Can everyone eat the same feed?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Chicken Pickins, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. Chicken Pickins

    Chicken Pickins New Egg

    Aug 26, 2015
    HELP, I don;t know what I'm doing!

    I have 10 hens and 5 roosters; they are all 5 weeks old, and almost finished a 50lb. bag of chick starter.
    When do I change to another feed? And WHAT do I change to?

    Also, they will all share the same coop until it is time to butcher the males, I can't separate the feed that I'm giving them, because they're all together. So WHAT can I feed both until butchering?

    Also, (excuse my ignorance, I'm a first timer) I don't know what age or size to butcher, and does that time coincide with when the hens begin to lay? I'm concerned about what to feed when, and to whom.
  2. Free Spirit

    Free Spirit The Chiarian

    Oct 21, 2015
    You can switch them all over to chicken crumbles and a handful of scratch thrown on the ground once a day. When the hens start laying or at about 23 weeks of age you can switch to layer pellets.

    I'll let the butchering question go to more experienced chicken owners. I tend to butcher my roosters as soon as they want to start mating with the hens or fighting each other. I'm not set up for breeding and usually buy straight runs so I can get a mix of layers and meat birds.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    You sound stressed. Relax a bit, you are doing fine. Part of the problem that causes stress with chickens, especially when you are starting out and don’t have the experience, is that there are just too many options. There is no one way to do any of this that is right and every other method is wrong. If I tell you one way to do it and someone else tells you a different way, they are probably as right as I am. That makes it harder on you.

    What breeds are your chickens, especially the males? If you have the Cornish Cross broiler males that will change things. I’ll assume they are not the broilers but are ”regular” males. What do your facilities look like and how do you manage them? Of main interest here is how big your coop is, your run, and if you free range them. A rough idea of where you are can help too so we can guess the weather you might be seeing soon.

    There are so many different ways you could feed them. Some people like to separate the boys from the girls when they can tell the difference and feed the boys a higher protein feed so they will grow to butcher age faster while not feeding the girl such a high protein feed. You have indicated you don’t want to do that. No problem.

    You have them to five weeks and you have been feeding them a starter which should get them off to a real good start. You have done perfectly so far. Now that they are over 4 weeks old and the bag of feed is running out, it’s time for the next phase. If that bag of feed had not run out until 8 weeks, still no problem. You don’t have to be that precise with this.

    If you look at all the different feeds available, other than Layer feed the only significant difference is percent protein. You can maybe find feeds that are 15%, 16%, 18%, 20%, 22% or even 24% protein. They all have their place. Which one is best for you? The exact answer will depend a bit in how much and what treats you feed them or whether they get to forage for a lot of their food and what the quality of that forage is. I’d avoid the extremes, high and low. For a brood of chicks where some will be layers and some will be butchered, an 18% to 20% feed is normally a real good compromise, depending on what you can find. All these feeds are generally not available at every feed store.

    Layer has a lot more Calcium and you want to avoid feeding high calcium to young growing chicks. That’s basically the only rule. Do not feed Layer to growing chicks.

    The way the main feed companies make feed is to gather the ingredients and grind them up to a powder, whatever the formula for that specific feed is. That’s called mash. If they want pellets they add water, make a paste, extrude that through a die, and flash dry it. If they want crumble they slightly crush the pellets to get the consistency and size they want. The main reason they do this is that different automatic feeders work best with certain types of feed. Calling something pellets, crumbles, or mash doesn’t tell me anything about nutritional content, it’s just a form of feed.

    Butchering age is really subjective. The older a chicken gets, especially a cockerel, the more flavorful and the more texture the meat has. The chickens you buy at the store are harvested at 6 to 8 weeks old. They are exceptionally tender and to me, pretty tasteless. But they are tender enough that you can fry or grill them without them turning to leather. Our chickens don’t grow that fast. If you butcher your cockerels at 12 weeks you can probably still fry or grill them, but after that they toughen up some. There will be extremely little meat on them too. To me that age is not worth it.

    I personally prefer the cockerels to be at least 18 weeks and a few weeks older is even better. They grow at different rates but normally cockerels grow pretty fast until they are about 22 to 23 weeks old, then they slow down a lot. It’s not very cost effective to feed them longer than that. But you have to change your cooking methods. Switch to a method that cooks them slowly and keeps them moist. There are some threads in the meat bird section in the stickies that talk details about that.

    There are other factors. Different cockerels mature at different rates. Often about 12 weeks but sometimes a month or more later, puberty kicks in. Hormones go wild and they have no self-control. The pullets mature later and have no idea what is going on so they resist, not cooperate. The cockerels usually fight for flock dominance and mate the pullets, often by force. That mating is about dominance as much as sex. Things can get really wild and rough down there. I’s often not for the weak of heart to watch. All flocks go through that, some more rough than others. Normally the more room you have the easier it is but different chickens have different personalities. Many people butcher their cockerels because of this behavior or build a bachelor pad to keep them separated.

    The feed question is a lot easier to answer than when to butcher. There are too many options for both.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by