The nutritional requirements of chickens differ somewhat at different stages of growth. Also, broilers have different nutritional requirements than layers. When selecting a feed, it’s important to understand how the manufacturer intended the feed to be used, and make sure that its intended use matches your use.
Some broad categories of feed are:
- Chick Starter is a feed that you would start to use when your chicks first hatch. Generally you would use it for some number of weeks (specified by the manufacturer) then switch to either a layer feed for pullets that you are raising to become layers or a broiler feed for meat birds. Chick starter feeds are available in medicated and non-medicated varieties. The medicated variety is intended to help the chickens develop an immunity to Coccidiosis. If, instead, you have chosen to have your chicks vaccinated for Coccidiosis, then you should use a non-medicated feed.
- Chick Grower. Some manufacturers make a Grower feed and others do not. Grower feed is used once the chicks are a few weeks old until they are ready to transition to a layer feed. The manufacturer will have specifications as to what age range the Grower feed is intended for. If you are raising layers and you use a brand of feed that is not supplied in a grower ration, then you would switch directly from starter feed to layer ration at the age specified by the feed manufacturer. Similarly, if you are raising broilers and a grower ration is not available, you would switch directly from chick starter to broiler ration or broiler finisher at the appropriate age.
- Broiler Finisher is for feeding to your broilers until they are ready to be processed. We sell an organic broiler finisher that is designed for use beginning at about 5 weeks of age.
- Layer feed is formulated for hens as they approach laying age. Some layer feeds are designed to be used starting at 16-18 weeks, while others are designed for use beginning at 10 weeks. Some layer feeds are complete feeds, meaning that you do not need to supplement them. Other layer feeds are lower in calcium and need to be supplemented by giving your hens access to oyster shells in a separate feeder, free choice.
Feeds come in different forms, including:
- Mash, which is a ground up feed,
- Pellets, which consist of mash that has been processed to shape the feed into pellets, and
- Crumbles, a feed which contains pellets that have been broken up into smaller pieces, making them easier to eat.
Pellets can help to reduce feed waste, but are not as easily digested as mash or crumbles.