Chickens of different ages have different nutritional needs. Thus, packaged poultry feed options include rations for baby chicks, raising chicks, layers, and breeders. Which one is right for your chickens depends on their age and the purpose for which they are raised.
Young chicks should be fed a starter ration that contains the high amount of protein they need for proper growth. If you are raising chicks as layers, or for any purpose other than meat, continue to feed the starter for the first six weeks, then switch to farmer’s rations. If you are raising meat birds, transfer them to the farmer’s ration when they reach 3 weeks of age.
The initiator/planter group
Some sources offer combined rations for beginners/farmers. In this case, feed the combined ration to your layers and all-purpose chicks from 1 day of age to 20 weeks of age. For meat birds, feed the collected ration from day one until slaughter.
As birds grow, they gradually require less protein and more energy. Unless you are feeding all-purpose chicks bulk rations, switch from the starter ration to the growing ration at 6 weeks of age and continue until 18 weeks.
Feeding poultry meat rations to the farmer from 3 weeks of age until slaughter. Fast growing broilers are usually ready to be harvested at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Slow-growing, pasture-raised hybrids are usually ready at 11 weeks. Heritages raised for meat take 16 weeks.
Some chick rations contain medication to control coccidia. Enough medication is included to allow the chicks to develop progressive immunity by the time they reach maturity. At that point, they no longer need the medication, so the rations are not treated.
Chicks raised in a suitable environment should not need treatment rations. But many chicken keepers use it, anyway, as a precaution. The drug in the feed, amprolium, has no withdrawal period for meat birds.
Starter and farm rations contain too much protein and too little calcium for laying hens. On the other hand, poultry rations contain too little protein and too much calcium for younger chickens. Therefore, do not transfer layers or all-purpose birds to stratification rations until they are at least 20 weeks old.
A stratified serving typically contains 16% to 17% protein. Once you’ve settled on a certain ration, and the chickens are doing well, stick to the same ration. Not all brands are exactly the same, and simply changing your brand can hinder your egg production.
Some feed sources offer layered rations with different levels of protein. The higher protein levels are suitable for use during hot weather, when chickens tend to eat less than usual. Otherwise, they may get too few nutrients and stop reproducing.
A higher portion of the protein coat also improves the hatchability of eggs collected for incubation, so these feeds are sometimes called broodstock rations. Not all feed sources provide a high percentage of protein. Your next best option is to use a serving of turkey or game that contains 18% to 20% protein.
Turkey / bird stakes game
Turkey balls and bird chicks grow faster than chickens. So they need more protein to keep up with their growth rate. A typical raw ration contains 28% to 30% protein, while a farmer’s ration may range from 15% to 22% protein. If a serving of turkey or game fowl is not available, you can increase the protein in your chicken ration by adding fish meal (about 65%), dried crickets (65%), or mealworms (50%).
Likewise, you may have difficulty finding suitable rations specifically for ducklings and ducklings, and even more difficulty finding anything for geese and geese. In this case, you will likely end up feeding them rations meant for chicken.
Young ducks and sheep need more niacin — a type of vitamin B3 — to prevent leg deformities and lameness. Niacin can be provided by adding chicken starter or farmer’s rations with nutritional brewer’s yeast at a rate of 3 1/2 cups per 10 pounds of feed until birds begin to breed. After that they no longer need a niacin supplement and will work just fine on chicken rations.
Most feed labels include a description of the species, age, and stage of birds the ration is intended for. Read the label to make sure you are choosing the right ration for your specific flock.
Make any portion changes incrementally. To avoid nutritional stress, start by incorporating a little bit of the new ration into the old ration. Gradually increase the amount until the transition is complete.
And that’s today’s news from Cackle Coop.
Author of Hatching and Hatching Your Own Chicks: Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, and Guinea Fowls.