Can adult chickens eat chick food?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by ChantelleLyn, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. ChantelleLyn

    ChantelleLyn New Egg

    Dec 1, 2012
    I'm completely new to the world of chickens so please forgive me if this is an obvious question. We were expecting to get chicks so we bought some chick starter feed from petbarn but then our chicks were sold before we got them so we ended up getting point of lay hens. We bought them some Barastock darling downs layer feed and they have this in constant supply. They also have a little bowl of shell grit. I've given them a small bowl of the chick food as well to use it up. Is there any reason why I shouldn't be doing this? They seem to like it.
  2. Rhode Island

    Rhode Island Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 30, 2012
    We gave our chickens chick feed and they started doing diarrhoeh. It might've been from something else. If your chickens start doing runny poo i recommend you use adult feed.
  3. ChickenMad11

    ChickenMad11 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 17, 2012
    Great Britain
    I don't see why not if they like it!
  4. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    The only reason they shouldn't eat it is if it is medicated as some chick feeds are. It will say on the label if it is medicated.
    I feed non-medicated starter/grower to my hens when I want to boost their protein, like when they're molting.
    The big difference between grower and layer is the calcium% and protein%.
    Growing birds only get about 1% calcium but need a minimum of 18% protein.
    Layers need about 4% calcium and can maintain on somewhere between 15 and 18% protein.
    Extra protein isn't too bad for layers but extra calcium can damage non-layers kidneys.

    Medicated feed contains either sulfa drugs, Amprolium or Decoquinate to combat coccidia, a common problem with animals in contact with soil.
    Amprolium is the most common ingredient in medicated poultry feed and can cause Thiamine deficiency so it should only be fed to chicks with high exposure to coccidia.
    Healthy animals eventually develop immunity to coccidia.

    You mentioned shell grit. Oyster shell and grit are 2 different things.
    Oyster shell is a quality source for additional calcium the birds will take if they need it.
    Grit is small granite pieces that aid the gizzard in grinding hard and large food particles.
    Layers should have oyster available in a separate container when they're laying.
    All birds without access to pebbles should have grit if they are fed anything other than prepared chicken feed.
    Chicken feed is already ground up so if that's all they eat they don't need grit.
    Birds with pasture access can normally find appropriately sized grit but if not and table scraps and grains are fed they should also be given grit.
    Hope this gets you started.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2012
  5. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Good reply, ChickenCanoe.

    Only thing I would add is, Purina says amprolium is fine for adults, and you can eat the eggs.

    When I have young chicks (still with their mama) in with the flock, I feed grower or starter to everyone. The separate oyster shell is available for the layers; the chicks don't seem interested in it. Flock Raiser is made for this purpose, also. I do feel both oyster shell and grit should be offered separately so they can take what they need. Some people prefer not to feed layer at all if they have a rooster, on the assumption (I guess) that the extra calcium can't be good for a rooster.
    Diannastarr, Becci and ChantelleLyn like this.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I agree with ChickenCanoe. You need to know what the medicine is in medicated feed if you feed it. Every major brand of chicken I'm aware of that is intended for chicks that will be layers contains Amprolium. Some feeds intended for broilers or meat birds may contain other things, either in addition to Amprolium or instead of Amprolium. That's why you need to check the label.

    Whether or not it is safe to eat the eggs or meat of chickens fed Amprolium is a bit controversial with some people. Purina says it is safe to eat eggs from chickens fed their medicated feed medicated with Amprolium. Their contention is that it is not absorbed through the walls of the intestines so it can't get into the eggs or meat. The FDA has classified it as "not proven to be harmful" with chickens and gives no withdrawal times. To me, this is different than proven to be safe, but "not proven to be harmful" is used for a lot of the stuff we eat. I think it is a legal term that means it has been tested enough that it is almost certain to be safe but they are using legal weasel words just in case somebody comes up with something they haven't tested for.

    Are the eggs safe? Probably. Is the meat safe to eat? Probably. Another thing going for it is that the dosage in medicated feed is pretty low compared to the dosage used to treat an actual case of coccidiosis.

    I found this on an FDA site which was discussing Corid. This is a stronger dosage of Amprolium used to treat an active case of coccidiosis, not the lower dose in medicated feed. This site gives a withdrawal period of 24 hours for slaughtered beef but no withdrawal period for chickens or other poultry, meat or eggs. It does give tolerances in parts per million for Amprolium in various things. I don't have a clue how we normal human beings could determine parts per million in our chickens or eggs.

    Amprolium: Tolerances are established as follows for residues of amprolium (1-(4-amino-2-n- propyl-5-pyrimidinylmethyl)-2-picolinium chloride hydrochloride): a. In chickens and turkeys (edible tissues): (1) 1 part per million in uncooked liver and kidney. (2) 0.5 part per million in uncooked muscle tissue. b. In chicken and turkey eggs: (1) 8 parts per million in egg yolks. (2) 4 parts per million in whole eggs. c. In calves (edible tissues): (1) 2.0 parts per million in uncooked fat. (2) 0.5 part per million in uncooked muscle tissue, liver, and kidney. d. In pheasants (edible tissues): (1) 1 part per million in uncooked liver. (2) 0.5 part per million in uncooked muscle.

    I'm not a medical expert but I kind of like what an avian veterinarian said. His comment was that Amprolium is not absorbed through the walls of the intestines very well so it should be safe, but with all the talk about it, a week's withdrawal might be reasonable.

    I have no idea if your chick starter is medicated or not. I don’t use medicated feed myself so I sure can’t tell you what I’d do in your situation if it is medicated. I seriously doubt you plan on eating then soon and while they may be at point-of-lay you really don’t know when they will start. I’d probably use it up anyway until they start to lay, then make a decision if it is not all gone.

    I do feed the whole flock Starter or Grower when I have a mixed age flock with oyster shell on the side. Mine can find their own grit in the ground.
  7. ChantelleLyn

    ChantelleLyn New Egg

    Dec 1, 2012
    Thank you all!! It doesn't say that it is medicated so I'm assuming that it will be fine. :) I will continue feeding it to them.
    Also thank you so much for the tip about shell grit VS oyster shell. I had no idea they were different. I would hate it if my chickens ended up calcium deficient because I'd been feeding them the wrong thing. I'll go to the shop today and buy some oyster shell for them. :)

    Thanks again everyone![​IMG]
  8. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Just a note on oyster shell. The reason it doesn't work as grit is that the digestive juices quickly dissolve it so by the time it hits the gizzard it is mush and the calcium is then absorbed as it passes through the digestive tract. Granite on the other hand stays hard for quite a while and remains longer in the gizzard to help with grinding.
    Diannastarr and ChantelleLyn like this.
  9. ChantelleLyn

    ChantelleLyn New Egg

    Dec 1, 2012
    So should they have a bowl of oyster shell and a bowl of shell grit? Or a bowl of oyster shell and a bowl of granite? The bottom of their coop is sand, can that work as grit too?

    Thanks. :)
  10. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    The sand can work but particle size may not be large enough to do the job.
    I have a container of oyster shell with each group of layers. For grit, if I think I need it, I will add a separate container or sometimes broadcast it. A container is a better choice.
    Size #3 grit, which is adult sized is surprisingly large.

    Is someone at your feed store telling you it is called 'shell grit'?
    Again, if it is shell, it's not grit. They're 2 different things.
    There are also other products providing calcium that can substitute for oyster shell but it's been shown that OS is about the best source for hens because of the rate at which it dissolves/digests. They'll absorb it during the night to replenish the supply pulled out of their bones.

    Here's a good read that partially explains the calcium issue.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
    NorthTexasWink likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by