The Difference Between Medicated and Unmedicated Chick Starter

When you have new chicks, you want to do everything in your power to help them grow up strong and healthy. As soon as your chicks are ready to start eating, the first step to accomplishing that goal is to make sure they have access to a chick starter feed that meets all their requirements. But what is the best option for these newborn chicks?

Giving chicks their first feed often brings up a challenging debate: medicated chick feed vs. non-medicated chick feed. While you’ve probably heard conflicting advice about which option is best, we’re here to provide you with the facts on both so that you can make a more informed decision. We’ve also included some frequently asked questions about medicated and non-medicated chick starter.

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What Is Medicated Chick Feed vs. Non-Medicated Chick Feed?

Medicated chick starter is a specially designed feed that protects baby chicks against coccidiosis. Newborns who ingest soil or the droppings of other chickens can acquire this dangerous and deadly disease because they’ve yet to build up an immunity.

Medicated chick starter reduces the risk of coccidiosis because it contains Amprolium, which helps chickens develop an immunity to the disease more easily. This feed may also contain hormones.

Unlike medicated chicken feed, non-medicated feed does not contain Amprolium. Instead, it’s only filled with the ingredients needed to provide your chicks with the proper vitamins, minerals, and proteins.

What Is Coccidiosis?

As chickens age, they build up a natural immunity to protect themselves from coccidiosis. Newly hatched chicks have an underdeveloped immune system.

Coccidiosis is a dangerous parasite spread by infected chickens or soiled bedding. The parasite can also be carried by insects, wild birds, and human footwear that comes in contact with it.

Coccidiosis moves through the digestive tract, causing progressive damage to the intestinal walls of unvaccinated chicks. This can lead to anemia and an inability to absorb nutrients. Weight loss and lack of nutrition can cause death.

Does Amprolium Kill Coccidiosis?

No — Amprolium does not kill coccidiosis. This parasite uses thiamine, vitamin B1, to multiply. Thiamine is present in a chick’s digestive system. Amprolium renders the parasite sterile by blocking its absorption of thiamine — meaning it cannot reproduce.

Medicated chick starter contains just enough Amprolium to keep coccidiosis from proliferating and straining the chick’s delicate immune system. A medicated feed cannot prevent a coccidiosis outbreak.

How Long Do Chicks Need Medicated Feed?

Medicated chick feed was developed to help protect chicks until their immune systems have time to develop. So, if you’re unsure how long to feed medicated chick starter, you’ll likely benefit the most from following the general recommendation, which is usually two weeks to one month.

Non-medicated chick starter is the more common option for keepers who have vaccinated chicks. The vaccination protects young birds from coccidiosis from the get-go so that you can rest easy without the need for medicated feed.

Can Laying Hens Eat Medicated Chick Starter?

Yes — laying hens can eat medicated chick starter. However, they don’t need to eat medicated feed to prevent Amprolium in their young.

Medicated chick starter should not be given as a layer’s normal, long-term feed. It contains a different nutrient profile from the feed used for laying hens. So, be sure that laying hens eat specially formulated chicken feed.


Medicated vs. Non-Medicated Chick Starter: Which Should I Choose?

The type of feed you need typically depends on your circumstances. On one hand, a general rule of thumb is that vaccinated chicks can receive unmedicated feed, while unvaccinated chicks may benefit from Amprolium feed. Meanwhile, there are a few downsides to keep in mind when you consider using a medicated chick starter.

  • Medicated feed is not a cure: While there’s little doubt that Amprolium can help prevent coccidiosis, it’s still possible for chicks to contract the disease.
  • Chicks build immunity through exposure: Even with the medication, your chickens will need exposure to cocci to build their immune system and prevent future infections.
  • Medicated feed prevents vitamin B1 absorption: Amprolium blocks the absorption of thiamine, an important nutrient for bird health. Thiamine deficiency in poultry can cause neuromuscular problems, decreased appetite, and other digestive issues.

The only way to protect chickens from coccidiosis is to allow them to build up an immunity to it. Many young chicks are capable of doing this all on their own as long as they have light exposure to it during their first few weeks. As a result, some keepers maintain that unmedicated feed is the best solution.

Non-medicated feed provides all the essential nutrients of its medicated counterpart without the addition of Amprolium. As long as your chicks are vaccinated or you’re willing to take a more active role in helping with their immune system development from an early age, they’ll most likely manage just fine.

Ultimately, in the debate between medicated vs. non-medicated chick feed, the choice depends on your personal needs, the needs of your chicks, and your preferences.


Choose Nature’s Best Organic Feeds Chick Starter

You know your flock. Understanding the difference between medicated and non-medicated chick feed allows you to choose which option is best for your growing chicks.

Nature’s Best Organic Feeds offers a nutritious, unmedicated chick starter solution specially developed for baby chicks. Our blends are scientifically formulated to contain an optimal balance of vitamins and nutrients.

Buy a quality, unmediated chick feed that helps your chicks develop their natural immunity. Give your flock Nature’s Best Organic Feeds chick starter. Contact us or use our store locator to buy today!

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