Confusion Regarding Feed

urban escapee

8 Years
Jul 14, 2011
Alvin, TX
We have been steadily working on the coop and it should be finished by the weekend. I am planning a trip to the feedstore to get my first chickens and I am as confused as a person can be regarding what to feed them. And I don't necessarily want to buy everything the store has to offer till I figure it out.

The ag ext. guy just says "buy a balanced mix and you'll be good"
The guy at the feed store (didn't seem real bright tbh) says. "They mature at 8 months so feed them starter till then then you can just feed them scratch". I'm thinking that its more like 4-5 months after all the posts I have read here.

Between starter feed, layer mix, oyster shells, grit, crumbles, scratch and all of the others that I can not remember right now, its all starting to sound like "blah,blah,blah" and instead of getting clarification I am more confused than ever.

I am planning on limited free range (1/2 acre out of 34) once they are mature enough and fencing has been put in. We also have some goats so I will probably put them in with the goats every once in a while.

I would greatly appreciate any suggestions.

p.s. I do realize that there are alot of variables and personal prefs involved.
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If you're getting baby chicks, you'll want starter. Medicated or not is your preferance.
Once they're a few months old most folks switch to a layer type feed. Some layer feed has calcium added, some all-in-one type feed does not. Some folks will swear you can't give feed with added calcium to your birds who aren't laying yet, but others do it all the time.
I feed an all-in-one, similar I think to purina flock raiser. I offer oyster shell free choice, they really don't eat much of it, esp when they're first laying.
Scratch is corn and wheat. It's really more of a treat for chickens and shouldn't be their main source of food. The ag extension guy is right, just buy a balanced feed and you'll be fine. If they free range, you really don't need grit. If they're in a coop and you feed treats, offer/scatter some grit so they can grind up their food. No teeth, ya know

And relax, chickens are really fairly hard to kill.

edited--they'll love scratching around in the goat pen!
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OK, here's the first opinion. Starter feed until they are ready to lay, about 4-5 months, then switch to layer feed. Layer feed has more calcium which is good for strong shells. You don't want to give layer feed too early because the extra calcium can cause bone deformities in young chicks. Same with oyster shells, wait until they are older. Crushed egg shells are as good as oyster shells (eggs in, eggs out). Scratch is a snack, they love it, but it is a snack. Regular feed is meant to be a balanced diet, so it is best to have that available as their main food in addition to the things they find on the range. They probably get enough grit on the range, but if they are not ranging and getting snacks in addition to their feed, they need grit to help digest the snacks. Have fun with your chickens.
Thank you so much. I am probably over thinking things, as I always do. But I have been so focused on getting the coop built in a secure fashion (we have raccoons, wild cats, hawks, snakes and other creepy crawlys) Now I find myself at "crunch time".
On the back of every Purina bag, (or TSC's Purina made DuMor) there is a chart. It has all the options of feed what to who at what age. It really isn't all that complicated.
Scratch is never necessary and I'd just forget about it for awhile (or altogether). Same with shells. Same with grit. You need nothing but Starter or Start 'N Grow for chicks. That is all.

I don't buy oyster shells, but do back feed egg shells. I don't even buy grit as our soil is filled with rocks, pebbles and sand everywhere. See? Things don't have to be as complicated as it would seem. Later on, you can expand your thoughts and what you provide. There's time to sort it out.

If all you feed is Starter? You don't even need to worry about ANYTHING else right now. Zip. Nothing.

Starter. Starter. Starter. That's it. Oh, and fresh water. LOL

The rest you can deal with as time goes along.
A good balanced ration such as Purina Start & Grow or similar product in anther brand until you get the first eggs.

THEN begin blending in whatever brand of layer feed you want until the starter is all gone. After that just straight layer feed.

If you're not feeding them anything you yourself would need to chew with your teeth in order to eat there is no need for grit. If they are going to be on the ground there is no need for grit.

Oyster shell may or may not be necessary at some point in the future AFTER they begin to lay. If your egg shells seem thin and weak put a dish of oyster shell somewhere where they can get at it regular and see if it helps. It's not a cure-all for weak shells though so if the problem persists look elsewhere for the solution.

Scratch grains are a treat and like all treats should be fed in moderation. Half a handful per bird per day if you're feeding a typical 15-16% layer ration. If they are not on the ground when you feed scratch then you'll want to provide grit. I would not feed scratch to birds still in the brooder. It's not necessary at all, but under some circumstances it can be a good thing particularly if the birds are free ranging.

The guy at the extension office had the right of it.
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I'm confused about all this too. My chicks are 8 weeks old and I'm roughly following the guidelines of Countryside Organics, which is where i buy my feed. They recommend starter feed for 2-3 weeks, then grower feed until the birds start to lay, then switch to layer. They say that the larger bits in the grower feed will stumulate the birds to grow faster. The starter feed is finely ground and requires no grit (but I provided it anyway, and the chicks seem to like it), but when switching to their grower feed, some sort of grit is necessary.

If I was feeding Purina or something else, I'd probably follow their recommendations, at least until I have a bit of experience and can form my own opinions.
Needing grit or not depends on whether they will be out where they can get grit naturally and also what you are feeding them. I bought some new organic feed that was mainly the whole grains and had severe problems because my little ones were in pens and couldn't get to natural grit. Once we started feeding them grit with their food, the problems resolved. My little chickens are raised in pens that I move around the yard so they have fresh greens alot. If you feed them store started that has been ground up and then put into crumble, then you don't need the grit. I only had to do it because the feed had a lot of whole grains in it.


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