Is constantly changing feed bad for our chickens? Weigh in, please!

Pug Momma

In the Brooder
10 Years
Mar 31, 2009
Auburn, WA
Okay. I've got my own thinking on this. I think that changing feed all the time gives my meat birds (freedom rangers) diarrhea and is bad for them. I prefer to keep my birds on the same feed, dictated by age and outcome (egg vs. meat) and supplementing with scratch, cracked grain, table scraps and greens. A friend of mine disagrees and says that chickens are like people, they can eat whatever and have no problem. This just hasn't been my experience, so I thought I would post it here and see what you all think.

I have gone through my chicken books and searched the net and can find NO useful articles or conclusive evidence that excessively (like, every other bag is a different feed) changing feed is a bad or good idea.

Thoughts? Off the cuff or supported by evidence, doesn't matter. I'm purely interested in what other people are doing and thinking!

Thanks, y'all.


9 Years
Feb 28, 2010
Well, I have always heard the same discussion about cats and dogs. One camp says "feed a variety, it's best, and humans and wild animals do it safely" and the other camp says "when I feed a varied diet my animal gets diarrhea or other problems and I won't do that to them".

For me and my pets, I believe the first statement, but sometimes experienced the second. So I took a gradual approach, much like changing a baby from formula to table food. The baby (or in this case, pet) has one main food. Then one day they get a few bites of a new food along with a tiny bit less of the typical dinner. Stick with that for several days, then introduce a few bites of a different food and a little less of the typical food. Stick with that for several days. Etc. Eventually you will have a baby (or pet) that is eating MANY different things with no stomach upset.

I would assume that works the same for chickens. Give regular food, plus throw in a handful of something else you want them to eventually eat, and proceed. That is, IF you want to. Many people feed a single diet and it's fine. If it's working for you then there is no reason to change. Are your chickens as large, healthy, and happy as her chickens? If one group is not as impressive as the other, then someone may want to change something.

Personally, I feel a varied diet is more healthy and more likely to be balanced. A single brand of food could be deficient in something, after all each brand is not identical to each other. Plus, I remember that chickens are as individual as people, and one may need more of something and another less. Varying their diets and going by those results is more realistic than blood tests for each chicken. Plus I feel that readying them for a varied diet is safer, because I can not always control what they will be exposed to. What if one experiences a problem that a food additive would solve but they've never eaten anything new and won't touch it? What if their bag of feed gets spoiled somehow and the store doesn't have any right then? What if they get loose and get into the compost pile full of kitchen leftovers? And so on.

So that's my experience. Your mileage may vary.


9 Years
Dec 5, 2010
Hi Pug Momma,

As I've experienced it, changing the diet has nothing to do with diarrhea unless the change includes something that's a cause. (Known causes of wet droppings include sweet lupins and unsoured pasteurised milk.)

If anything, changing the diet can cause smaller firmer droppings as sometimes they may stop eating for a while, hence all advice to change diet gradually, so they don't lose condition.

Nevertheless, I think if changing the diet brings diarrhea, you may need to consider whether the new feed contains something that's irritating their gut. Meat birds don't seem to have very tough gut lining, so that may be a factor too.

Just my thoughts, hope you don't mind my disagreeing.


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