Sponsored Post Teenage Chickens: 3 Frequently Asked Questions

sumi

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Backyard chicken raisers see a growth spurt when birds are 4-17 weeks old.
Do you remember the glory days of seventh grade? For many people, they were filled with braces, high-water pants and new experiences. Our teenage years are pivotal, helping shape the rest of our lives. This “teenage stage” is also important for backyard chickens – playing a key role in a bird’s future.

Many families are enjoying teenage chickens this summer after purchasing baby chicks at spring Purina® Chick Days events. In a matter of a few weeks, chicks go from cute cotton balls to pin-feathered chickens adjusting to their long legs and new feathers.

“Backyard chickens are considered teenagers from 4 to 17 weeks of age,” says Patrick Biggs, flock nutritionist for Purina Animal Nutrition. “The teenage stage isn’t talked about much in the backyard chicken world, but it’s a very important growth phase. These weeks are a lot of fun; they’re filled with quick growth, defined personalities and backyard exploration.”

Since exciting changes can be seen during this phase, there are often many questions. Here are three of the most common questions received by Purina this spring about teenage chickens:

Is my chicken a boy or a girl?

As birds develop, their gender becomes much more obvious. New primary feathers develop along with new names. Pullet is the term for a teenage female, while a young male chicken is called a cockerel.

“Between 5-7 weeks, you should be able to begin visually distinguishing males from females,” Biggs explains. “Compared to pullets, the combs and wattles of cockerels often develop earlier and are usually larger. Females are typically smaller in size than males. A female’s primary flight feathers on her wings are generally longer, but the developing tail feathers of males are bigger. If you are still uncertain of gender, you’ll be sure who the males are when you hear them attempting to crow.”

When can chicks go to the coop?

“Keep chicks in the brooder until week 6,” Biggs recommends. “As chicks grow in the brooder, keep birds comfortable by providing one to two square feet per bird. The temperature should be between 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit to help them get ready to move outside. Your chicks require less heat because they are now larger and can better regulate their body temperature.”

Biggs recommends the following tips for transitioning birds from brooder to coop between weeks 6 and 8:

1. Remove supplemental heat.
2. Move brooder into the coop.
3. Release chicks into the coop with the brooder still available for an option.
4. Supervise chicks outside of the coop in small increments.
5. Keep young chicks separate from older birds until they reach the same size.

What do teenage birds eat?

Many new flock raisers this spring wonder about switching feeds as birds grow. Biggs advises keeping the feeding program similar from day 1 through week 18.

“Continue feeding a complete starter-grower feed through 18 weeks of age,” he says. “Starter-grower feeds are higher in protein and lower in calcium than layer feeds. Look for a starter-grower feed with 18 percent protein and no more than 1.25 percent calcium for laying breeds. Meat birds and mixed flocks should be fed a diet containing at least 20 percent protein.”

Too much calcium can have a detrimental effect on growth, but a complete starter-grower feed has just the right balance for growing birds. The building blocks birds receive from their feed are put into growing feathers, muscle and bone. Prebiotic and probiotics support immune and digestive health, while added marigold extract promotes brightly colored beaks and leg shanks.

“Ideally, wait until birds are 18 weeks old before introducing treats and scratch,” says Biggs. “It is important that birds receive proper nutrition in early development. If you can’t wait to spoil your birds, then wait until the flock is at least 12 weeks old. Keep the treats and scratch to a minimum – no more than 10 percent of total daily intake from treats to maintain nutritional balance.”

Biggs emphasizes that feeding growing birds is simple.

“After moving birds to the coop, continue feeding a complete starter-grower feed and complement with scratch for a treat,” he says. “Then, watch your pullets and cockerels grow and change each day.”

For more tips on raising backyard chickens, visit or connect with Purina Poultry on Facebook or Pinterest.

 
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hooktontravel

Chirping
May 3, 2016
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Any reason why not feed a higher protein feed to all the birds (like a grower) and just offer them extra calcium free-choice? I have a microflock of chickens and a drake right now... all over 1 year. I fed grower up until the girls started laying, and then on for a couple months after with eggshell and oyster offered. I figured the boys don't need more calcium to process out... I give layer pellets sometimes and grower crumble or mash other times (often turned in to 'chicken oatmeal' for their breakfast with some hot water stirred in, which they LOOOVE). Am I poisoning them or denying them something they really need? if they shouldn't have too much calcium young, how is it okay for roos & drakes to have the layer later on in life?

so curious about so many feeding things!
(and they have a large pen so they can hunt bugs and such. sometimes they get lots of greens and things like when we get beets. other times none at all aside from whtat they hunt...)
 

