One of the most important considerations for poultry owners is picking the right chicken feed. The perfect feed contributes 75% of the development or growth of your chicken. Moreover, 50% of the performance of your chicken depends on the feed.
Several chicken feeds are available in the market. But you can’t pick any feed randomly because the purposes and nutrition combination of all chicken feeds are not the same.
However, some common feed types are chick starter, grower feed, flock raiser, layer feed, broiler feed, etc. Along with all these feed types, some more options are game bird feed, mash, pellet, crumbled, chicken scratch, shell grit, cracked corn, etc.
The feeds severely impact the egg laying, growth rate, health, and appearance of your chicken. Therefore carefully select the right feed type considering the age of your chicken.
In this article, we will guide you about different types of feeds. So let’s dive into the discussion:
Types Of Chicken Feed
Several types of chicken feeds are available. But you can’t randomly feed your chicken with any feed. Which type of feed you need depends on your bird’s age. However, the basic chicken feed types are the following:
1. Chick Starter Feed
Chick starter feed is the perfect option to feed the chickens for the first six weeks of their life. The chick starter doesn’t contain calcium but has a lot of protein. This is the basic feed for chicks under six weeks old. Around 20%-25% protein is present in this type of feed.
Your bird flock will grow faster and stronger as this feed contains enough energy and extra protein. The protein-dense variety chick starter is designed to meet all the dietary requirements of your baby chicks. Truly speaking, your baby chick can comfortably live on the starter feed diet.
The especially of this feed is it prevents the development of the Coccidia parasite. Your chicken can suffer from Diarrhea because of this parasite and even can die. This feed makes your bird’s immune system mature. Eventually, the flock develops a natural resistance capacity against Coccidia.
Usually, for the first 4-6 weeks, the chick starter is the perfect feed option before moving to the grower feed. However, don’t use this feed for too long because your chicken’s liver can damage due to the feed’s high protein level.
2. Chicken Grower Feed
You must change the feed type when your bird ages over six weeks. After six weeks, it’s time to shift from the starter feed to the developer or grower feed. The starter feed contains nearly 20 percent protein. On the contrary, the grower feed contains 15 percent protein.
The feed for the teenage chicks and the grower poultry feeds are similar to many extents. Your baby chicks and chickens of 6-20 weeks old have different dietary requirements. Essentially the grower feed has 15-18% protein.
But compared to the regular layer feed, the calcium amount is less in grower feed. The grower feed doesn’t bombard your chicken with unnecessary minerals and vitamins and supports it in building a strong eggshell.
Grower feed ensures your chicken’s enough nutrition. This feed doesn’t put excessive strain on your chick’s liver. Pellet is the most common form of this chicken feed. It is denser and larger than the chick starter crumbles.
However, some birds can have difficulty eating pellets when you switch over to the chick starter. If you experience this, we recommend breaking the larger pellets into smaller pieces and making them size like crumbles.
For a few days, give the smaller pieces of pellets to eat to your chickens. Once they become normalized, then gradually give them full-sized pellets. As long as your birds don’t use new food, you can also provide them with a mix of grower food and chick starter.
Continue giving the grower feed until the hens become pullet and lay their first eggs. Usually, around 20 weeks, you need to provide this grower feed to your birds.
3. Flock Raiser
The generalized feed flock raiser covers all the necessary basic nutritional needs. You can use this feed when you don’t raise chicken for specific egg or meat production. When the broiler chickens, laying hens, and show breeds reach maturity, you should give specialized feed to them.
Flock raiser is the best option for a flock with mixed purposes and ages. It is similar to the grower feed. Therefore instead of a flock raiser, you can use the grower feed. This feed type ensures enough protein for your chicken flock. But it lacks calcium, which can be bad for the chicks, roosters, and other elderly chickens.
For laying chicks or pullets, this feed is not great to choose from. The eggshells of laying hens will become weak if you feed this flock raiser. You need to ensure a sufficient amount of calcium for your laying hens in a mixed flock. For this reason, oyster shells have become more popular with the flock owner these days.
But flock raiser is the best feed to use if you raise your birds for natural mowing, pest control, or other non-specific reasons. Also, for multiple ages or mixed flock birds, you can use this feed.
