Is grower feed the same as chick starter? And other newbie questions.


In the Brooder
9 Years
Sep 22, 2010
San Francisco Bay Area, CA
I have two 6 week Americaunas, a 7 week Buff Orpington, and a 7 week White Leghorn. I've been feeding them only chick starter from day one. The feed store said to switch them to laying crumbles at 8 weeks, but I know everyone here says to wait until they are laying/about to lay. So I'm not sure what I should be feeding them when they turn 8 weeks. From researching the threads, it seems like most people feed either grower, start & grower, or flock grower. I haven't seen those at my feed stores. They only seem to have chick starter and laying crumble. Is chick starter the same as grower? Can I feed them chick starter until they are ready for laying crumble?

We'll hopefully finish the coop on Sunday and move them out there. We are in Northern California, so the weather is warm and they seem to have most of their feathers. The floor of the run is sand, so do I need to provide grit or can they just use the sand? I asked for chick grit at the feed store today and they don't sell any.

I also got them some chick scratch and BOSS today for treats. From researching the threads, it seems like I shouldn't give them the BOSS until they are about 16 weeks, is that true? Also, how do I give them the chick scratch? The particles are so small, almost like sand, if I throw them in the run with the sand I don't think they would find them. Should I put some chick scratch in a pie tin or bowl and put it out for them? The coop will have pine shavings on the floor, so I'm afraid that if I throw the chick scratch on the floor of the coop they wouldn't find it either.

Also, if I give them some fruit treats like watermelon, raisins, or cut up grapes, do I just throw them on the sand in the run? Or should I put them on a plate? As you can probably see, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around throwing food on the sand. If it was dirt I wouldn't have a problem for whatever reason, lol.

One last question. The feed store said to give them chick scratch and chick grit as treats from 8 to 20 weeks, then chicken scratch and chicken grit from 20 weeks on. Is that correct?

So the re-cap of my questions:
1. Is chick starter the same as grower?
2. Can I feed them chick starter until they are ready for laying crumble around 20 weeks old?
3. Do I need to provide grit or can they just use the sand that covers the run as grit?
4. When can I start feeding them BOSS for treats?
5. How do I give them chick scratch? On a pie plate or bowl or some other method?
6. How do I give them fruit for treats? Just throw them on the sand in the run?
7. Should I give chick scratch and chick grit from 8-20 weeks, and chicken scratch and chicken grit from 20 weeks on? As treats in addition to their feed, of course.

I've been researching for weeks with this forum and books and just can't seem to figure these questions out. Thanks for any advice!


10 Years
Apr 10, 2009
NW Indiana
I'm pretty much a Newb myself - had my hens for just over a year and got 2 day-olds at the end of August.
To answer your questions:
1 - starter is often medicated (for coccidiosis) so not the same as grower. Ask your feedstore if they are selling you medicated starter. Flock grower feed has a different level of protein than starter - at least the stuff I got did.
2 - I fed starter - medicated until they were 4months old then non-medicated until my pullets were about 6mos then switched to layer feed for the calcium.
3 - sand is grit so you don't need to buy extra - your chicks will naturally peck & eat the sand & that is fine
4 - I feed my 5wk chicks BOSS as a treat (just a very small handful - maybe a tablespoonful) and they seem to do fine with it. As long as they gave some grit to use to grind it up in their gizzards it shouldn't be a problem.
5 - ??? from your description the "scratch" you got is chick grit. Scratch is normally a mix of grains given as a treat - your BOSS is a form of scratch.
6 - cutup fruit is fine for chicks the age yours are. They can peck at whole grapes too - it's fun to watch them play "keepaway" with a grape. Tossing the treats on the sand is fine too - they can use any sand that gets eaten as grit
7 - grit is not a treat, they should have a source available freechoice at all times. They'll eat what they need. Scratch (like your BOSS) IS a treat and should be given occasionally - think of it like candy or potato chips for kids. When you change to layer feed you can change to chicken-sized grit. Also consider adding freechoice oyster shell then for the calcium

Have fun with your girls!


Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Feb 5, 2009
South Georgia
They don't sell grit but they tell you to feed it to them?

I, too, am wondering what they are calling scratch.


In the Brooder
9 Years
Sep 22, 2010
San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Thanks 2DogsFarm!

I can't figure out how to post a picture here or I would show you what the "chick scratch" looks like. If you can tell me how, I'll post a pic. Basically it looks like ground up chicken scratch - very small particles of corn, wheat, etc.


Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers
10 Years
Sep 22, 2009
My slice of heaven in Somerset, CA
To post pictures, you'll need to have them stored on your computer where you can "browse" to find them.

Now, on this page, above the posts, is that darker line that starts on the left of the screen with "Index" and goes all the way through User List, Rules, Search, MyPage, Profile, Recent Posts, Uploads, GFM, Chat, Messages, Logout.

With your "reply" or "post a message" window open for you to type, just move your cursor up to the Uploads and click on it. It will open a NEW tab/window for you so the open "post message" is on one tab and the "upload" is on another.

On the Upload window, "browse" to find the photo(s) you want to upload to BYC so you can post them in messages. You have to do them one image at a time. There can be NO spaces in the photo file name, and they have to be jpg or jpeg files.

Once you find the photo on your computer, select it so the code to where it is, is in the box. Press SUBMIT. Once it uploads, it will display a small version of the photo, and two rectangular boxes below it, each with HTML code in it. You want the BOTTOM one, for the image, not the top one. Highlight the code in that bottom box, and press Ctrl C (Control and letter C) to copy it. Then come back to your post message page, put your cursor where you want the photo to be inserted, and press Ctrl V (Control and letter V) to paste the code onto the message.

That's how you get photos into messages. ;-)

Now, as to your other questions....
Medicated chick starter until 8 weeks, if you so choose to buy the medicated kind. (Some folks don't.) Then grower/finisher, or grower, or FlockRaiser or the like. Non-medicated. Until they are around 20 weeks OR have laid their first egg.

Then, you could change to a layer feed. Or you could continue with grower/finisher feed and just start supplying crushed oyster shell free choice, in a separate container. (I use an empty tuna tin nailed to an inside wall of the coop next to the feeder, plus have some outside in a little tin tub.)

Playground sand is a little fine for grit, but if you are using construction sand, that has the pebbles and bits of granite in it, that's perfect for them to use for their grit.

BOSS is good for feather growth. It's about 15% protein, so it won't lower their ratio of protein if you only offer it as treats, even daily.

I have no clue what the two types of 'scratch' is that that feed store is trying to sell you.

Good luck with your chicks! May you have a happy & long living flock!
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In the Brooder
9 Years
Sep 22, 2010
San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Thank you for the picture tutorial!! I had managed to get a picture into the upload area, but didn't know what to do after that. And thanks for answering my other questions too!

I'm going to check my other feed store for grower or FlockRaiser. The one I went to yesterday didn't carry that.

The sand I have is mostly playground sand, so I think I'll get some construction sand and add it to it.

Here are a couple of pictures of the "chick scratch." It is on a full size dinner plate to give you a reference of size.




RIP 1938-2020
9 Years
Jul 6, 2010
Whoa--medicated starter for 4 months? Isn't that kind of long? After a couple of weeks they should be immune enough to switch over to nonmedicated grower or flock raiser which, BTW, will have more protein so the birds can grow faster/stronger. Going 4 months with medicated feed will mean your birds will either have medicated eggs or meat. Also it is recommended that you start layer only when the chickens start to lay, not before and not on some timetable.

