Are you new to raising chickens for eggs? With so many brands of feed and so many formulas, making a decision on what to feed your flock and when can be daunting. Here are a few tips to help you get started through every life stage – from chicks to pullets to full-grown laying hens.
Choosing a poultry feed brand
It’s important to choose a brand that offers products specifically formulated to the life stage of your chickens. The various formulations of feed contain different amounts of nutrients critical for your chickens’ specific growth stage. Protein and calcium are the two that you should pay the most attention to.
Kent Home Fresh® is a great choice because it features premium-quality ingredients with research-proven formulations for each life stage. Every one of our Home Fresh chicken feed products provides a consistent, balanced and easy-to-feed diet for healthy chickens.
Nutritional requirements: chicks vs. hens
Baby chicks need higher protein levels than older hens because their growth rate is so rapid and their bones are still forming. Feeding chicks a formula with too much calcium can lead to kidney issues later in life.
On the other hand, feeding older hens a feed too high in protein can result in weight gain and interfere with their egg production. Older hens that are laying eggs need higher calcium levels to ensure that they lay eggs with nice hard eggshells.
The decision whether or not to feed organic feed is a personal decision, but we make it easy by offering both our Home Fresh premium and organic lines.
Choosing a feed for baby chicks (0-8 weeks)
Baby chicks should be fed a chick starter feed from hatch to eight weeks old. We offer several formulations for this stage of life — each of which offers protein levels between 20-23% with calcium levels less than 1.5%. Our options include:
- Home Fresh Starter AMP chick feed is available as a “medicated” formula with amprolium added to help guard the chicks against coccidiosis until their immune systems have strengthened.
- Home Fresh Multi-Flock Chick n Game Starter/Grower 22 is an unmedicated option for those who instead intend to rely on the chick’s natural exposure to their environment to build their immunity.
- Home Fresh Organic Starter/Broiler feed is also available for those raising organic flocks.
Choosing a feed for pullets (8-20 weeks)
After the first eight weeks, your chickens will need to move to a grower feed with lower protein levels, since their growth during this stage will slow down considerably. We recommend starter or grower feed from eight to 20 weeks. This will be their recommended feed up to right before they start laying (around 18-20 weeks or so), and will provide all the proper nutrients they need to continue maturing. We have a couple of options for this stage, including:
- Home Fresh Grow & Show and Home Fresh Organic Grower are both appropriate choices for this age range — depending on if you’re going the organic route or not. The protein level of these grower feeds is 15-16%, with calcium levels still under 1.5%
Choosing a feed for laying hens (20+ weeks)
Once your hens start laying, and optimally a few weeks prior to their laying that first egg, a layer feed will provide elevated calcium levels to assist them in beginning to store excess calcium that will be used to produce eggshells. Again, you have a choice between organic and non-organic layer feeds.
- Home Fresh Extra Egg Layer is available as a meal, crumble or pellet, while Home Fresh Organic Layer is available solely in pellet form. All forms – meal, crumble and pellet – contain the exact same nutrients, it’s just a matter of preference – both yours or your flock’s. The layer feeds contain 16% protein and between 3.0-4.5% calcium for strong eggshells.
What to feed mixed-age flocks
If you have a mixed flock of older laying hens and younger pullets not yet laying, grower feed can be offered to all, with supplemental calcium provided free-choice for the laying hens so they get the additional calcium they need, until the youngest flock members are 18-20 weeks old and about ready to start laying. Then you can go back to a layer feed.
Where to buy
Kent Home Fresh products are available at dealers and retailers throughout the midwest, while Blue Seal Home Fresh products are available throughout the eastern United States. Find your local Kent retailer or Blue Seal retailer, or you can also buy online from retailers including Chewy and Amazon.