Oceanpizza

Chirping
Jun 4, 2017
62
137
81
if they shouldn't have too much calcium young, how is it okay for roos & drakes to have the layer later on in life?
Too much calcium when young can damage their kidneys. I suppose that that layer feed is all the nutrients you would have in a "rooster feed" (which does not exist), but with extra calcium and protein to aid egg production. So, the roosters filter out the extra calcium and protein, while the hens turn it into eggs.
 

Abriana

Spicy Sugar Cookie
Apr 26, 2017
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My four pullets are just coming out of the teenage stage, but are still quite rebellious. I know they don't mean to be, but they have decided to sleep in the tree every night instead of going in the coop and i have to climb up there every night to grab each one. Tiring! It has become a set-in-stone nightly ritual.
 

Purina

Songster
5 Years
Nov 11, 2014
131
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121
Any reason why not feed a higher protein feed to all the birds (like a grower) and just offer them extra calcium free-choice? I have a microflock of chickens and a drake right now... all over 1 year. I fed grower up until the girls started laying, and then on for a couple months after with eggshell and oyster offered. I figured the boys don't need more calcium to process out... I give layer pellets sometimes and grower crumble or mash other times (often turned in to 'chicken oatmeal' for their breakfast with some hot water stirred in, which they LOOOVE). Am I poisoning them or denying them something they really need? if they shouldn't have too much calcium young, how is it okay for roos & drakes to have the layer later on in life?

so curious about so many feeding things!
(and they have a large pen so they can hunt bugs and such. sometimes they get lots of greens and things like when we get beets. other times none at all aside from whtat they hunt...)
Great questions, hooktontravel! Feeding a mixed flock of roosters, laying hens and ducks can certainly be a challenge. It really comes down to the life stage of your birds and what the main nutritional need of your flock is. It is important your younger birds are not allowed access to calcium, as excessive calcium in the diet of young birds is known to cause kidney damage and/or skeletal deformities. When the birds start laying eggs, then you can switch them over to Purina Layena. If they are not laying eggs, then they should be on Flock Raiser. If you aren’t able to feed them a separate diet, then you can continue to feed them all Flock Raiser. Put out a separate feeder with some oyster shell in it to provide the hens that are laying a supply of calcium. The birds that aren’t laying will stay out of the oyster shell. When all of the birds are laying then you can switch them over to a layer feed. If the ducks and geese stop laying eggs before the chickens, then you can go back to Flock Raiser and oyster shell. If you have male birds or ducks, then you may want to go with the Flock Raiser and oyster shell year-round since those guys don’t need the extra calcium in layer feed, and it is not good for their kidneys to have all of the extra calcium in their feed.

The possibilities are endless with complete feed, but there's a combination for every flock!
 

BantyChooks

Pullarius
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Premium member
Aug 1, 2015
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Why is flock raiser so much more expensive than the layer feed? I would like to feed flock raiser to my whole flock, but I can't justify spending $300 more per year on chicken food.
 

SoCalClucker

Chirping
Jun 21, 2017
62
60
51
Any reason why not feed a higher protein feed to all the birds (like a grower) and just offer them extra calcium free-choice?
I have this question too! Ever since the chicks and their mama have re-integrated with the main flock, the other hens seem to think that fair's fair, since the littles are in the main run then the "nest" is communal property too, and are constantly helping themselves to the chick feed in there. I don't mind them having a bit here or there, but I assume that it won't harm them in any way, but if I happen to catch them in there I will usually shoo them out So wouldn't it be so much easier to just let everyone have the chick feed? :p
 

Oceanpizza

Chirping
Jun 4, 2017
62
137
81
I have this question too! Ever since the chicks and their mama have re-integrated with the main flock, the other hens seem to think that fair's fair, since the littles are in the main run then the "nest" is communal property too, and are constantly helping themselves to the chick feed in there. I don't mind them having a bit here or there, but I assume that it won't harm them in any way, but if I happen to catch them in there I will usually shoo them out So wouldn't it be so much easier to just let everyone have the chick feed? :p
While it would be easier to give them all chick feed with extra calcium free-choice, that presents a danger to the chicks. If a chick's kidneys get too much calcium, they can get damaged, and in severe cases, the chick may die. The older chickens may also not get enough of the nutrients they need that the chick feed doesn't have. You can probably ask @Purina for more information, they make chicken food and are experts on it, while I am not.
 
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