Hatching the Facts on Medicated Chick Starter Feeds for Layers

Discussion in 'Sponsored Content, Contests, and Giveaways' started by JenniO11, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. JenniO11

    JenniO11 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 11, 2012
    by Tiffany Towne, Nutrena Poultry Expert
    brought to us by Nutrena

    So you’ve got your chicks, your heat lamp, your brooder, your bedding, your feeder and waterer. You stroll over to the feed aisle to pick up a bag of feed, only to face yet another choice: medicated or non-medicated starter? Confusion reigns in most online and in-store discussions. Further complicating the debate is the introduction of the coccidiosis vaccination within the past 10 years.

    To make an informed choice, it’s important to understand what the medication in chick feed is, what it prevents (and doesn’t) and when to use it. Much of what you feed will depend on your preference. If you feel strongly about raising your birds without medications, you may opt for the non-medicated version. On the other hand, many people wouldn’t dream of not feeding a medicated starter. They like the added security of knowing they have a preventive measure in place.


    Why Use Chick Starter?

    First, let’s review the purpose of chick starter feed. Chick starter is a specialized type of feed designed for a very specific purpose: to nourish baby chicks so they can grow and thrive. This feed is formulated to what a chick’s digestive system is set up for – early protein. A mother hen takes her babies outdoors to find tasty bugs, nutritious weeds and greens, which provide the protein and energy necessary for proper development. But not many chicks have the luxury of a mother or access to insects. Chick starter contains highly digestible proteins, usually around 18 percent, amino acids and carbohydrates in a small crumble form. These small particles are important to encourage consumption for a small chick.

    How Long to Use Chick Starter?

    Some feed manufacturers, such as the makers of the Nutrena[​IMG] brand, recommend a diet of chick starter for up to four months. Other manufacturers suggest anywhere from two months to until the chicks start laying, and then switching to layer feeds. Be sure to read labels carefully and do research on your specific breed or breeds.

    How Much To Feed?

    Although they look small and weigh next to nothing, baby chicks aren’t shy when it comes to eating. An average chick will consume around 10 pounds of feed during the first 10 weeks of life. It’s important to make chick starter feed available around the clock, as the chicks will self-regulate how much they eat. Raising the feeders off the ground a bit will help reduce waste. And, just like with your adult birds, access to clean water is an absolute must.

    What Medicated Chick Starter Does

    Medicated chick starter is like an insurance policy, aimed at preventing a single disease called coccidiosis, caused by an intestinal parasite. This parasite is wide spread and found in just about every chicken yard. It thrives in damp conditions and with brooder-raised chicks. It is the number one cause of death in chicks throughout the world.

    The medication in medicated starter feeds such as Nutrena[​IMG] Medicated Crumbles is called Amprolium and is a coccidiostat. Meaning, it’s an agent added to chick feed to help prevent coccidiosis in young birds. No matter how hard you work to keep the coop and pen clean, as chicks scratch, peck and explore their world, they ingest the coccidiosis from the feces around them. It’s normal for birds to ingest a few of these organisms and to build up immunity over time. But cocci multiply rapidly in the gut and too many mean trouble.

    Symptoms of infected chicks include a red or orange tint to the feces, a drop in feed consumption, huddling, and acting lethargic. For beginning poultry enthusiasts, the symptoms may be hard to spot, and chicks can become permanently stunted, or even die, before you get medication. The low dose of coccidiostats used in medicated chick starter feed allows a small amount of coccidiosis to survive so that the birds can naturally build up immunity to it.

    What Medicated Feed Does NOT Do

    • It does not guarantee your birds will not get sick from coccidiosis, nor is it potent enough to cure an outbreak. There is only enough medication in the feed to act as a preventative measure. Once your chicks become sick with coccidiosis, their feed intake usually drops dramatically. Depending solely on a medication in the feed is not a good idea. The addition of a water soluble coccidiostat is a good route to go if you experience an outbreak.
    • It is not targeted to prevent anything other than coccidiosis. It is not an antibiotic, dewormer, respiratory medication, etc. It will not make up for dirty coops and poor air quality.
    • It is not necessary for ducklings and other waterfowl. They are usually very hardy birds and not as susceptible to coccidiosis as chicks. Plus, few feed additives are approved for waterfowl and may be harmful, so read your labels carefully.
    • It does not harm laying hens. If your hens accidentally ingest some medicated chick starter, their eggs are still safe to eat.

