You finally made the choice to buy chicks! A home, feeder, and waterer are set up for them, but how do you decide what kind of chicken feed to use? There are so many different kinds! I’m going to tell you about the different kinds of feeds and the pros and cons of each to help you narrow your search down!
Mostly it comes down to what you think is best for you and your chickens. There is medicated feed and non-medicated feed. I know individuals who will not feed their chickens medicated feed and others who only feed their chickens medicated feed. It is 100% up to your preferences.
Medicated vs non-Medicated
Medicated feed is just what is sounds like. It has the medication amprolium in it to help prevent certain illnesses in chickens. Amprolium is not a treatment for illness, but it will help build up their immune system to fight illnesses away. There is always a risk for illnesses when you use non-medicated feed. There is also the option of getting your chickens vaccinated to pump up their immune systems instead of using the medicated food.
If you want to go the natural way of feeding the chickens, there is the option of putting a pumpkin in their coop. Pumpkin has natural antibiotics that are helpful for chickens’ immune system.
Once you have made your decision to go medicated or non-medicated, you will need to know about how old your chickens are and select a food that is best for their age category. Here are some images to help you know what to give your chickens at what age.
Life stages of Feed:
Make sure to give your chickens the correct food for the age group so they develop how they should.
Starter Chick Feed (Protein content of 20-24%)
Starter feed is for baby chicks. It gives them a protein dense diet that they need. Baby chicks only need starter feed and water at the beginning of their life. They do not have a need for grit quite yet. (If you do not know what grit is, you’ll learn down below). Chicks should eat starter food until they are about 6 weeks old and then you can move them on to the next stage of food. If you take them off the starter feed too early, they will not get the high protein diet they need to grow into functioning, playful adults. If you leave them on the starter food too long, you can cause liver damage in the chicks from the amount of protein in their food.
Grower/Finisher Chicken Feed (Protein content of 16-18%)
You can think of your 6-week-old chicken as a teenager now. Their diet is very different from those of your baby chicks. You give the grower feed to your chickens between the ages of 6 weeks and 20 weeks. The grower feed not only has less protein, but it has less calcium than normal layer feed that they need later in development. You do not want to overwhelm the chicken’s system with unnecessary vitamins and minerals that they don’t need until they start laying eggs.
Layer Chicken Feed (Protein content of 16-18 %, with extra calcium)
All chickens lay eggs at different times, making it hard to know when you should start the next phase in the feed. A good general rule of thumb would be to start the layer feed as soon as you can see that they are laying eggs. They will generally start laying about week 18-24. This is the food they can continue to eat for most of their life going forward. Layer feed has the perfect balance of protein, calcium, and other minerals and vitamins that the chickens need to perfect their laying talents. Layer feed is like grower feed but has more calcium. The extra calcium helps make sure that their eggshells are crisp, clean and crunchy. Make sure to not feed layering feed to your chickens that are not laying eggs yet (babies or young chicks), they won’t get the necessary diet they need to grow into beautiful layer chickens.
Types of Feed:
There isn’t much difference in nutrition between mash, crumble or pellets. You can get each type for the different stages of life. The way to decide on what type of feed to give then, depends on what you like and what your chickens will eat.
Mash is best described as loose and unprocessed chicken feed. It is like the texture of sand. It's smaller and finer than any of the other feeds. Mash is mostly used for baby chicks since it is easy for them to digest. Some chicken owners choose to feed it to their mature flocks too. You can give it to them as is, or you can mix it with hot water to create a sort of porridge or oatmeal. If you choose to give it to them as is, you may find that you go through it quicker.
Because it's so fine, it blends in with the dirt on the ground and gets lost, resulting in more waste since the chickens cannot pick it off the ground to eat. If you decide to create a porridge/oatmeal just keep in mind that it can cause the feed to go bad faster. Make sure to give the mixed porridge to the chickens immediately, and don’t mix too much of it ahead of time.
Crumble is more granular/grainy than mash. Some choose crumble because it is in-between mash and pellet. It’s a happy medium of the two textures. Some say their chickens prefer it. It is not as hard for the chickens to digest as pellets since it is smaller.
Pellets are the most common variety of chicken feed out there. They are exactly as described. They are compact cylinders of chicken feed. Some individuals choose pellets in case their chickens knock over their feeder, they do not lose as much food on the ground as you will with mash or crumble.
What Is Grit
Grit is not a form of chicken feed. However, it is needed to help the chickens digest their food. Chickens do not have teeth to help them break up their food, so giving them grit along with their food helps them break up their food and helps to digest their food easier. It works like this, they eat the grit which goes down to their crop and then down to their gizzard, which is basically just a strong muscle. The gizzard then uses the grit to help grind up the food, so it is easier for them to digest.
Types Of Grit
There are different kinds of grit that you can buy depending on your chicken's needs. You want to make sure you buy grit for their age range as you do not want grit that is too small for your chicken (it will pass straight through and not help grind up food) or grit that is too big and cannot pass through at all.
One type of grit is Flint Grit or Insoluble Grit. It is basically small rocks that they use to grind up their food. You can give your chickens Flint grit and shells separately, or mix them together. Some will even mix it in with their food.
Another type is Oyster Shell, it is simply pieces of oyster eggshells. Shell grit is good for them because it helps make their eggs shells stronger and sturdier. Some individuals will just use the ground up shells of their own chicken’s eggs and use that instead of buying Oyster Shell Grit. That way they get their grit at the same time as they eat their food. Chickens are smart. They can regulate on their own how much calcium they need. They will only eat as much shell grit as they need. So do not worry if they eat more or less than other chickens.
Chicken scratch is not a feed. It's more of an extra treat for your chickens. Most chicken scratch includes cracked corn and grains. It's not very good for them in the sense that it will make them fat, but it helps to keep them warm in the winter and to keep them happy and raise their energy levels. Only give it to them in moderation.
Fermenting your feed is a way to improve the vitamin and enzyme intake of your chickens. It also makes it easier for them to digest their food in addition to making the toxins neutral. Fermenting their food also helps your chickens feel fuller longer which means they will not eat as much.
Varieties of Broiler Feeds
Broiler feeds are for individuals raising chickens to eat. They come in starter, grower, and finisher varieties. It helps them grow faster and bigger. Make sure to not feed your layer hens broiler feed.
Again, everything is based on what is best for you and your chickens. It is all up to you. Hope you have success with raising chickens!