4. Layer Feed
18-20 weeks is the egg-laying age of a chicken. When your birds reach this age, you need to ensure food with sufficient nutrition. Therefore you need to switch to this layer feed. The Layer feed ensures proper eggshell development as it contains some extra calcium with less protein.
After laying their first egg, we recommend you feed your egg-producing hens this layer feed. This formulated feed provides a higher calcium level for better and stronger eggs. It contains sufficient calcium, 16% protein, and all the essential vitamins your chicken needs. For non-egg-producing chickens, excessive calcium can be dangerous.
The scrumptious layer feed contains in the diet of many flocks. The ingenious balance of calcium, protein, minerals, and other vitamins encourages the top-tier egg-laying capacity of your flock. However, the protein-wise layer feed contains a similar level of 16%-18% protein.
Moreover, this feed has extra calcium, which ensures clean, crisp, and crunchy eggshells. But the problem is that you can’t meet the unique dietary requirements of your young pullets or baby chicks by feeding them this layer feed. Once your chicks become 20 weeks old and start laying eggs, you should give layer feed to your flocks.
5. Broiler Feed
Broiler chickens are special as they aim to grow as fast and as big as possible. Due to the rapid growth, the broiler often suffers from health issues. Mostly the owners raise broilers for meat production. And at 7-9 weeks old, they start producing meat.
The chicken feeds specially produced for broiler chickens contain high protein, nearly 25%. The high-level protein allows the birds to build muscle and grow quickly. As a result, these birds soon become high meat-producing chickens.
However, excessive protein and rapid growth are not always good. It can cause damage to the organs, heart, and legs of your chickens. Moreover, sometimes due to the rapid growth, the broiler hens can’t easily move around.
The rapid growth and good health of chickens are both important to produce quality meat. Around your broiler chicken’s four weeks, you can give chick starters to them. And after that, you can gradually switch the feed type to broiler feed.
6. Game Bird Feed
The Game bird feed ensures your chicken’s healthy and fast growth and shiny feathers as it contains a high protein level. This feed’s protein level is less than the broiler feed and contains less calcium than layer feed.
It is expensive and high-quality with all the special ingredients. Often these ingredients include peas and alfalfa-type organic vegetables, oil sunflower seeds, cricket meal, etc. The Game bird feed helps your chicken’s aesthetic attributes develop by having different supplemental vitamins and minerals. All these nutritious ingredients help develop your bird’s comb and wattle shape, feather thickness and color, bird’s size, shape, height, etc.
This chicken feed is especially helpful for older chickens or chicks with deteriorated health. The special ingredients and high quality help the chicken to get a good health. However, this feed is expensive, so many flock owners don’t want to use it as a regular feed for their chickens.
7. Whole Grain Chicken Feed
Different unprocessed ingredients and cracked grains are the main components of the whole-grain feed. All the ingredients in the feed remain in their natural states. Therefore you can see the feeds.
The birds love to eat the granola-like texture of this feed. And this feed encourages the natural pecking instinct of your chickens. The feed size is quite large. But still, your birds can easily grab them. The feed’s flax oil and soybean oil contains enough vitamins and minerals. So, it is a balanced meal for your flock.
8. Mash Chicken Feed
The unprocessed and loose version of chicken feed is mash. Among the available chicken feed options, the finest variety is mash. It’s similar to the potting soil texture. Mash is very easy to digest. Therefore it is best for baby chickens.
Mixing mash with hot water will create a porridge-type texture. And your chicks will love to eat it. But one problem is that the feed can expire more quickly following this method. However, the mash’s texture can lead to increased incidental waste, so be careful.
The unprocessed form of feed called mash contains different ingredients and ground-up grains. The chicks can easily consume mash, so flock owners mostly use mash to feed their chicks. Chickens are messy eaters. They love to eat food by wasting it on the ground. Many flock owners prefer to ferment their mash to get a thicker texture. And it’s very easier to manage.
9. Crumble Chicken Feed
Crumble is simply one of the varieties of mash. But it’s different from pellets. The crumble chicken feed is of semi-loose variety. Compared to mash, managing this crumble feed is slightly easier. Some chicken lovers use the crumble to cover their flock’s pellets and mash gaps.
Some chicken lovers also claim that their birds love the crumble feed because of its structure. One important thing is whether you use the crumble instead of pellets and mash. It doesn’t make much change.
