When it comes to feeding your flock, just as feeding yourself, it’s important to know good quality food from poor quality food. Knowing your chicken feed is key.
Additionally, knowing how to feed them is just as or even more important.
Although the ingredients used in different feed types are similar, the proportions vary depending on the particular age and use category of chickens being fed.
Best Chicken Feed List
|Scratch and Peck Chicken Layer Feed||Check Price
|Manna Pro Layer Feed||Check Price
|Hiland Naturals Chicken Layer Feed||Check Price
|Prairie’s Choice Non-GMO Backyard Chicken Feed||Check Price
|Kalmbach Chicken Layer Feed||Check Price
|Brown’s Layer Booster Chicken Feed||Check Price
|Product Name||Check Price
Chicken Feed Types You Should Know About
Each bag of feed is labeled with its specific use. So before selecting the top choices for chicken feed, let’s start by explaining the necessary types of food appropriate for the different ages of chickens we keep:
Day-old chicks through 18 weeks old require starter feed, aka starter crumbles, containing 20-24% protein.
Starter feed contains the highest percentage of any commercial feed type protein, appropriate for the amount of growth the average chick does in its first few weeks of life.
You can purchase starter feed for chicks in both medicated and un-medicated varieties.
Your decision concerning purchasing medicated vs. un-medicated might hinge on the vaccinations if any, your chicks received before you bought or hatched them.
Pullet Grower Feed
Once the chicks hit six weeks of age, feed them pullet chicken growers until about 20 weeks. The dietary requirements for a chicken between 6 to 20 weeks old are different than both a baby chick and a laying hen.
Essentially, grower feed contains a protein content between 16-18% but has less calcium than regular layer feed.
If you feed high-calcium diets to growing chickens, kidney damage can result, so it’s best to feed these adolescents food with a good balance of high protein and an average amount of calcium.
Once your chickens start laying eggs (around 20 weeks of age), you should switch them to a layer feed. Layer feed is commonly available in a mash, crumbles, and pellet forms, all of which describe the feed’s size.
Mash is the smallest, and pellets, the largest. Layer feed generally contains 16-18% protein and has added calcium, necessary for strong bones and creating healthy eggshells.
While layer feed contains a decent amount of calcium, an additional calcium source such as crushed oyster shells may be made accessible to laying hens in a separate dish that is available but not a part of regular feed.
In addition to a decent standard feed, there is some general ‘add ons’ that make good sense for a backyard flock:
Chicken scratch is a common term for random mixed grains, such as corn and wheat. It is a cheap way to supplement your hens’ diet by providing grain and adding incentive to scratch.
It’s important to realize that you should not use scratch in great amounts; too much grain supplementation can throw their diet off balance and affect egg production.
The rule of thumb is with scratch, limit it to 10 percent of your backyard chickens’ diet.
Another addition that makes for a complete feeding for some backyard chickens is grit. The term grit describes hard materials such as sand, dirt, or small stones that aid digestion.
While starter feed and layer crumbles and pellets need no help being digested, treats, grains, and other fibrous foods require grit to help digest them.
Since chickens have no teeth, fibrous foods are ground with grit in the gizzard (a muscle in the digestive tract).
Chickens foraging outside will naturally pick up bits of grit from the ground. Those who do not forage outside must have grit in a dish apart from their feed.
The eggshell for each egg that your hen lays is about 95% calcium carbonate by dry weight. When they’re inactive lay, they use four times as much calcium as a non-laying hen.
If a laying hen does not receive enough calcium in its daily food, its body begins taking it from its bones. This can then lead to weak and brittle-boned chickens.
The addition of oyster shells to a hen’s diet can protect against this.
If offered as a separate entity next to their daily food, a hen will naturally consume the oyster shell in quantities her body might need to make up the difference in calcium she requires.
Important note: Only hens who are laying eggs need to be given additional calcium in their diet; too much calcium in a hen’s diet can lead to kidney damage.
Forms of Chicken Feed
As first-time dog owners, the forms of chicken feed may be overwhelming at first. You may not even know which form is best for your poultry at a certain age.
It’s totally fine if you don’t know these chicken feeds by heart. The first thing to do is to familiarize these types so you wouldn’t be picking the wrong one in the first place.
