Topic of the Week - Feeding Chickens - What to feed and when?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by sumi, Oct 23, 2016.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

    Jun 28, 2011
    Rep of Ireland
    This is a hot topic on our forums and questions like when to switch feed and what is the best feed comes up frequently. So, for our featured Topic of the Week this week I would like to ask you all's opinions and suggestions on feeding chickens. Specifically:

    - Medicated or non-medicated feed?
    - When do you switch from chick crumbs to grower and layer feed?
    - Is it o.k. to feed older birds chick food, cockbirds layer feed, etc?
    - Thoughts on organic feed?
    - When do you start feeding treats and how much and often do you give these?
    - Do you make/mix your own home-made feed? If so, what do you consider the best recipe(s)?
    - Who uses fermented feed and what are your thoughts on that?

    For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here:
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017
    1 person likes this.

  2. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    - Medicated or non-medicated feed?

    I believe it does not matter. Out here in the forgotten provinces where there are few choices where to buy feed, often the store doesn't have what I need at any given time. I've fed both medicated and unmedicated chick feed, and never had any problems. I've been thinking that if you can only find unmedicated starter and you really want medicated, why not just mix some amprolium (Corid) at the preventative dose in the chicks' water? Seems it would accomplish the same thing.

    I've fed simple all-flock feed (Purina Flock Raiser) to baby chicks, too, and they did just fine. (Again, the forgotten provinces thing.)

    - When do you switch from chick crumbs to grower and layer feed?

    I get the smallest bag of chick crumbles and when it runs out, the chicks get whatever the big kids are eating.

    - Is it o.k. to feed older birds chick food, cockbirds layer feed, etc?

    I've bought the chick starter when my feed store was all out of the all-flock feed. (Forgotten provinces). It's really not much different. In fact, a lot of folks like chick starter for fermenting feed for their general flock.

    I do not feed layer feed to any of my flock. I've run a taste test on my girls and they hate layer. Yuk, they say, we won't eat it. They prefer all-flock feed. The added calcium is a problem for my older, "retired" layers, and it's not good for the rooster, and it's not good for the pre-laying pullets, either. I recommend everyone but commercial egg producers just avoid it all together.

    Unless you have a young flock of only laying hens and will be culling them before you get baby chicks, and if you don't keep roosters, using an all-flock feed is far more practical than juggling the different feeds in a mixed flock.

    - Thoughts on organic feed?

    Over-hyped. But if you can find it and afford it, go for it! Out here in the forgotten provinces, I have never seen it.

    - When do you start feeding treats and how much and often do you give these?

    Immediately. My baby chicks are brooded on sand outdoors in the run. They gobble grit their first two days, pack their little crops, and I feed meal worms practically from the first day I get them. That's how to bond with your chicks, by the way.

    Treats are doled out sparingly. I've noticed that baby chicks won't tackle foods they aren't ready for. Chick food should be 99% of what they eat in their first few months.

    - Do you make/mix your own home-made feed? If so, what do you consider the best recipe(s)?

    No, I don't have the time.

    - Who uses fermented feed and what are your thoughts on that?

    I'm a big believer in fermenting feed. I've been feeding FF for several years now, and the results in my flock are astonishing. I ferment the feed I give to baby chicks. They take right to it.

    However, dry crumbles sprinkled over the ground will "train" a baby chick to begin eating. They seem to have an instinct to find their food on the ground at first, and a broody hen has an easier time getting her chicks to start eating if I do this.

    But the chicks are eating fermented feed by the end of their first week, no problem. I generally use very small cups for this so they don't go swimming and frolicking in their food, as is their inclination.
  3. This is how I feed....
    Chicks- Medicated Chick starter till 8 weeks....Treats on occasion, granite grit....
    From 8 weeks till 18 weeks or first egg...Grower crumble, Granite grit free choice...Free range...Once or twice a week I feed treats at 5% daily ration...
    Laying Pullets till one year old. I feed Grower crumble/Layer pellets 50/50 ratio for the extra protein to prevent feather pecking...Oyster shell, granite grit free choice...

    With all ages I toss out a handful of scratch once or twice a week or use it to do a head count while free ranging.....

    It all depends on what percentage your feed is at.....My feed is made locally to my area....

    My Rooster eats what the girls eat.....

    I have never used Fermented feed or Fodder so I can not comment on that....

    Also, Sorry I did not follow your format on this thread.....

    Last edited: Oct 23, 2016
  4. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Last edited: Oct 23, 2016
    2 people like this.
  5. I Love Layers

    I Love Layers Crowing

    Apr 25, 2015
    North Dakota
    Medicated or non-medicated feed?

    Non-medicated, its cheaper and here in North Dakota some feed stores and elevators don't even carry chick feed so if they do it's usually Non-medicated.