    Medicated Feed and Vaccinations

    Medicated chick starter is not recommended if your chicks have been vaccinated for coccidiosis at the hatchery. The vaccination provides a small dose of cocci to the chicks to help them build immunity. Feeding medicated starter will kill off this small dose and nullify the vaccination. However, the coccidiosis vaccination is relatively new and fairly rare, so chances are your chicks have not been vaccinated. If they have received the coccidiosis vaccination, it is the only vaccination that would react to a medicated feed; other vaccinations will not be impacted.

    When Medicated Starter Is a Smart Choice
    There are certain instances where it makes good sense to feed a medicated starter and give yourself some added peace of mind:
    • Brooding large batches of chicks, such as 50 or more at one time
    • Brooding large batches consecutively
    • If you live in a hot, humid environment
    • If you have a history of coccidiosis in your facility

    Steps for Prevention

    Whether you choose a medicated or non-medicated chick starter, there are additional steps you can take to help decrease the chance of a coccidiosis flare-up in your flock. Chicks kept on wire have less access to peck at feces, which reduces their chances of becoming infected. Clean your coop regularly, change litter frequently, and keep the brooding area dry. And don’t crowd your birds. Overcrowding quickly leads to unsanitary conditions.

    Keep in mind, the availability of chick starter feeds varies by store. Some stores carry only non-medicated feeds, while others will carry only medicated feeds. Call ahead to your local retailer to make sure they have the type of feed you want. To find a Nutrena[​IMG] dealer near you, visit www.NutrenaPoultryFeed.com.


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  2. missnu01

    missnu01 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 16, 2012
    I was wondering about this myself. My husband was riding with a guy for his job for a couple weeks and they talked about chickens, and how awesome they are...so the guy decided he wanted to get some chickens as well. But now I am the go to person for chicken questions, and I don't have a whole lot of answers, and the guy called the other day asking about the medicated feed. I just said that I don't use it...and I don't know why I don't. But that I just don't. but that he can if he wants to. I explained that it is medicated to prevent coccidiosis, but couldn't give more info then that.

    Mr MKK FARMS Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Sep 27, 2012
    I don't use medicated chick starter at all. I just use the normal stuff, it works fine, and its cheaper... :)
  4. mythreesons

    mythreesons Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 26, 2013
    Columbia County,NY
    I use the medicated starter...I just wanted to give them the best start that I could.
  5. I always use medicated chick starter!
  6. pastryman

    pastryman Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 12, 2012
    I don't use medicated starter feed. Because I want to give the chicks the best possible start. And it is like an insurance policy not to give healthy animals medicine.

    And by the way. Here in Denmark, there are no longer medicated starter feed available. And this gives no problems!!

    Companies just want to earn more. Lets face it, they have an interest in making animals less and less sustainable.
    2 people like this.
  7. rarebear

    rarebear Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 5, 2012
    North Carolina
    I worry about giving them anything from Purina. Purina has one of the worst dog foods out there. www.dogfoodadvisor.com is a good place to check out ratings of dog food companies. I just don't trust the company at all. I feed Countryside Organics. I use Black Walnut Tincture for worming. My year old chickens have never had any health issues.
    2 people like this.
  8. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

    Mar 21, 2011
    New Mexico, USA
    My Coop
    I am with you on this one....no Purina. In my early years of using Purina, the dogs all threw up on it, horses got colic, and still not learning from all this I started my first flock of chickens on Purina layer feed and not only wouldn't my hens eat it, but the one that did had chronic sour crop for 2 months till I did a feed change.

    Now, whether maybe all this is strange coincidence and have nothing to do with Purina, and it very well may be. BUT...I still refuse to feed any my animals Purina anything.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
  9. rivermedic

    rivermedic Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 15, 2012
    Is amproilum safe for ducks, geese, & turkeys? Either as a medication or if it's just ingested in passing if they pick up some of the medicated feed?
  10. tec27

    tec27 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 6, 2011
    I use it. All my chickens are fine so ill keep on using it. And not giving it to them because they are already healthy is not the greatest argument. As soon as a baby is born it gets booster shots. Same thing.
    1 person likes this.

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