As far as scratch or scratch grain is concerned it is generally corn mixed with other grains--type and kind depending on feed mill. It is a good thing to use to train birds to come--toss a handful on the ground and they will come running--but not recommended for a normal diet. I use it only in the winter because I think the grains help add fat to keep the birds warm. I prefer to use BOSS--which I toss on the ground or floor of the coop--as a training treat and go easy on that. Sand is a good source of grit as long as it is not too fine--otherwise tossing a handful of grit (pulverized granite) into the run once in a while is sufficient. I have a 25 lb bag of the stuff I bought 25 yrs ago that is half there still since I only use it only before I allow my chicks access to the outside or during the winter when the snow is too deep for the birds to get to the bare ground. You want to avoid nonchicken food if the birds haven't had grit since they store it in their gizzards to grind down BOSS seed coating and vegetable matter.


13 Years
May 23, 2009
You have to read the label on your feed. Different companies use different formulations.

For example, the brand I use (Countryside Naturals) has just two formulations: one for chickens too young to lay, and one for layers. The layer feed has calcium and is lower in protein than the chick feed. They offer their chick feed in two different "grinds": one ground more finely for very young chicks, and one ground less finely for older chicks.


9 Years
Jul 19, 2010
BlueRidge Mts. Virginia
I buy my chicken feed at Tractor Supply Co. and the chick starter is 20% protein and the finisher/ grower is 15% protein. Doesn't state on the label if it has any type of medication added. I switch to the grower after chicks are 4 or 5 weeks old as it seems that the grower is not as fine in texture as the starter and not as much is wasted. Not familiar with what the product"BOSS" is...


Premium Feather Member
14 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
You are getting some conflicting advice here and I'm going to give you some more conflicting advice. What this means is that a lot of different things work. Chickens are pretty tough and adaptable.

Is chick starter the same as grower?

Chick starter is not the same thing as grower. The main difference is in the percent protein. The "normal" progression of food recommended by the extension services is to feed Starter the first 6 weeks, grower from 6 weeks until they are 20 weeks or they start to lay, whichever occurs first. Some recommend switching to developer at 13 weeks until 20 weeks or they start to lay. This is for a flock that will develop into layers. If you are growing meat birds, it is different.

Chick starter normally has about 20% protein to help kick start them growing, especially during that early period when they are growing in their first full set of feathers. Most chicks are fully feathered at 4 to 5 weeks, so yours should be fine to go outside.

Grower has about 16% protein. They are passed their first rush of growth and they have their first set of feathers, so they don't need the higher protein content. They will go through two molts before they reach adulthood and they will still grow pretty fast, but the idea of the smaller amount of protein is that you want the chicks to mature at the same rate as they grow, so they reach maturity and their body growth are in sync. Maturity is not just body growth. It is the development of their internal organs and egg laying system and the development of their instincts. Part of this too is that these recommendations fall in line with the commercial operations. The commercial operations don't want the chickens to start laying too early. They don't want those weird eggs that young pullets often lay when they start to lay too early, the shell-less eggs, double yolkers, yolk-less eggs, whatever. Some of these can lead to egg eating (shell-less egg) or can physically damage a chicken (huge double yolker), plus they don't get very much money for this type of eggs. This type of things doesn't happen that often, but when you have a commercial operation with 5,000 laying hens in each of 5 different coops, a small percentage adds up and makes a diifference to the bottom line. There is also a component in this that the 16% is cheaper than the 20% feed, so since they don't need it, it is more cost efficient to feed the lower protein Grower.

Developer has about 15% protein. By 13 weeks they have probably finished or almost finished their secong juvenile molt and they have done a whole lot of their fast physical growth. Developer is not available everywhere and I think this is more about cost efficiency if you have thousands of chickens than about real need.

Layer normally has 16% protein, same as Grower. It also has a slightly different mix of vitamins and such, but the significant difference is that Layer has a little over 4% calciium which the hens need for shell development. Starter and grower has just over 1% calcium. Too much calcium can damage a growing chicks internal organs (kidneys I believe) and can lead to bone deformation. When I have a mix of laying hens and growing chicks, I feed them all Grower with Oyster Shell offered free choice for the laying hens. They do fine.

