Feeding Options at Different Life Stages

An overview of all feed options that are appropriate at different ages. This article is meant to provide a basic outline for you to further...
By BuffOrpington88 · Jul 24, 2016 · Updated Aug 1, 2016 · ·
  1. BuffOrpington88

    There are so many choices involved in feeding your flock and it can be difficult to decide what to feed when. This is not meant to be a guide to feeding chickens, simply an overview of all feed options that are appropriate at different ages. This article is meant to provide a basic outline for you to further research what feed will be best for your flock.

    0-8 Weeks

    Medicated Starter
    Most people choose to provide chicks with feed that includes a coccidiostat, a medication that will prevent Coccidiosis, which chickens get from a parasite. Protein content in chick starter is often 18-20%.

    Unmedicated Starter
    Some people choose not to feed medicated starter and instead choose to use ‘natural’ remedies to prevent Coccidiosis such as apple cider vinegar. However, unmedicated starter is more difficult to find and oftentimes more expensive due to its scarcity.

    All Purpose Feed
    This feed is appropriate for all life stages.

    Broiler Starter
    Broiler starter has a higher protein starter than regular chick starter, from 20-24%. This ensures that the chicks will grow faster.

    Broiler Grower
    This can be fed starting around 4 weeks of age.

    Chick Grit
    Whenever the chicks are given anything other than starter mash or crumbles, you should provide grit in a separate feeder that is always available along with their food and water. Since chickens don’t have teeth, they need to ingest small rocks that then remain in their crop to grind food.


    8-18 Weeks

    Combined Starter/Grower
    Lots of fees nowadays can be fed until 18 weeks. If you choose to do so, you can feed the same feed until the chicks start laying, if it says so on the bag.

    Grower Feed
    This feed has slightly less protein than chick starter, about 16-20%. This is so that the pullets don’t grow too fast and reach the point of lay prematurely.

    Broiler Finisher
    Broiler finisher has a slightly lower protein content than starter, and is fed until slaughter.

    All Purpose Feed
    Once again, this is appropriate for all ages of chickens.

    When chickens are larger, they can be switched from chick grit to normally sized chicken grit. If they are free ranged, they may not necessarily need grit as they will pick up stones while they are eating.


    18 weeks and older

    Layer Feed
    This feed is meant to maximize production in egg laying hens. This should not be fed to younger hens before they start laying as the extra calcium can damage their kidneys. Layer feed has added calcium to ensure strong egg shells and a protein content around 16%.

    All Purpose Feed
    This feed is appropriate for adult birds. This is the best feed for a flock containing different ages of birds or roosters who do not need the added calcium.

    Grit is still important to ensure proper digestion.

    Oyster Shells
    Oyster shells should be provided as a free-choice calcium supplement to egg laying hens. Some people also choose to use crushed eggshells.


    Here is the above information in the form of a chart.
    Feeding Optionsjjjjjjj0-8 Weeksjjjjjjjjjj8-18 Weeksjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj18 Weeks and Older
    -Medicated Chick Starter
    -Unmedicated Chick Starter
    -All-Flock Feed
    -Chick Grit​

    -Grower Feed
    -Combination Starter/Grower

    -Layer Feed
    -All-Flock Feed
    -Oyster Shells​
    -Broiler Starter
    -Broiler Grower
    -Chick Grit​

    -Broiler Finisher
    * What is appropriate for layers from 0-18 weeks is also fine for broilers, I was just showing the feed often used for rapid growth.

    Types of Feed

    Chicken feed comes in three readily available forms: mash, crumbles, and pellets. What you choose should depend on the size of the bird, the amount of wastage you are comfortable with, and you flock’s personal preference (some birds will refuse to eat their feed if it is in a form they are not used to).


    A very fine, powdery feed with some crumbles mixed in. This is fine for very young chicks and has the advantage that it can be mixed with water easily, which some people choose to do. However, oftentimes chickens will pick through the powdery stuff and spill it out in search of the larger pieces, so it can be very wasteful.

    Crumbles are a small uniform size. They are good for growing chicks, bantams, and smaller birds because of their size. While not quite as wasteful as mash, many people find that a lot of this goes to waste.

    Pellets are a larger size that is appropriate for older birds. This feed often has the least waste.

    Fermented Feed
    Fermented feed is a mixture of grains that is left to ferment for a few days before feeding. Many people believe that this fermentation process aids in gastrointestinal and immune health while also cutting down on waste and decreasing the smell in coops.


    Organic Feed
    Some people choose to feed organically for health or marketing purposes.

    Homemade Feed
    Some people mix their own feed for health or economic reasons. It is important to create a balanced diet. This can be achieved by using a commercial feed balancer or by adding supplements that will ensure the feed meets nutritional requirements.

    Treats should not make up more than about 10% of a chicken’s diet. There are many foods that are appropriate for chickens; I will put a link at the bottom of the page.


    Further Reading
    Coccidiosis and Medicated Feed
    Meat Chickens
    Why and How to Ferment Your Chicken Feed
    Treat Chart
    Homemade Feed Recipes Thread

    Thank you for reading! [​IMG]

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Recent User Reviews

  1. Texas Kiki
    "Good article"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Sep 20, 2018
    Could you update it to include whole grain feeds?
  2. ronott1
    "Excellent article"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Aug 3, 2018
    Well written with supporting pictures and links
  3. Anonymous
    "Informative lists of Feed options!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jul 24, 2018
    I love the way this article lists all the feed options for each age!


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  1. bergmanchicken
    Thankyou for the information. Great stuff to know.
  2. Chicken Girl1
    Great article!
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  4. Mountain Peeps
    Excellent article!

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