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Feeding Chickens at Different Life Stages


Many first time chicken raisers get confused as to feeding chickens at their various stages of growth. Chickens need different feed at various times in their lives and also according to gender. Poultry Nutritionists formulate feed to ensure that chickens get all the nutrients they need an commercially available feeds. There are many reputable chicken feed companies that produce nutritionally balanced food.

Chickens require different formulated feeds of a different protein type at different stages in their life. These foods all have specific times to be fed. If they are fed at the wrong times, they can cause major issues. For example: If a chick ate a hen’s layer feed, it would not only damage her kidneys, it would weaken her inner organs as she grows and possibly cause her to never lay or lay off-chart eggs.

How and What to Feed Chickens at Different Life Stages

Hatch to 8 weeks(Baby chicks)

Start your birds strong by providing a complete starter-grower feed with at least 18 percent protein to support chick growth. The feed should also include amino acids for chick development, prebiotics and probiotics for immune health, and vitamins and minerals to support bone health.

Chicks are also susceptible to illness. If chicks were not vaccinated for coccidiosis by the hatchery, choose a medicated chick starter feed.

Water Must be available at all times with unpasteurized, organic apple cider vinegar added to it.

Weeks 8-18(Pullets)

During weeks 7 and 8, chicks will go through visible growth changes, including new primary feathers and a developing pecking order. Growing birds are now referred to differently.

These hens have not started laying eggs yet, and still in a period of growth. Pullets eat a grower feed that supports their bodies and gets them ready for laying eggs. The difference between grower feed and chick starter is it has 18% protein. Some chick starter feeds contain only 18% protein, and those work well for pullets.

Water must be available at all times with unpasteurized, organic apple cider vinegar added to it. Treats such as grass, melon, corn, peas, rice, bread maybe introduced.

From 18 weeks up

The chicks that are 18 weeks now, will be ready for egg-laying. The egg-laying is a strenuous process, that requires a lot of calcium. The Layer feed contains a lot of calcium that will assist in the egg-laying process.

A mistake should not be made by giving the Layer feed to the chicks below 18 weeks. The high percentage of calcium will not be utilized, which will damage their kidneys, causes kidney stones and also affect their egg production process.

Water must be available at all times with unpasteurized, organic apple cider vinegar added to it. (One teaspoon per quart.) You can also put garlic in as well.
Treats-Anything healthy and good for them. Remember, treats should only take up 10% of the chickens’ daily diet.

Laying hen retirement

Although a laying hen will stop laying as she ages, she still has an important place in the flock as a steady companion who brings joy to the entire family.

At this point, transition back full circle to a higher-protein feed. If you have laying hens in the flock, supplement with oyster shell to assist their egg production.

Foods to Avoid

Fatty Foods

Excessive amounts of fatty foods have been linked with liver diseases that can kill your birds without warning. Fat builds up around the liver, making the liver soft and prone to bleeding. Hens who suffer from Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome are usually laying hens who are 20% or more overweight.

Excess Salt

Chickens can suffer from salt poisoning since salt is generally not a normal part of their diet. Make sure any scraps you feed your chickens don’t contain high levels of salt.


Do not feed onions to chickens in large quantities. Onions contain substances which can destroy red blood cells, which causes anemia or jaundice that is sometimes fatal.


Avocados contain a toxins that destroys cells in chickens, and this is a condition that results when the heart stops beating.

Apple Seeds

Apple seeds contain cyanide which can kill your chickens. Feel free to feed other parts of the apple, just be sure you have removed all of the seeds to be safe.

Dried, Raw Beans

Uncooked beans contains substances which are toxic to chickens. However, Cooked varieties of beans can be safely fed to chickens.


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