You just brought home your first flock of baby chicks, and you can’t wait to watch them grow. You get their coop all set up with perches, fresh straw, maybe even a chicken run, and now the only question remaining is: what’s the best chicken feed for your new feathered friends?
Chickens are fairly low-maintenance additions to your family, but their health and happiness hinge on a proper diet. Like humans, there are core nutrients that they need to thrive, and starting them off on the right foot (or claw) when they’re chicks is crucial.
Best Chicken Feed to Help Your New Chicks Grow
While there are many different feed varieties, they all need to contain these core nutrients for your chicks to grow: protein, amino acids, enzymes, vitamins (usually A, E, D3, and B12), and fiber.
The Young Chick Stage
From hatching through eight-weeks-old, chicks need to eat starter feed, also called starter crumble, which is high in protein to promote rapid growth.
Starter feed can be medicated or unmedicated. If your chicks have been vaccinated, it’s best to give them medicated starter feed, which contains amprolium and protects them from intestinal diseases.
If they haven’t been vaccinated, it’s best to give them unmedicated starter feed.
The Teen Chick Stage
If you’re raising your chicks to be layers, they should be switched to grower feed from 8 through 18 weeks old. This feed contains less protein, which protects their kidneys as they continue to grow.
If you’re raising your chicks to be meat birds, they still need a high protein diet. Meat birds get a specific feed called broiler finishing feed from their teen stage until butchering.
Feed For Laying Hens and Maintainance
Now that your layer chicks have passed 18 weeks and matured into adults, you’ll soon get fresh eggs! As soon as they start laying, you can change them to layer feed, which is high in calcium, a crucial nutrient for healthy eggshells.
If you have some chickens that won’t become layers, you can give them maintenance feed, which is similar to layer feed but without the extra calcium.
Treats and Supplements
You’ll gain your chicks’ affection forever if you give them regular treats, and luckily there are some great healthy options that they’ll love.
Stick to nutrient-dense options like mealworms, scratch, fruits, and vegetables, and you’ll have a happy flock.
Read this definitive list of what chickens can and can’t eat for more treat ideas.
You can also supplement your chicken’s diet to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need.
Oyster shells will add calcium, which is vital for your hens, and all adult chickens should have grit, which promotes digestion. If your chickens are free-range they will naturally eat grit, but if they aren’t then you should add it into their diet.
Healthy Chicks to Healthy Chickens
Now that you know the best chicken feed to start your new chicks on, you can ensure they’re healthy from the time they hatch until they are full-grown birds. Your feathered friends will thrive with the right nutrient-rich foods, treats, and supplements, and you’ll reap the benefits of a healthy and happy flock.