What To Feed Chickens By Age?

Farmer feeding chickens and chicks in coop.

If you ever decide to raise chickens in your backyard to become more self-sufficient with your food supply, it will be best to do extensive research on raising chickens. Besides, it will help if you learn the essential factors to consider when raising backyard chickens, like what feeds you should provide them at various stages of their growing process. 

Varying formulated feeds consisting of different protein types at each stage of their life would be best. Moreover, you must feed them at specific times of the day, for if you fail to administer food on schedule, they might exhibit significant health problems like developing kidney disease and other health issues over time. 

What to Feed Chickens at Various Stages of Growth?

You can ensure that your flocks get the needed vitamins, minerals, and nutrients by providing them with commercially prepared feeds. You should limit treats, however, to the bare minimum because excessive treats would not provide your chickens with the required daily nutrients. To be properly guided, you should check out the following guidelines on how to feed your chickens in various stages of their growth:

Hatch Day to Eight Weeks 

The period between hatch day to the end of the eighth week is crucial to the growth of your birds. You only need to provide them with formulated chick starter feed at this period. This feed should contain 20 to 22% protein with 1% calcium. 

Giving them too much calcium is detrimental to their growth, damaging their bones and kidneys permanently. Besides, these damages might eventually lead to fewer egg production when they reach laying age. 

The protein level of starter chick feed should be 18 to 20%. You should also provide the chicks with water all the time, laced with one teaspoon per quart of apple cider vinegar (organic). Besides, you can occasionally give the chicks oatmeal, fresh herbs, and non-salted scrambled eggs. 

Eight Weeks to Eighteen Weeks

When the young chickens reach the age of seven weeks, you can feed them with grower feed. You can buy crumbled grower feed which doesn’t have much calcium. Besides, at this growth stage, you don’t need to feed them more protein, for they need less protein. Grower feed has around 18% nutritional essential. Nevertheless, the fiber and fat contents of their food should stay the same as when they are baby chicks. 

Young chickens will begin eating table scraps moderately at this point. They also start eating vigorously, allowing them to finish their feed quickly. Besides, they might also start searching for tasty plants and bugs while guided by their mother hen. 

Feeding them grower feed with 18% protein would be best. Moreover, ensure you provide them with water all the time. Besides, you can add one teaspoon of apple cider per quart to their water. You can also add treats like melon, corn, grass, bread, rice, etc. Nevertheless, the feed should never contain calcium.

Eighteen Weeks and Up

Chickens reach their age of laying eggs at this stage. They might not be fully grown, yet they are already adult birds. So, you can now provide them with layer rations that can come in pellets and crumbled forms. For example, you can provide them with large fowl pellets or bantam crumbles. Both have the same formulas, however. 

The layer ration has around 4% calcium because hens need calcium to lay eggs with strong eggshells. Besides, they need to maintain their bone density. You can also decrease protein intake to around 16% because they would no longer need much protein, for they are no longer feverishly growing. 

You can also allow your adult chickens to forage for food and consume table scraps. Additionally, you can limit their table scrap intakes to something they could consume within twenty minutes. Besides, don’t leave these table scraps for their taking overnight. 

Remember that the layer feed should contain only 16% protein, and you should always provide them with water. You can add a teaspoon of organic apple cider per quart. You can likewise spruce it with garlic as well. Moreover, the treats should be healthy, considering they already form about 10% of their daily diet. 

What is the Best Feed for Egg-laying Hens?

You can feed egg-laying hens with layer feed. This layer feed, of course, is designed to provide the mature laying hens with the required nutrients and vitamins during this period. This layer feed also contains well-balanced levels of calcium, protein, vitamins, and minerals that could promote the well-being and health of eggs. 

Layer feeds usually contain around 16% to 18% protein with good calcium. Remember that you should only feed layer feed to chickens with the age of 20 weeks or more or once they start to lay eggs. Besides, you can supplement this feed with extra calcium by giving them crushed egg shells or ground oyster shells. 

If your laying hens are not given enough free-range, you must supplement their meals with enough grit for good digestion. Moreover, you can add fresh fruits and vegetables like silver beet, bok choy, chickweed, endive, cabbage, melon, cucumbers, strawberries, squash, broccoli, kale, fruit peels, and vegetable peels. Nevertheless, these extra treats might not be necessary if they are pastured hens.  

How to Feed Meat Birds?

If you intend to raise chickens for their meat, you can feed them with a chicken feed of broiler varieties. These broiler varieties usually have three forms: starter, grower, and finisher. You will find these broiler varieties suffused with protein for the fast growth of your chickens. However, you should refrain from feeding laying hens with these broiler varieties, for these feeds might backfire and cause health issues in your laying hens.

If you intend to raise broilers, you should ensure that they have food 24 hours within an accessible range because you want maximum growth and weight gain. Remember that roasters and broilers exhibit a varying growth pace than egg-laying chickens. As such, they would need varied nutritional requirements for their growth. 

From the moment of their hatching to three weeks, you should feed them starter rations. Then, transition to grower feed from three weeks to six weeks. Once they enter their seventh week, please provide them with finisher rations that carry around 18% protein and 6% fat, enough to give them maximum growth. 

Aside from learning the different feeds for your chickens at the various stages of their growth, it will also help if you are familiar with the following FAQs about feeding chickens, for they might also be the questions playing on in your mind:

Medicated and Unmedicated Feed: Which is Better?

As you shop around for starter and grow feed, you will find that they come in unmedicated and medicated formulas. The medicated one is laced with a coccidiostat; a medication added to it to prevent a parasitic disease called coccidiosis. This disease usually affects the intestinal tract of chickens. 

This disease can compromise their immune system, making them susceptible to Salmonella. Besides, it might cause stunted growth due to the inability of their intestines to absorb nutrients. However, if you want to raise a flock organically, it will be best to use unmedicated feed. 

How Can You Figure Out If Your Chickens Get Enough Nutrients?

There are telltale signs that your chickens are getting enough nutrients. First, they always exhibit smooth and clean feathers with bright and vibrant eyes. These indicators show that they are getting enough fat and protein, as well as vitamins A and E, which are potent antioxidants. 

If they don’t get sufficient nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, you can add food supplements rich in these elements. 

What Other Things Should You Know about the Nutritional Requirements of Chickens?

When feeding your chickens, you should ensure that you feed them in small amounts every feeding time. Chickens are not ruminants, which store much protein and vitamins in their bodies. They don’t have enough storage room in their bodies. 

Thus, you should feed them the right amounts of nutrients to keep them healthy. Besides, feeding them much would cause them to hate eating, which might only make their food go stale. Stale food loses more nutritional value.


Like any other animal, chickens necessitate a balanced diet to become healthy. However, their diet usually shifts depending on the seasonal changes and growth stages. For example, you can focus more on protein during summertime, while during winter, you should focus more on carbohydrates. 

Carbs, of course, can be an excellent source of energy for your chickens. So, you need to feed them food rich in carbs during winter. In the summertime, however, feeds are more available. Besides, chickens get enough workouts during summer. So, you can supply them with meals high in protein. 

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