What to feed Chickens at different ages?

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Most of us are confused about what to feed chickens at different ages. To ensure our chicken flock is given the right diet at the right age is crucial.

The young chicks don’t require adequate calcium but do require a lot of proteins. Whereas the layers require a lot of calcium for egg production but fewer proteins. The amount and type of food vary depending on their age and location.

Chickens at various growth stages require different feed formulations. We should not mess it up with the feed formulation, it will have an adverse effect on their growth, health and even laying capabilities. Most of the well know commercially available feed do prepare the feed to satisfy the chicken nutritional needs as per the age requirements. Some times it’s not even advisable to provide snacks for the chicks (below 18 weeks), as it disturbs the feed formulation.

If you are just starting out with a small chicken flock always go with the commercially available feed. The right kind of feed and its nutritional proportions will be listed on the backs of the bags. Unless you are experienced do not ever mix the rations, it may affect the egg production is layers and growth in young chickens. It may seem ok now, but they may have a negative impact in the long term.

According to Guide to Raising Chickens, the ration formulation requires :

  • accessibility of appropriate feedstuffs
  • investigation pf feedstuff composition
  • knowing the nutritional needs of chickens according to their age
  • skill to mix the feed so that they are consumed with four weeks

Feeding options for chickens at different age

Baby chicks Day 1 to 10 weeks – Starter Feed

Baby chicks require a lot of protein requirements. The Starter feed or starter crumbles contain from 10 to 20 % of protein. The chicks consume a lot of protein as they grow fast in these 10 weeks.

As you purchase chicks make sure to know what all medications are given. The list of Vaccination to be known well in advance. As the Starter feed comes in both medicated and unmedicated varieties.

Usually, chicks will be vaccinated for coccidiosis, an intestinal disease that is deadly will spread in fecal matter. These chicks should be not be given medicated starter feed, as this will null the vaccination and against the chicks can be prone to the disease. The medicated starter feed contains the amprolium, that can prevent cocci.

If one chicken is diagnosed with cocci, the entire flock must be treated. So better care needs to be taken in advance. Avoid wetness, overcrowding the flock and clean the pen regularly. The free-range pet chicken develops natural immunity against cocci, but the commercial poultry where there is overcrowding needs to be vaccinated or given medicate starter feed. Advisable to keep chicks in clean, well-ventilated coops and access to freshwater every day.

Chicks are growing quickly during this time they require a high protein diet. The Starter feed should be available all the time. The chicks will have a free-choice feed, can’t be restricted on the quantity. The Starter feed is usually fine ground that will assist the chicks to pick up and swallow.

10 weeks – Grower feed

Starter feed is replaced by Grower feed after 10 weeks. The Grower feed contains 15 to 16% of protein, which is essential for the quick growth of chicks.

18 weeks – Layer feed

The chicks that are 18 weeks now, will be ready for egg-laying. The egg-laying is a strenuous process, that requires a lot of calcium. The Layer feed contains a lot of calcium that will assist in the egg-laying process.

A mistake should not be made by giving the Layer feed to the chicks below 18 weeks. The high percentage of calcium will not be utilized, which will damage their kidneys, causes kidney stones and also affect their egg production process.

The Layer feed contains 16 to 18% of protein and extra calcium. The Layer feed assists in creating eggshells and strong bones. The fast-release source of calcium is helpful for the chicken, but also in addition to the Layer feed, even the natural source calcium is essential. The crushed Oyster shells are the best natural source of calcium. check also the Best organic chicken feed for laying hens.

What to feed Chickens at different ages

Chicken Supplements

Supplements are essential for happy and healthy chicken. Some of the essential supplements are grit, calcium, probiotics, protein, Molasses, Apple cider vinegar and Electrolytes.

Grit

As we all know Chickens do not have teeth. They do not have a problem in the digestion process with the starter feed and layer feed. But if they of fibrous foods like grains and treats, they need assistance in the digestion process. The grit will assist in digestion, the grit in the gizzard will help to ground the fibrous food. The gizzard is the strong muscle in the digestive tract where the grit gets stored. The grit is the small loose particles of stone or sand.

The free-range chickens need no assistance in picking up grit. But for the chickens that are confined, require grit in some form. Without grit, it will be tough for complete digestion.

Supplemental Calcium – Oyster Shells

The laying hends require plenty of calcium. Calcium is required for the egg-production and even for their bone development. Oyster shells are the natural source for calcium availability. Should be available free-choice all the time in a separate dish.

The calcium deficiency can be seen in the chicken that is losing their feathers, producing weaker shell eggs

Probiotics

Boost the immune system and helps in digestion is the chickens. It can be added to fresh drinking water.

Protein

During molting season and also during winters the chicken requires some extra protein in their diet. The scrambled eggs (without salt) or mealworms to be added to their diet. This keeps them warm and happy. Give them sparingly, do not overfeed.

Feeding instructions: 1 scrambled egg per chicken 2-3 times per week. 1 tbsp mealworms per chicken 2-3 times per week.

Molasses

Molasses contains iron and other minerals. It also adds as an adhesive for the supplements and feed. The probiotics and garlic powder can be added to feed, with the help of Molasses.

Feeding Instructions: Add a 1/4 cup to a gallon feed and mix well.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar helps chicken in multiple ways. It helps in digestion, respiratory issues and also alkalizes the body. Go with the Braggs apple cider vinegar, not all cider vinegar are the same. This contains the live bacteria “Mother”, the health benefits can be used.

Feeding Instructions: 1 Tbsp to a gallon of freshwater and normal water the next day. Every alternative day can be fed with ACV water.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes replenish the lost minerals when the chickens are stressed due to heat, dehydration, illness and long transport.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can I give my chickens treats?

If you are concerned about the balanced feed, try limiting the treats. The Layer feed offers a complete nutrient requirement for the chicken. Any treats given will dilute the balanced feed.

If the chickens are confined, then giving them treats can be seen as a supplement. They do require a variety of food. Some healthy snacks are listed below”

  • Hard-boiled eggs, leafy greens, fruits like apples, berries.
  • Mealworms, grains – corn, oats, wheat, and barley.

The treats are given in limit, like 2 tablespoons per day per bird. Overfeeding treats and diluting the balanced diet will result in nutrition deficiency. This results in obesity, reduced egg production, and feather picking.

How to feed mixed-age chickens?

Feeding mixed-age chicken that occupies the same place, is a tricky task. A safe bet to feed is an unmedicated starter/grower feed along with grit and Oyster shells available free-choice.

It is recommended to keep chicks separate, as the excess calcium in Oyster shells can cause kidney damage. If you take out calcium it will affect layer chicken. The unmedicated starter/grower feed will not hurt any age group birds.

References

  1. Guide to Raising Chickens
  2. Chicken Health For Dummies
  3. Manna Pro’s Feeding Your Flock blog

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