Some Starter is medicated, usually with Amprolium, Amprol, or some such product. This is not an antibiotic. It helps keep the number of Cocci protazoa to a manageable level in their digestive system but allows them to develop the immunity to that protazoa that they need. Not all Starter is medicated. If I get Starter at the Co-op, all they have is medicated. If I get it at my local Tractor Supply, it is not medicated but I can buy Amprolium separately to put in their water if I want. I personally do not feed medicated starter, prefering instead to control Cocci by keeping the brooder fairly dry. Medicating them with an Amprolium product the first month or two won't hurt anything, but I just choose not to. The difference between Starter and Grower is not whether it is medicated or not but the percent protein. What confuses this somewhat is that many stores only sell medicated or not medicated Starter.

To further add to the confusion, many stores offer or sometimes only carry a combined Starter-Grower, This is usually in the 18% to 20% protein range. This can be fed to them from day one until you switch to Layer. That's often my only choice at my local Tractor Supply, so that is what I use.

You will also see Game Bird feed. This is a higher protein than the stuff for chickens, usually 22% or higher I believe. Since I don't use it I don't pay it too much attention. If you notice on the label, you will see that chickens are not listed on the label as birds that it is used for. Since the chicken's liver has to process and remove any excess protein the chicken eats but does not need, I don't use the high protein stuff. Why make their liver work harder than it has to? However, there may be times this may be useful, same as flock raiser. If you are feeding a lot of treats that are low in protein, you can feed this high-powered stuff to get the overall protein level up where it needs to be.

None of this has to be that specific. As you can see from the different posts, many people do many different things with no obvious bad results. A lot of what I've written is based on the way the commercial operations do it, raising the chickens in the most cost effective way for them to reach laying age healthy enough to lay a decent size egg on a regular basis for a long time. Not every soft shelled egg is going to lead to egg eating. Not every double yolk egg is going to damage a small pullets internal egg laying factory. Most of the time this does not happen. But sometimes it does.

Do I need to provide grit or can they just use the sand that covers the run as grit?

They can use the sand in the run as grit. Chickens have survived for thousands of years finding their own grit.

When can I start feeding them BOSS for treats?

Yours should be plenty old enough, as long as they have grit.

How do I give them chick scratch? On a pie plate or bowl or some other method?

You can put it in a pie plate, hang a plastic yogurt cup on the side of the run or coop, or use any other container or method you can think of. You can throw it on the sand in the run or the bedding in the coop. They love to scratch. They will not find all of it if you throw it on the sand or bedding but they will scratch for it, satisfying a craving for them plus keep your sand and bedding stirred up so you don't have to rake as much. If you offer it in a container, they will spill a lot anyway. There is no truly right or wrong answer, just different ways to do it.

How do I give them fruit for treats? Just throw them on the sand in the run?

That's how I do it. They are eating the sand for grit anyway.

Should I give chick scratch and chick grit from 8-20 weeks, and chicken scratch and chicken grit from 20 weeks on? As treats in addition to their feed, of course.

If you have sand in your run, you do not need to give them grit. If it makes you feel better, you can, but you don't have to. A baby chick can handle a large grain of sand as grit. A full grown chicken will use anything from sand to pebbles as large as a pea as grit. As they grow, they can use bigger and bigger pebbles for grit, up to the size of a pea when grown. Grown chickens do not have to have grit the size of a pea, but they can handle grit that size. They can just use sand if that is what is available.

I don't feed scratch. I let mine free range as much as I can. If they want grain, they can find it themselves. Of course, there are different things that are sold as scratch. Some have cracked corn and some have whole kernels. I'd think my 6 week olds could handle anything sold as adult scratch, but I can't say exactly.

Let me say again. Many many people do many many different things and their backyard flocks tend to thrive. I'm not saying my way is the only way. There are a lot of different ways to feed your flock that will work fine. Hopefully you can pick something out of all this that might help you. If not, have a nice day anyway.

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