Knowing when to switch from chick starter to grower feed is an important aspect of raising healthy chickens.
Chickens require different nutrients at different stages of their life, and providing them with the right feed can help them grow and develop properly.
Even though we’ve been raising chickens for many years, I always need a refresher when we get new chicks. How long on starter? And how long on grower?
Chick starter feed is typically fed to baby chicks for the first few weeks of their life.
This feed is high in protein and other nutrients that help chicks grow and develop into healthy birds.
As chicks mature, they require less protein and more calcium to support the growth of their bones and feathers. This is where grower feed comes in.
Grower feed is designed to meet the nutritional needs of young chickens as they transition from chick starter to layer feed.
This feed contains less protein than chick starter, but more calcium and other minerals that support healthy bone and feather growth.
It is important to make the switch from chick starter to grower feed at the right time to ensure that your chickens continue to receive the nutrients they need to thrive.
Understanding the Basics
When it comes to raising chicks, it’s important to understand the basics of chick starter and grower feeds.
While they are similar, they are also different enough that the change is needed.
This section will cover the differences between these two types of feed, what nutrients chicks and growing chickens need, and how to choose the right feed for your flock.
What is Chick Starter Feed?
Chick starter feed is a type of feed that is specifically formulated for baby chicks.
It is high in protein and contains all the nutrients that chicks need to grow and develop. Chick starter feed is typically available in three different forms: pellets, crumbles, and mash.
Pellets are small, compressed pellets of feed, crumbles are small pieces of feed, and mash is a finely ground powder.
What is Grower Feed?
Grower feed is a type of feed that is formulated for growing chickens.
It is lower in protein than chick starter feed and contains different levels of nutrients to support the growth and development of chickens as they mature.
Grower feed is typically available in pellets or crumbles.
How are Chick Starter and Grower Feeds Different?
The main difference between chick starter feed and grower feed is the amount of protein and nutrients they contain. Chick starter feed is high in protein and contains all the nutrients that baby chicks need to grow and develop.
Grower feed, on the other hand, is lower in protein and contains different levels of nutrients to support the growth and development of chickens as they mature.
Chicken feed that is too high in protein can lead to kidney failure in chickens, so it’s best to stay at the recommended levels.
What Nutrients do Chicks Need?
Chicks need a diet that is high in protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients.
Protein is important for muscle and tissue development, while calcium is necessary for bone growth and eggshell formation.
Chick starter feeds typically contain around 18-20% protein and high levels of calcium, as well as other essential vitamins and minerals.
What Nutrients do Growing Chickens Need?
As chickens mature, their nutritional needs change.
While they still need protein and calcium, the levels required are lower than those needed by baby chicks. Grower feeds typically contain around 16-18% protein and lower levels of calcium, as well as other essential vitamins and minerals.
When to Switch to Grower Feed
Switching from chick starter feed to grower feed is an important step in the growth and development of backyard chickens. Here are some factors to consider when deciding when to make the switch:
Age of the Chicks
Chick starter feed is typically fed to baby chicks for the first 4-8 weeks of their life. After 4 weeks, chicks can be switched to grower feed.
However, the exact age to switch can vary depending on the breed and growth rate of the chicks. Laying hens can be fed starter for longer times.
For meat birds, don’t feed them starter for more than 4 weeks. Meat birds, especially Cornish Cross, grow rapidly and might have heart attacks if growing too quickly.
Growth Rate of the Chicks
Chicks that grow quickly may need to be switched to grower feed earlier than those that grow more slowly.
It is important to monitor the growth rate of the chicks and adjust their feed accordingly.
Feather Development of the Chicks
As chicks grow and develop feathers, they require more protein in their diet. Starter typically has a higher protein content than grower feed, making it a better choice for chicks with developed feathers.
Chickens are usually fully feathered out by 5-6 weeks.
Chicks require a lot of water to grow and develop properly.
If chicks are drinking a lot of water and not eating as much feed, it may be time to switch to grower feed to ensure they are getting the proper nutrients.
Overall, it is important to monitor the growth and development of backyard chickens and adjust their feed as needed.
Switching from chick starter feed to grower feed at the appropriate time can help ensure healthy growth and development.
Transitioning from Chick Starter to Grower Feed
How to Transition
To transition from chick starter to grower feed, it’s important to do it gradually over a period of 7-10 days.
Start by mixing a small amount of grower feed with the chick starter, gradually increasing the amount of grower feed each day until the chicks are eating only grower feed.
When to Transition
Chicks can be transitioned from chick starter to grower feed at around 6-8 weeks of age, depending on their breed and size.
For meat birds, don’t feed them starter longer than 4 weeks. It’s important to make sure they have access to plenty of clean water during the transition period.
What to Expect During the Transition
During the transition period, chicks may experience some digestive upset or changes in their droppings.
We’ve never experienced any problems with switching, but just be aware that it can happen.
Medicated Chick Starter Feed
Some chick starter feeds are medicated with antibiotics to help prevent infections. If you are using medicated chick starter feed, it’s important to switch to non-medicated grower feed after the transition period.
This will help prevent antibiotic resistance in your flock.
Overall, transitioning from chick starter to grower feed is an important step in raising healthy, happy chickens. By following these simple steps, you can help ensure a smooth transition for your flock.
Choosing the Right Feed for Your Flock
Organic feed is becoming more popular among backyard chicken farmers. It is made from non-GMO grains and is free from pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals.
Organic chicken feed is more expensive than conventional feed, but it can help ensure that your hens are getting a healthy, balanced diet.
Medicated feed is designed to prevent disease in your flock.
Medicated chick starter feed is commonly used to prevent coccidiosis, a common disease in young chicks. It contains a medication called amprolium, which helps prevent coccidiosis.
However, it is important to note that medicated feed should not be used for laying hens, as it can affect egg production.
Layer feed is specifically designed for hens that are laying eggs.
It contains a higher level of calcium, which is necessary for healthy egg production. Layer feed is available in pellets, crumbles, and mash.
Start feeding laying hens layer feed at about 16-18 weeks of age. At 20 weeks they will start laying eggs.
If you are raising chickens for meat, you will need to choose a feed that is designed for meat birds.
Meat bird feed contains a higher level of protein to promote rapid growth. Meat bird feed is available in pellets, crumbles, and mash.
When choosing the right feed for your flock, it is important to consider their age, growth rate, and nutritional needs.
Chick starter feed is designed for baby chicks, while grower feed is designed for older chicks and young hens.
As your hens begin to lay eggs, you will need to switch to layer feed to ensure that they are getting the necessary calcium for healthy egg production.
In addition to choosing the right feed, it is also important to provide your flock with clean water and a healthy environment.
Pecking order and disease can also affect the health of your flock, so it is important to monitor your chickens for any signs of illness and provide them with appropriate care.
Overall, choosing the right feed for your flock is an important part of raising healthy, happy chickens.
By understanding the nutritional needs of your flock and choosing a feed that meets those needs, you can help ensure that your hens are healthy and productive.
Knowing the correct time to switch from chick starter to grower will help to ensure a healthy and happy flock.