The goats get hay all winter and any appropriate fruit and veggie trim from our kitchen. In season, when they look sadly at their empty hay racks and hay bags, I simply point to the pasture, hand on hip, and tell them to "Get out there and free-range because it is FREE!"
But chickens and ducks need grain and dairy goats in milk need something extra, too, so I supplement with a small amount of sprouted grains. Sprouting increases the bio-availability of many of the nutrients in the grains, including the proteins. It also neutralizes the phytates, sprouting inhibitors present in all grains and seeds which also interfere with nutrient absorption, especially minerals. Phytates can also be very irritating to the digestive tract. Soaking and sprouting neutralizes these natural yet harmful substances.
The goats love their grain this way. The chickens and ducks have a definite preference for it as well. I started doing this when I had a senior horse who struggled to keep weight on. She'd be very thin by the end of winter. After reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morrell and studying Harvey Ussery's methods, I decided to start soaking the cup of grain this mare got once a day. Over that winter, she not only maintained her weight, she actually gained some much needed pounds. I attribute this not only to the sprouting of the grains, but to the probiotic rich meal (snack, really....my little does get about 6-8 times the volume of grain that the horse was getting daily) she got every day that helped her digestion work more efficiently all around.
To feed my chickens, I scatter some of this grain for them in the morning, continuing to throw handfuls until they start to lose interest and wander away. The amount varies day to day with this method, and I've cut my feed bill dramatically by doing this. Leaving grain in free-choice feeders simply feeds the rodents and squirrels in the neighborhood. Not my job nor my desire. Let them eat acorns.
In the evening, I scatter whole corn in the same way, a handful at a time, until they slow down.
I don't need to worry about balancing their ration because they have a two acre fenced pasture to roam in and catch bugs and eat greens. In the pasture season, I stop tossing soaked grains, reserving those for the goats only, and just scatter corn for the hens. Typically, I'll give them about 2-3 pounds per day for about 50 birds. Right now I have about 15 laying hens, a rooster, and 35 or so half grown pullets and cockerels. That is a pretty easy feed bill, for sure.
In winter, I find some sources of protein and fat for them to supplement the grains, but not daily. I save all bones and scraps that are left from making broth and mash it well, and also get some salmon from a nearby restaurant along with prep scraps and leftovers from the salad bar. The hens will also eat hay that the goats drop when the snow completely covers the pasture grasses.
Production egg layers would not likely do well on this type of diet, but my heritage breed birds do quite well and produce many fine eggs for our table....and roosters for our freezer.
A word of caution: If you have a confined flock, you do need to balance their feed with more care than I've outlined here. Variety is the key...you still needn't be tied to manufactured feeds. Be creative and see what you can get locally....there was a time when people kept a few chickens and fed them only what they could forage for themselves and a few table scraps to get them through the winter. This produced hardy, thrifty birds, only the strong surviving to reproduce. There is a lot to be said in praise of that philosophy.
Meanwhile, consider offering your flock at least some of their grains sprouted, and see them thrive on a more natural diet. Be aware, however, that they will need grit (small stones) if they've been fed only pellets or mash, and you'll want to take about three weeks to switch them over to a whole grain regimen. Their gizzards are muscular organs that need to be strengthened gradually to handle the whole grains.