Simply the crumbles are the broken-up pellets. The texture of the crumble is not as good as the mash. Thus managing this feed is quite easier. The small pieces of crumble look like oatmeal.
10. Organic Chick Feed
Organic chick feed options are also available for flock owners who want to raise their chicks organically. But one problem is that organic feed can be slightly expensive compared to the other machine-processed feed types.
Compared to the different feed options, this organic feed offers more advantages to your chicks. Organic feed ensures that your flock will grow fast by eating fewer agricultural chemicals.
11. Medicated Chick Feed
Medicated chick feed is a type of feed that contains medication to help prevent or treat certain diseases in poultry. It usually contains an antibiotic such as penicillin, sulfa drugs, or other medications to protect the chicks from common diseases. It can also contain vitamins and minerals to help the chicks grow and stay healthy.
12. Chicken Scratch
Chicken scratch and chicken feed are different. A good option is chicken scratch, to treat your flock well. Your birds love to eat this feed as it mostly contains cracked corn and other grains. For your flock, the chicken scratch is a significant energy source. On chilly winter nights, your birds can warm their bellies by having this feed.
Simply chicken scratch is a delicious treat. And every now and then, the chicks enjoy this. But it’s not a cornerstone of your bird’s health diet. Scratch is truly a bit of an older feed type. The nutrition in scratch can greatly vary as it is a composite of different grains. You should not use this as the main food of your chicken. But you can use it occasionally for fodder.
The Scratch feed is designed in a way that will reduce boredom among your chicken flock. But the nutritional value of this feed is very low. We don’t recommend this feed exclusively to your chickens due to its low nutritional value. Actually, this feed is more like a treat. It is like oats, wheat, corn, or other grains.
13. Shell Grit
The shell grit is very important to maintain the diet of your chicken flock. Essentially shell grit fulfills two major purposes. First, it is a great source of calcium that helps form strong and sturdy eggs shells and delicious eggs. If your flock doesn’t get enough shell grit, they can go through different egg oddities.
Secondly, the shell grit helps the chickens to digest their food easily. The shell grit is a must-have item in the diet of all mature chickens. We recommend you serve the grit in a separate dish away from your chick’s regular feed. The grit has enough calcium, so don’t think about serving too much.
Your chicken can suffer from more severe conditions due to a lack of shell grit like the SourCrop. SourCrop is a common health problem that your chicken can face. Your birds have no teeth. So if you supply them with grit feed, it will help your chickens digest the food.
Shell grit is nothing but crushed-up stone. For different ages of chickens, this grit comes in various sizes. Without grit, your chickens will surely suffer from digestive problems. Therefore, we always recommend you supply the grit in your flock’s feed to avoid digestive issues.
14. Oyster Shell
Your laying hens demand additional calcium for continuous and greater egg production. A good source of calcium is an oyster shell. While you feed your birds, just put some oyster shells in a separate dish.
Extra calcium supplement is not necessary for the chicks and growers. In fact, the grower chicks can face damage in their body due to the excessive calcium supply in feed. Therefore don’t give oyster shells to your grower birds and newly hatched chickens.
15. Chicken Pellets Feed
Among the available chicken feed, probably the most common variety is pellets. The pellets are easy to serve, store and manage. Many backyard chicken keepers prefer pellets as the feed for their chickens.
Pellets are cylinder-shaped, small, hardened, baked, and ready-to-serve feed. For the specific phase in your chicken’s life, whatever nutrients require, the chicken contains all these. Moreover, the pellets are very easy to feed also.
16. Fermented Feed
A very easy way is Fermenting the chicken feed to improve the vitamin of food and increase its enzyme content. Fermenting your bird’s food makes it easier for your chooks to digest. Moreover, it neutralizes the toxicity in food also.
Furthermore, your chicken feels fuller for a long time due to the density of the fermented feed. It implies that your hens will do lower droppings. And your feed cost will also decrease.
17. Cracked Corn
A very cheap option is cracked corn. But for your chickens, it’s not a sustainable diet. The nutrients are very low in cracked corn, and fat is very high in it. You can give the cracked corn to your chicken as an occasional treat. Or sometimes, during the cold winter days, you can feed the corn to your chicks.
