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How To Feed Chickens

Newborn baby chicks

Starter Feeds

Newly hatched chicks ages 0-10 weeks should be fed a chick starter diet with a protein level between 10%-20%. These rations are formulated to provide proper nutrition for growing baby chickens. Higher protein starter rations (22%-24%) are reserved for meat birds such as turkey, quail and pheasant. This higher protein level maximizes growth for broilers and roasters, but is not necessary or desirable for egg laying chickens.

Grower Feeds

At 10 weeks of age, a grower feed should replace the starter feed. Grower feeds are typically 15%-16% protein, and are designed to sustain growth to maturity. The higher protein content (20%), in starter/grower feeds is recommended for growing game birds.

Layer Feeds

Layer feeds are designed to provide optimum nutrition for birds laying eggs for consumption. Layer feeds contain 16% protein and have increased levels of Calcium, for proper shell development. Layer feeds should be fed starting around 18 weeks of age, or when the first egg is laid, whichever comes first.

Water

It is necessary to provide an adequate supply of fresh, clean water for your birds at all times. Chickens will drink approximately three times as much water by weight as they eat in feed. A good rule of thumb is to provide one quart of water for every four chickens. Water intake levels will also increase significantly during periods of warm weather. Baby chicks should only be offered water, (no feed) during the first hour. The first water offered to Baby Chicks should include 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of Terramycin per gallon. This will help boost immunity and reduce stress of shipping. For the second day, 1 teaspoon of Terramycin only should be added (no sugar,) and then fresh clean water after that.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Where do I find the most accurate and up to date information on feeding poultry?

A. Everything you need to select the right kind of feed for your birds is listed on the backs of the bags.

Q. What do I feed my chickens and/or Game Birds?

A. Like other animals, birds require carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water to sustain life. Complete poultry feeds are formulated to meet the differing levels of these basic needs during the stages of life.

Q. How often do I feed my chickens?

A. The most widely accepted method of feeding poultry to attain maximum production is a full feeding method. Full feeding refers to offering a constant supply of feed at all times. Typically, when hens are restricted from consuming the amount of feed they desire, egg production will cease.

Q. How much do I feed my Chickens?

A. An average laying hen will consume about 1/4 pound of feed per day, depending on factors such as size of the bird, weather conditions, and level of productivity. The following chart shows average daily feed consumption levels for chickens and turkeys by age. Consult the backs of the bags for guidelines for feeding other bird species.

Q. Will my chickens get all the nutrients they need from scratch?

A. No. Scratch feeds, (usually cracked, rolled, or whole grains such as corn, barley, oats, or wheat), are relatively low in protein and do not provide balanced nutrition like complete feeds. In fact, if too much scratch is added to an already complete feed ration, nutrient levels can be diluted. Therefore, it is recommended that scratch be fed sparingly. A general rule of thumb is to feed only as much scratch as the chickens can clean up in about 20 minutes. If a scratch feed is offered, it is also a good idea to include an insoluble grit such as granite or cherry stone. Oyster shell is not a substitute for grit, because it is too soft. While feeding scratch is not necessary when feeding a complete feed, it does encourage the natural behavior to scratch the ground providing exercise and consumption of the grit necessary for digestion.

Q. Should I feed laying hens differently than broilers and roasters?

A. Yes. Meat birds require a higher-level protein (approx. 20%-24%) for maximum growth. Laying hens can be maintained on a 16% protein layer feed that has added calcium to provide the hen with the proper nutrients to produce good eggs.

Q. Is it okay to feed my chickens table scraps?

A. While chickens appear to love table scraps, they are not necessarily beneficial to productivity or egg laying. Feeding a small amount of table scraps as a “treat” is not harmful to the birds, and is acceptable. However, the same rule applies to table scraps as scratch grain, the total supplemental of scratch and table scraps should be no more than can be cleaned up in about 20 minutes.

Q. When is it necessary to feed oyster shell?

A. When the laying hen’s diet is deficient in Calcium, the hen lays eggs with thin shells, or no shell at all. Selecting a complete layer feed such as DuMor 16% Poultry Layer provides adequate nutrients in the proper proportion and allows the hen to produce eggs with good shells. If thin shells become a problem, a supplemental supply of calcium should be provided. Oyster shell is the most widely used form of supplemental calcium. When oyster shell is to be fed, it is recommended that 2 lbs. of shell be added to every 100 pounds of complete layer ration.

Q. Why do chickens need grit?

A. Birds do not have teeth to break down food for digestion. Food is swallowed whole and goes to the crop to be stored and mixed with saliva. The feed then passes to the stomach where it mixes with digestive juices. From the stomach, the feed then passes into the organ called the gizzard. The gizzard contains small stones, which the bird has eaten to help the gizzard to grind up the food for digestion. Nutrients are then absorbed as the feed passes along the intestine. The chicken must swallow the stones that the gizzard requires to grind up the food. Grit is the term for these tiny stones. Granite and cherry stone are two recommended grits. Limestone and Oyster shell are good for shell production, but are not acceptable substitutions for grit because they are too soft.