how long to continue starter feed

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Romoshka, Jan 10, 2013.

  1. Romoshka

    Romoshka Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 15, 2012
    Clemson, SC
    I have 2 brooders going. 1 has 13 5.5 week old "chicks" (heck...they are too big to call clicks) and the other has 21 2 week holders. How long should one continue feeding starter feed?
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    :frow Welcome to the forum! :frow Glad you joined us! :frow

    You’ll find that different ones of us do a lot of different things. There is only one rule about this. Don’t feed Layer to growing chicks. Layer contains excess calcium and there are plenty of studies that show feeding excess calcium to growing chicks can cause internal damage.

    The main difference in the other feeds (other than Layer) is the percent protein in them. The professionals feed Starter for 4 to 8 weeks, Grower from whenever they switch over from Starter, then start Layer just before they start to lay. That’s so they can get the calcium in their systems they need for the egg shells. The general idea is to give them a higher protein feed the first month or so to get then off to a good start then give them a lower percent protein to slow body growth down and allow the skeleton and internal organs to develop at a pace with the body size. Most of us are not professionals with tens of thousands of chicks where feed costs are extremely important and control when the chickens start to lay by controlling the light.

    Some of us feed a 20 t0 24% Starter for 4 to 8 weeks, then when that bag runs out, switch to a Grower, usually around 16% protein. Some feed 20% Starter or Flock Raiser until the switch to Layer. Some never switch to Layer but just offer oyster shell on the side for the extra calcium while they are laying. Some of us use a 15% Developer/Finisher from maybe 12 weeks on.

    There is no right or wrong answer except for the rule about Layer. It’s just whatever you decide to do.
    2 people like this.
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I'm a "til the bag runs out" person. Whenever that is over about 4 weeks or so. Sometimes they get it for an extra month, if I have fewer chicks. I'm don't have a good way to store a partial bag of feed until next year--I usually only brood 1-2 times in the spring---so just feed it til it's gone.
  4. DayOldChicksNY

    DayOldChicksNY Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 11, 2013
    New York
    Starter rations for chicks. The ration for layer-breed chicks, usually called "starter rations," should be 20 percent protein. From the time they start eating, meat chicks need a high protein feed of about 22 to 24 percent protein for the first six weeks. It's called "meat bird starter" or "broiler starter."

    Most people use a medicated feed for the first few weeks of a chicken's life. You should stop using medicated feeds at 18 weeks for layers and about 2 weeks before you intend to butcher meat birds - even if you haven't finished the medicated feed.

    If you have different types of birds in a brooder, it's better to feed the higher-protein meat bird feed to all the chicks rather than use a lower-protein feed. However, separating your future layers from meat birds when they leave the brooder is strongly recommended. Meat birds should have a protein level of about 20 percent until they are butchered, which is too high for layers.

    Grower pullet rations. If you're raising young pullets to become layers, you want them to grow slowly enough to develop good strong bones and to reach a normal body weight before they begin producing eggs. High-protein diets tend to hurry the birds into production before their bodies are quite ready. Therefore, the ration for growing pullets, from leaving the brooder at 6 weeks to about 14 weeks, should be about 18 percent protein.

    "Developer or finishing" pullet rations. At 15 weeks, it is ideal to lower the ration to 16 percent protein. From 15 weeks to 22 weeks old or until they begin laying eggs, whichever is first, protein levels should be about 16 percent. The object is to get them well grown without too much fat.

    Your feed should have normal levels of calcium and other vitamins until the birds start laying. If you feed a diet high in calcium and phosphorus to very young birds, it can damage their kidneys, so don't begin feeding layer feed until pullets are at least 18 weeks old.

    Adult layer rations. After the hens reach the age of 22 weeks or begin laying, and throughout their laying careers, they need a protein level of 16 to 18 percent. The calcium and minerals should be formulated for laying hens.

    Don't feed adult layer rations to other types of chickens, because the higher mineral content may damage the kidneys of birds that aren't laying. The exception would be for a rooster housed with a laying flock; he'll be fine consuming laying rations.

    Also, don't force extra calcium and minerals on hens by adding things to a properly formulated feed. Too much calcium can cause kidney failure. If you're getting a lot of thin eggshells or soft-shelled eggs, give your hens some calcium in the form of crushed oyster shells in a feeder where they can choose the amount.

    Broiler rations for Cornish X Rock broiler hybrids. Cornish X Rock crosses grow extremely quickly and require precise diets. After the first six weeks, the protein percentage for these birds can be lowered to 18 to 20 percent until they're butchered. "Meat bird" or "broiler grower-finisher" is generally a label aimed at meat birds in their last weeks. Grower and finisher rations shouldn't contain antibiotics because these can be carried into the meat.

    Broiler rations for heritage and free-range meat birds. These types of meat birds grow more slowly and add less muscle meat than the broiler hybrids. They take longer to reach a satisfactory butchering rate. After the first six weeks, you can lower the protein to 18 to 20 percent for the next 6 weeks, and after that, protein content can be 16 percent.

    All stock or sweet feed. In some areas a pellet and whole-grain mix is sold, usually under the name of "all stock" or "sweet feed." It's covered with molasses or another sweetener to hold it all together. While these rations sometimes list poultry on them (or more often, include a picture of a chicken), they really aren't formulated for poultry. You can use these feeds on your other farm animals, and you don't need to worry if the chickens steal a bite. But definitely don't use them as your sole chicken feed.

    Forms of feed. Feed comes in three forms: crumbles, pellets, and mash. Research has shown that chickens grow and lay better on crumbles (commonly used for finisher rations and some adult feeds). Pellets (usually used for adult birds) are the second-best, whereas mash is the least-preferred although the most common for starter rations.

    If mash is the only type of feed available to you, you can add a little warm water to the feed just before serving it, which gives it the consistency of thick oatmeal. Chickens generally gobble this down. Water from cooking potatoes or other vegetables or milk also can be used. This is a good way to use up the fine pieces of crumbles or pellets left in the bottom of a bag or the feed dish. However, don't let this wet mixture sit too long; it will spoil and become moldy, which could harm the chickens.

    Grit. Grit, a mixture of crushed limestone and granite, helps chickens digest food. In nature chickens pick up small rocks, pieces of bone, and shells. If you're feeding any kind of homemade diet, whole grains, or have your birds on pasture, you need to supply them with some kind of grit.

    If you're feeding only a commercial mash, crumble, or pellet, your chickens won't require additional grit.

    Hope this helps you :)
  5. Romoshka

    Romoshka Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 15, 2012
    Clemson, SC
    Thanks for all of the helpful and informative replies. After posting I did a search on starter and realized that many others had already asked that question...duh!...should have known. This is an awesome site and very useful for the new Green Acres farmer like me.

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