There are many different types of Chicken feed on the market and it can be quite confusing. Here are the main options to help you decide which feed is best for your chickens.
Chick starter is for the first (usually six) weeks of your baby chick’s life. It is a high protein (typically around 20%) crumbled pellet. Chick Starter is a complete feed and no supplementary feeding is necessary. You can buy medicated or unmedicated chick starter. Most people use a medicated feed as an aid in the prevention of coccidiosis ( a nasty, often fatal intestinal disease).
Pullet grower is recommended for chickens between 6-20 weeks. It is a complete feed and no supplementary feeding is necessary. Pullet grower provides the right balance of protein, energy, and phosphorus to help pullets transition from immature birds into strong healthy adult laying birds. It usually contains a medication as an aid in the prevention of coccidiosis. Pullet grower has a slightly lower protein level (around 18%) than chick starter. It is important to follow the guidelines on the packaging to guide when to stop feeding pullet grower and move onto an adult layer feed. It is also important to ensure you do not eat any eggs from chickens who are currently on a grower diet (should you have an early starter with laying).
Layer Feeds – From 18weeks
Scratch Mix is intended to be fed to free-range poultry that has access to fresh pasture and is able to scratch for natural worms and bugs. Scratch forms the base diet with vitamins and extra protein being obtained from the hen’s natural foraging activities. The hen’s diet can also be supplemented with fresh household food scraps. This is a medication and meat-free diet.
In general, this is a blend of seeds and grains that chooks can ‘scratch’ through. It does not provide full dietary requirements and I would generally recommend this as a treat.
Pellets are made from a mash which is then formed into a pelletised chicken feed using heat and pressure to bind it all together. Pellets provide a complete meal for a chicken. They can be a bit boring for chickens, as everything is essentially mashed together into one pellet. But, this also means they cannot pick through their feed to find the yummy bits and leave all the good nutrition behind. Pellets are a great option as they are easy to store and feed and they mean you are sure your chickens are receiving the full nutrition they require.
Mash feed is designed to be a complete chicken diet with all the required vitamins, trace elements, minerals, and vitamins contained in it. Mash is made from crushed grain, that is mixed with protein meals and supplements. The protein meal in the mash is a fine, almost powdery mix.
Mash is a good option for those chickens who can’t be trained onto pellets but you want some reassurance the chooks are getting the right level of nutrition they require.
Mash can be great on a cool day, to mix with some warm water or milk and make a chicken porridge.
This is the most common type of chicken feed. It is manufactured as a blend of grains (whole and rolled) and pellets.
Layer feed is a balance of protein, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals that encourage egg laying in your flock. Layer feed has a higher level of protein and calcium and therefore should be fed only once your flock starts laying.
Layer feed is very popular with chooks and it provides exceptional nutrients for wonderful eggs. The downside is that some chooks are ratbags and like to pick through the feed to find the bits they love. They tend to leave behind the pellets (which provide the major nutrients). This is called selective feeding. If you find you have some in your flock doing this, the next option is for you.
This is essentially everything you get with the layer feed (and the chooks love it), but ground up to reduce selective feeding. It is a high specification diet nutritionally balanced for essential nutrients such as protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals necessary for high rates of lay and large egg size. I personally use this most of the time having a few selective feeders in my own flock.