When it comes to raising chickens, one of the most confusing things is what to feed them. There are many feeds available on the market. Chickens of different ages will require different nutrients in their diet.
In this article, we’ll go through in detail what to feed your chicken by their age. This way, you’ll know exactly what to feed them to keep them strong and healthy.
What To Feed Baby Chickens
From the day the chicks hatch to 8 weeks old, baby chicks should be on starter feeds. These feeds will mostly consist of high protein content, which is about 18-20%. They need a lot of protein for their rapid growth.
Besides protein, the starter feeds are high in vitamins and minerals to keep the chicks from getting sick.
The last thing about starter feeds is that it’s finely ground to make it easier for them to digest it.
Starter feeds consist of every that the chicks need to grow strong and healthy. The only thing that it doesn’t have is calcium. While calcium is fine for adult chickens, for baby chicks, it can be deadly for them.
Baby chickens that ingest calcium will have health issues such as kidney disease and digestive problems.
However, this is only if the chicks ingest too much of the mineral. In a small amount, it will do no harm to the chicks.
As a matter of fact, some manufacturers will add a small amount of calcium to their stater feeds to help support bone health. Usually, the amount is under 1.25%.
In addition, starter feeds come in two varieties, which are medicated feed and non-medicated feed.
Unvaccinated chicks should be fed medicated feed to prevent coccidiosis infection. If the chicks are vaccinated, don’t give them medicated feed. Doing so will inactivate the vaccine, which will leave the chicks prone to infection.
If you’ve bought chicks from a hatchery, it’s a good idea to ask them if the chicks are vaccinated against coccidiosis specifically. Sometimes, the chicks could be vaccinated for something else.
What To Feed Pullets
Pullets are chickens that are 8 to 20 weeks old. These hens are still in the growth period and are not yet ready to lay eggs.
For pullets, they will need to be fed grower feed. The feeds are formulated to support their bodies and get them ready to lay eggs.
Grower feeds are not much different from starter feeds. It has protein, vitamins, and minerals content as well.
The only difference between starter feed and grower feed is the protein content. Grower feed will only have 18% protein content.
Some owners will feed their pullet starter feeds until they start laying eggs. While it’s fine, the only problem with that is the texture of the feed. Since starter feeds are grounded finely, it will make it difficult for the pullets to eat them.
What To Feed Laying Chickens
To successfully lay eggs, the nutrition that they will require will be different from those of grower feed and starter feed. The biggest difference will be grower feed and laying feed is the calcium and protein content. The calcium will be more, but the protein will be less to around 16%.
Another option to feed laying chickens is laying mash. Mash contains a lot of calcium, protein, and other nutrients to make the eggs more flavorful. Unlike scratch, mash has a mixture of grains and foods that are healthy for the hens.
Eggshell consists mainly of calcium. For that reason, you should add more calcium to their diet. While the laying feeds have calcium content, you can give them more calcium for stronger eggs.
The average hens require about 4 grams of calcium per day, but some will need even more.
So, in addition to layer feed, you can start giving them calcium supplements. You can give them crushed oyster shells or buy oyster shell supplements.
Hens are smart animals and will know when their body requires extra calcium or not. Therefore, keep the crushed oyster shells in a separate container for them. Whenever they need more calcium in their body, it will be readily available to them.
What To Feed Roosters
When it comes to roosters, they need plenty of protein to keep them healthy and strong. Unfortunately, feeds specifically made for roosters don’t exist.
While there’s no feed for them, you can feed the rooster grower feed or all-purpose poultry.
However, most people will rarely raise a lot of roosters.
What To Feed Broiler Chickens
Broiler chickens are raised for meat, and they will require different nutrition than other types of chickens. These chickens grow very fast and not plenty of nutrition, especially protein, to keep up with their growth.
From the time they hatch until they are 8 weeks old, you should feed them broiler starter feed. These feeds have been formulated specifically for broilers and only for them.
The feed has the highest concentration of protein than any other feed, which is 21-22% protein. This is needed to increase the growth and development of the chicken as quickly as possible.
Most broilers will be butchered by the time they are 8 weeks old. For others, they may need more time to grow. If that’s the case, you can feed your broiler finish feed. This feed has about 20-21% protein in it.
Usually, at about 11 weeks, the broilers will get butchered, so you won’t need any other feed after this.
What To Feed a Mixed Flock
Most people will have a mixed flock of chickens. This means you are raising roosters and hens altogether.
When it comes to these two chickens, they have different nutrition requirements. Hens can eat feeds that have a lot of protein. Roosters, on the other hand, will develop kidney disease with too much protein.
To keep all of them safe and healthy, it’s best to feed them grower feed. Also, provide plenty of oyster shells, but keep them in a separate container.
When it comes to brooder hen and her chicks, they should be fed starter feed. Chicks can eat other feeds due to the high calcium level in them. Too much calcium in their system will cause kidney failure.
After 3 weeks, the chick’s digestive system is more developed, and they can start eating other foods. You can start feeding them oyster shells. This will help both the chicks and hen. The hen will need plenty of calcium to get her ready to lay eggs again.
What To Feed Molting Chickens
When chickens reach adulthood, they will go through a molting period. This happens during the fall every year. They will lose all of their old feathers to be replaced with fluffy new ones. These new feathers are thicker to help keep them warm during the winter months.
Chickens also go through their first molt at around 16-18 months old. This is to grow mature feathers.
All of this losing and regrowing of the feathers will require a lot of protein. Their feathers are mostly made of protein which is why they require protein when molting.
If the chickens don’t have enough protein in their diet when they are molting, the feathers will take longer to grow back. When do they finally grow back, it will be dull and limp.
Therefore, the best feed to feed the chickens when they are molting is grower feed.
Also, if the hens are laying eggs, you will want to add oyster shells to their diet too. The extra calcium will help with egg production.
What To Feed Hens That Don’t Lay Eggs?
Once the hens are about five years old, they will slow down their egg production. Some will stop laying altogether.
At this point in their life, you can feed the hens all-purpose poultry or grower feed. It doesn’t have a lot of calcium in it, which the hens don’t need a lot of.
When Should You Start Feeding Them Grits?
Chickens don’t have to chew and grind their food in their mouth. Instead, they have a gizzard that will do that. In order for the gizzard to grind the food down, they will need grits.
Grits are simply small pieces of rocks and sand. They will swallow it and keep it in the gizzard to crush food.
The grits will stay in their gizzard until they become small enough to pass through their digestive system. Chicken knows how much grit they need and will only eat it when they need it.
Chickens of all ages will need grit. It starts when they are about 3 weeks old. Once the chicks start to eat other food than starter feed, they will need to eat grit.
Chickens that are allowed to roam freely outside will find grits on their own. Most chickens will stay close to areas that have plenty of rocks and sands.
On the other hand, chickens that live in the brooder will need grit provided to them. These can easily be purchased at the pet store or online.
What feed to give them chickens doesn’t have to be complicated. Chickens at a different age will require a different amount of nutrition. Manufacturers have formulated each feeds for each age group to ensure that they will grow strong and healthy.