When you’re just starting to raise chickens, finding the right feed for your flock can be challenging. Before the mass production of chicken and eggs, chickens were typically raised on grazing alone — but chicken feed has become a precise science within the last century. At each stage of a chicken’s life, they require different protein levels, calcium, and vitamins. With this handy guide, you’ll learn what kind of chicken feed you need and how to choose the right one.
Young chicks need an easily digestible diet that is rich in protein. At their first stage of life, chicks should be fed a mash or crumble with 18 to 20% protein. If you’re raising broiler chicks, their diet can consist of up to 24% protein while they’re young. Our 18% Organic Chick Starter/Grower will give your birds a great head start.
As your female baby chicks reach the age of 14 weeks, you’ll need to begin feeding them a calcium-rich diet with 18 to 20% protein. Without calcium, a laying hen’s eggs will be soft and misshapen and lack a sufficient barrier to keep them safe. As your pullets become old enough to start laying eggs, make sure their feed is 3 to 5% calcium. Our 16% Organic Egg Layer comes in both pellet and crumble varieties.
If you’re feeding fast-growing broilers, pick a feed with a high protein content between 20 and 22%. This protein will keep them growing steadily until they reach the size and age to go to market. If you’re raising heritage chickens or have a mixed flock that includes birds like ducks and Cornish hens, a lower protein build of 18 to 20% may be more appropriate for their size and leanness. Choose a feed that allows your broilers to grow healthy, but remember that bigger isn’t always better.
If you want to make your broilers grow faster, see our tips on increasing broiler weight.
Since chickens don’t have teeth, they rely on stored grit in their gullet to help them grind down hard foods. Without this grit, chickens would only eat mash and crumble, and grit is essential to making sure your flock has a healthy digestive system. Most store-bought grit is made of oyster shells, but you can make your own grit using baked eggshells. When making your grit, make sure to finely crush the eggshells so the birds don’t recognize them and become curious about how their eggs taste.
Chickens love nothing more than the corn and seed combination that is scratch. Scratch is a crunchy, stimulating and satisfying treat for your flock, but it shouldn’t account for more than 10% of their diet. Like junk food, scratch is fun and tasty but should only be given to your flock in moderation. Add our Organic Poultry Scratch Grains to your flock’s diet when you’re ready to give them a satisfying treat.
Still not sure what chicken feed to buy? Try Nature’s Best Organic Feed. Browse our online selection to find the right feed for your flock!