How to Feed a Chicken Flock | Living the Country Life

How to Feed a Chicken Flock

Adjust feed as chicks grow to account for changing nutritional needs.
  • Layer Chicks - Starter Feed

    Backyard birds need different nutrients as they grow from chick to pullet to hen or rooster. Adjusting feed as birds grow can contribute to the flock’s health and happiness.
    A chick’s first feed can fuel its long-term growth potential. To support development, provide a complete starter feed that is formulated to include everything the baby chick needs from day one through egg laying.
    A quality complete starter feed should provide protein, vitamins and minerals along with probiotics (live microbial cultures) and prebiotics (ingredients such as yeast promote growth of desirable digestive microbes).
    A feed with 18% high-quality protein helps support bone and body growth and gives chicks the power they need to stay healthy and active.
    Vitamins and minerals are also required by the chicks. Both fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and water-soluble vitamins (all of the B-complex vitamins) are required by birds of all ages, but requirements are highest in growing chicks. Macrominerals (like calcium and phosphorus) and microminerals (such as copper, selenium, and other trace minerals) should be supplied in adequate concentrations to meet a growing bird’s requirements.
    Thirdly, probiotics and prebiotics in the starter feed can promote healthy digestive and immune systems.
    In general, chicks can be transitioned to a complete layer feed at 18 weeks of age or once they begin laying eggs.

    Date Published: May 8, 2015
    Date Updated: May 22, 2015
  • Feed for Meat Chickens and Mixed Flocks

    Broiler chicks – or meat birds – have considerably higher nutrient requirements than layer chicks due to their extremely fast growth rate and greater muscle mass.
    Flocks containing a mixture of species and ages can be optimally fed with one all-purpose flock raiser feed, as long as care is taken to choose the right product. Meat birds require 20% protein, turkey and gamebird chicks should be started with 28% protein and ducklings require higher niacin levels.
    Similar to a complete starter feed, a flock raiser feed should also include optimal concentrations of essential amino acids for muscle and skeletal development, fat- and water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Added probiotics and prebiotics can help promote healthy digestive and immune systems, which can in turn support optimal growth.
    Feed a complete flock raiser formula to meat birds, ducks and geese as the sole ration from day one to either market weight or commencement of egg production and to turkeys and gamebirds from week 10 until start of lay. Turkey and gamebird chicks will need an appropriate turkey/gamebird starter product from hatch to 10 weeks.

    Date Published: May 8, 2015
    Date Updated: May 22, 2015
  • Feeding Laying Hens

    When hens begin laying eggs, they require additional nutrients to support the added task of egg production. The biggest difference between a starter and a layer feed is calcium.

    Egg production requires very high levels of calcium to support strong eggshells. If the feed does not provide high enough calcium levels, hens may pull the nutrient from their bones, eventually causing a weak skeletal structure. For this reason, provide a complete layer feed fortified with calcium.

    When selecting a complete layer feed, look for a feed formulated with all of the nutrients required for egg production and maintenance of health. This includes calcium for strong shells; amino acids, vitamins and minerals for enhanced egg quality and hen health and probiotics, prebiotics and yeast to promote optimal digestive function.

    Make sure the layer feed comprises at least 90% of the hens’ total diet. Excessive dilution with scratch grains, treats, table scraps and other items can lead to osteoporosis, diminished production and other hen health issues. For even more nutritious eggs, look for a complete layer feed that also includes omega-3.

    To learn more about backyard flock nutrition, visit or like Purina Poultry on Facebook.

    Date Published: May 8, 2015
    Date Updated: May 22, 2015

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