    - When do you switch from chick crumbs to grower and layer feed?

    It depends on the season, and breed for me. With my show Cochins I feed them chick feed to 20 weeks so that they grow to there fullest. For my layers, if they are hatched in the spring I feed them chick feed until about 12-14 weeks which is when I move them into the coop, or when they don't need a heat lamp. They can forage for bugs etc for the extra protein.
    If layers are hatched in the summer they usually are only on for about 6 weeks since they don't need to stay under the heat lamp.
    For the fall I keep them on til 14-18 weeks.
    In the winter I basically keep them on until I run out of chick feed or til they hit 16 weeks or lay an egg.

    The reason I take mine off so early is because 1. Right now I don't have the space to keep up to 40 almost full grown chickens and 2. They can go and catch bugs for that extra protein.

    Also every night since mine don't usually start roosting til about 20 weeks I fill up a feeder and give them some chick food when all the other birds are roosting at night

    - Is it o.k. to feed older birds chick food, cockbirds layer feed, etc?

    I would never feed my older birds chick food cause its EXPENSIVE, the only time I do is when a hen hatches chicks then she gets it but that's actually better for her since she has not really eaten for a while and needs that extra protein to get her strength back up.

    - Thoughts on organic feed?

    I agree with @SpeckledHen on organic feed.

    - When do you start feeding treats and how much and often do you give these?

    My birds had never had an actual treat like mealworms until July 2016, and only because I had just won 1st place in market trio, cockerel, pullet, and grand champion in breeding poultry and showmanship so I decided to reward them.
    My birds get table scraps from a young age, basically when I let them outside for the first time. But even then only maybe once a week.
    I think people should be able to make their own limit for their birds

    - Do you make/mix your own home-made feed? If so, what do you consider the best recipe(s)?
    I don't know what you consider mixing, but for my layers I have a large feeder that is basically a 6 foot rectangle on 4 legs. It is raised of the ground about 5 inches. About 2 inches away from the feeder there are boards for them to stand on that are raised off the ground to the bottom of the feeder. The feeder is about 6 inches deep and 4 wide
    There are 3 compartments in it, one that is probably 3 feet long, one that is 2 1/2 feet long, and one that's 1/2 foot long.
    In the 3 foot long compartment I have Whole corn mixed with oats, I get these free from neighbors who farm and they take eggs as a trade. In the 2 1/2 foot compartment is layer feed. I'm the 1/2 foot compartment is grit and eggshells

    - Who uses fermented feed and what are your thoughts on that?
    Water and feed is a big no no for me. There's always a possibility of mold. I like my feed dusty thank you.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2016
    1 person likes this.

  6. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    2 people like this.
  7. Scenario: I get my birds once every few years from a hatchery. I buy in larger numbers from 30-100 at a time. Sometimes other people come and get some of them after they "aren't delicate little chicks" anymore. Sometimes people just come for "finished"birds. Sometimes people just give me the money to "get" their chicks because wuantity buying is cheaper. I do keep a lot of them. Some of my birds are 6 years old. 1 rooster is gonna be 10 if he makes it till next spring. I use my birds for eggs and meat and breeding experiments crossbreeding to different breeds and sometimes even with pheasants or Guineas.

    On to feed/s/ing……

    If I can afford it I will feed my chicks non-medicated "20% Chick Starter" for a couple of weeks then "18% Grower" till they are about half grown(4or5months).
    More often than not it's free range with the adults after the chick starter. Regarding "medicated feed" I haven't seen a great positive effect. I ain't saying not to use it though. I suppose in some instances it is necessary. Just that in the long run it hasn't done anything good for my birds. Many times my hens raise their own chicks "un savauge"
    They eat grasses and legumes and slugs and bugs and other fruits of nature. I sometimes throw some some mixed grains to them. They start knowing a certain call and come running. That helps in the fall and nights during aerial predator season. I like to feed more corn during the fall and winter for the higher fat content. It gets pretty darn cold here sometimes. I'm talking -50*C.
    I really prefer organic but need to be real if I can't get it.

    My birds get treats every day. It's kind of bothersome having them underfoot occasionally but it is a control thing to have my chickens running to and/or with me. It's also helped save a few lives.....of chickens and turkeys and ducks and geese and Guinea fowl and even rabbits....from roaming dogs. Geez I even have Eagles, Falcons, Redtails and owls actually landing in my yard. But it's also kind of cute. So ya the 'treats' have in this case actually been helpful.
    That said about "treats" my treats are more down to earth than cubed veggies and balled fruit.