The cracked cords’ empty calories help keep the flock comfortable on unusually cold winter days. This feed is helpful for your chickens whenever the weather goes into the negative degrees.
What To Feed Chickens At Their Different Ages?
There are so many chicken feed options available in the market. Because at different ages of your chicken, you need to feed them various food. The ingredients of all the above-mentioned poultry feeds are almost the same, but they are still different. The ratio of nutrition varies in all these feeds.
At different life stages, your chicks require specific nutrition. So you should feed your chicks according to their age.
1. Feeding (0-8 Weeks) Chicks
Fed starter feeds your chicks from the day of their hatching to 8 weeks of their age. Usually, 20%-24% protein is available in this feed. This amount of protein is sufficient for your baby chicks. Moreover, the baby birds per week eat only 1 Ib of feed.
2. Feeding (8-18/20 Weeks) Growing Chicks
The grower chickens are similar to teenagers. The growing birds must eat the grower feed at eight weeks of age. You should continue giving this feed to your birds until they start producing eggs. Usually, up to 18-20 weeks of age, you need to supply this grower feed to your chickens. The protein portion in this feed is 17% – 18%.
Moreover, this feed type also contains higher fiber and fat content. This one has more protein, fat, and fiber than the layer and starter feed. So, it ensures more rapid growth of your chickens. Per week the chicks eat about 1 ½ Ibs of grower feed.
3. Feeding (18/20 + Weeks) Layer Chickens
You should provide layer feed to your flock when they start laying eggs. 16%-18% protein is present in layer feed. And compared to the starter and grower feed, the amount of calcium is also more in it.
The layer feed is extremely important for your birds at their eggs laying stage because it strengthens the egg shells. The laying chickens eat about 1 ½ Ibs to 1 ¾ Ibs per week.
Chicken Feed Transition Guide
The transition of chicken feed is quite a tricky job. You must do it slowly if you are transitioning your birds from one feed type to another. Slow changes of meals from starter to grower or grower to layer allow some time for the body of your chickens to adjust.
As a result, they get enough time to adjust the new feed. Usually, the transition time of your chicken flock varies depending on your bird’s age and other factors.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Food Makes Chickens Grow Faster?
The high-protein food makes your birds grow faster. Lots of carbs require the chickens to put their weight on and fulfill their energy needs. But your indigenous birds will grow faster by having a high-protein diet.
What Are the Six Major Components of Poultry Feed?
The six major elements of chicken feed are carbohydrates, water, minerals, fat, proteins, and vitamins.
What Is the Healthiest Thing to Feed Chickens?
Vegetables, grains, cooked beans, leafy greens, berries, corn, non-sugary cereals, and grains are some of the healthiest things to feed chickens.
What Food Increases Egg Production in Chickens?
Sunflower seeds, cracked corn, scratch grain, eggshells, mealworms, etc., increase egg production in chickens.
Hopefully, this article on different types of chicken feeds has been helpful to you. Now you know that even though you have huge options of feeding various feed to your birds, you can’t randomly pick anyone. Considering the age of your chickens, you need to provide feed to them.
Give them a starter feed at their early stage, just after hatching. Once they start growing after eight weeks of age, give them the grower feed. And finally, when at the age of 18-20 weeks, your chick starts laying eggs, provide them with the layer feed.
If you have any other queries on chicken feed, comment in the comment section. ASAP we will reply to you.
Raising Chickens 101: A Beginner’s Guide
Get started in chicken raising with our expert-approved guide. From building a coop to hatching eggs, you’ll learn all the essential information you need to know. Topics include selecting breeds, caring for chicks, increasing egg production, and more. We also cover chicken feeds, behavior, disease prevention, and essential vitamins and minerals. Follow this guide for a successful and fulfilling experience.
Want to learn more about chicken raising? Check out our beginner’s guide below for even more tips and information:
- Building a Chicken Coop
- Selecting the Right Backyard Chicken Breeds
- Incubating and Hatching Chicken Eggs
- Raising Baby Chicks
- Caring for Pullets
- Increasing Egg Production
- Choosing the Best Chicken Feed
- Understanding Chicken Behavior
- Recognizing and Treating Chicken Diseases
- Providing Essential Vitamins and Minerals