls of your bin out of anything from wooden boards to concrete blocks.
Cover it with a hinged, locking lid that you build, or simply a large piece of tarp. You can even leave it uncovered if it is under some form of shelter from the weather (like a back porch).
Inside the House or Garage
One option that works particularly well is to simply keep your animal feed inside your house or garage. If your storage options are quite limited, this may be the best solution.
One positive: Since it is inside your home, you won’t have to worry as much about keeping pests and predators out of it.
One negative: Since it is inside your home, if pests or predators DO find your food source, they will now be inside of your home.
But you will still be more likely dealing with annoyances like ants or mice, rather than larger and potentially dangerous animals.
And ideally, if you keep your animal feed inside another container with a lid, it should greatly reduce the chances of other creatures finding it in the first place.
And last, but not least – there is that big old silo we discussed earlier. If you have the need to store several tons of grain or wheat and have the money to spend, a silo is a great luxury. And it looks cool, too!
Find out here – How to Grow Your Own Animal Feed (this is how we feed our animals for free during summer and fall)
Grow Fodder for your Livestock – feed them all winter!
Want to make your own Natural Herbal Dewormer – here’s how.
Several different ideas for how to store animal feed in your barn or garage!
Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
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Originally published 2011; updated April 2021