    I like to mix my own feed of pretty much even amounts of wheat oats and corn and about half that of barley. I really like peas and some beans. All my veggie peels and egg shells get scattered on the lawn and they have access to their own gravel/sand pile. They also seem to like ingesting certain amount of the thick high quality clay from around the edge of the pond. And always alway always fresh water. Anywhere from once to 7 times a day depending on the weather. Winter has its own challenges but still kinda simple.

    I don't do fermented food mainly because I don't have it and it would be too much bother to make and properly look after it...for safety sake....for the chickens
    However, in the winter I like reconstituting dehydrated alfalfa for them. They seem to love it and the payoff is I still get the nice richly yellow, almost orange, yolks of summer free range chickens.
    In my neck of the woods "free range" is essentially wild.... bush, wetlands, meadow, pasture and lawn.

    I think most BYC people would be shocked at how very much "KISS"(thnx speckled hen) my operation is.
    My birds aren't pets and although they aren't forced to roost in trees all year round their chicken coop ain't a palace either. I used to expend tons of energy in fortifications for my birds but my life ain't just about my birds anymore. So no barnyard fowl Fort Knox here anymore.
    Like I said "essentially wild"
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  8. MaryOos

    MaryOos In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2015
    I tried fermenting last fall - spring. I kept a dry feed bucket out at all times but brought a dish of fermented out to them every day as well. They cleaned up the fermented feed every day. A little tougher in the winter because if they didn't eat it quick enough it froze in the dish. The problem I had with fermenting was that I had a bearded Salmon Faverolle. The fermented feed would get all gummed up in her beard every day and harden like a rock. I had to cut the poor dear beard all off. I like feeding fermented so I won't be getting any bearded breeds in the future. When Rosie Fluffybottom is no longer with us I will be returning to fermenting for sure.
    1 person likes this.
  9. MaryOos

    MaryOos In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2015
    Lid on the bucket? Smell? When I was fermenting it was a big jar on the counter. No lid, no sour smell. Just a towel over the top to keep flies out.

  10. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    Medicated or non-medicated feed? I have never used medicated feed. Have never had issue with coccidiosis. Use natural prevention: expose chicks to native soils within the first 2 weeks of hatch. Use fermented feed to give them a boost in probiotics.

    - When do you switch from chick crumbs to grower and layer feed? I never use grower. Chicks go from starter to multi-flock around 8 weeks or when ever I am starting a new bag of feed. My preference is to keep the whole flock on multi-flock until the pullets are close to POL. However, I've put them on layer as early as 13 weeks and do not consider that to be bad practice. Fully aware of the "they said" mentality about not starting layer till POL due to concern about excess calcium causing kidney damage. Free range flocks consume more calcium in their daily ration of greens than can be found in any layer feed. Free range flocks (on good range) IMO have diet that is far superior to prepared feed. Really, IMO the only reason to ever use layer feed is b/c it is less expensive than multi-flock or starter. Both of the latter products are superior feeds.

    - Is it o.k. to feed older birds chick food, cockbirds layer feed, etc? Yes, and yes. I would not give layer feed to chicks. But, chick feed (non medicated) is superior to layer feed. Ask any hen, and she will tell you that she prefers chick feed or multi flock over layer feed. Extra calcium can always be supplied by offering oyster shell on the side. Egg shells never get thrown out in my kitchen. They go back into the run most often, otherwise, they go into compost, into garden, or even in worm bin. I find the whole "never give layer feed to adult birds that are not laying b/c the extra calcium will damage their kidneys" argument to be a bit laughable. Roosters never lay eggs, and yet most back yard roos spend their entire adult lives on layer. Ever notice how the roos almost always look like the healthiest birds in the flock???

    - Thoughts on organic feed? Total waste of money. Unless you are talking about giving home grown grains as a supplement.

    - When do you start feeding treats and how much and often do you give these? I find the term "treats" to be a bit confusing. If I have left overs that aren't dog worthy, they go to the chickens. But, I rarely consider them to be treats. It's simply an other way to process scraps. If I have a soft apple, or other fridge scraps, they are simply tossed out the door or into the run. New chicks get a plug of sod, or simply get some supervised time to scratch around in the garden for bugs, worms, and greens. But, I don't consider those things to be treats. They are an important part of the diet.

    - Do you make/mix your own home-made feed? If so, what do you consider the best recipe(s)? I do not make any home made feed. But, I do ferment my birds feed. Have been doing so since I started my first batch of chicks. I also sprout grains/seeds in the winter.

    - Who uses fermented feed and what are your thoughts on that? I've been fermenting feed since my first chick hatch. Consistently, my birds reach POL faster, lay more often, and have better feather quality than the birds belonging to 3 of my friends (birds of the same age, from the same source, receiving prepared feed from the same feed store)
    1 person likes this.

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