A distinct feature of this feed is its finely ground texture. This makes a great option for chicks.
If you want to soften it further, you can add water and make it look like oatmeal. Dry mash tends to scatter when chicks flick them around.
These are tiny pieces of feed with granules slightly larger than mash. You can put water into it and create a feed similar to an oatmeal texture.
This feed has small cylinder-like grains that are commonly accessible in the market. Their size is large enough for adult chickens.
You may choose to use this feed as a primary menu or supplementary. It is mainly composed of ground seashells.
It can look like coarse gravel. Shell grit is rich in calcium and provides additional nutrients for your chicken’s dietary health.
This feed works more like a treat than a main course. It is usually made of various grains and cracked corn which are favorites of a chicken.
Chicken Feed: Subcategories
Here are other subcategories of chicken feeds you can learn about:
Medicated vs Nonmedicated
If you want your chicken to get protected from any disease, it’s best to choose medicated feeds. These form of feed often contains chemical compounds like amprolium.
Medicated feeds prevent fowl diseases from spreading in your flock. However, if you’re on a tight budget, you can always opt for non-medicated feeds.
Fermented Chicken Feeds
When you have fermented feeds, your chickens will have sufficient vitamins to improve their digestion. The best thing about fermented chicken food is that it leaves your chickens feeling full.
This ‘chicken feed near me’ option definitely saves you a lot of expenses. It also means your chickens would eat less and poop less.
Organic vs Commercial
It all boils down to you whether you’d want your chickens to eat organic or commercial feeds. Organic ones are less processed and the natural ingredients are packed with certain nutrients.
However, fully organic chicken food is hard to find and it can be very costly. If you opt for commercial chicken feeds, they are more accessible and budget-friendly.
They are also packed with the same nutrients. However, some commercial feeds may be heavily processed and include other animal products.
Chicken Feed – Layers vs. Broilers
Another thing to mention here is that food for chickens raised for meat should have a higher protein percentage than that for layers to facilitate quick growth for earlier butchering. This food is referred to as Broiler Rations.
This is also sometimes called a “grower-finisher” feed. For heritage and pastured meat birds, protein content can be lowered to 16 percent after 12 weeks of age until butchering.
Some may choose to keep the heritage meat birds on the higher grower-finisher rations until slaughter.
List of Top Chicken Feed
When it comes to a “Top 10” list, the ranking criteria determine who is at the top and who is at the bottom of the list.
Animal feeds, including chicken food, do not get ranked by the consumers themselves. We look at the nutrition information of different brands/types of feed specific to the age of our chickens.
Then we compare them to the standard for each age and figure out the price we are willing to pay.
Our top chicken feed list, specifically tailored to the needs of our own flock, will result.
To that end, I’ve included what is largely considered the most helpful tool for comparing brands and types of chicken feed, the poultrydvm.com interactive comparison chart.
It’s a straightforward, organized way to research and pinpoint the exact makeup of the food you desire to feed your flock.
Here is the web address: http://www.poultrydvm.com/feeds.php
Here is a shortlist of ranked brands according to nutritional information and price for those of us with little time digging into website tools and interactive lists.
The generally recognized top five BRANDS of food on the market are most popular among consumers, keep a consistently high standard of nutrition regardless of age-range formulation, and are moderately priced.
Keep in mind that certain store brands may be just as well made. For instance, Tractor Supply Company sells its own DUMOR brand.
It’s the most practical food choice for some backyard chicken farmers because it is local, covers all the nutritional bases, and cheaper than mail order. That said, here are some top brands that come most highly recommended:
Scratch and Peck Foods also ranks highly as a brand that sells food for all three ages; starter, grower, and layer. This feed has wheat, barley, peas, sesame meal, plus vitamins and supplements.
It is corn and soy-free, non-GMO, organic, and also contains ground limestone and oyster shell. Scratch and Peck feed have also been frequently said to be a favorite consumer (of the hen variety) favorite!
2. Manna Pro
Manna Pro ranks highly because it sells chick, grower, and layer feeds, and a large variety of specialty foods.
Food such as “Omega Egg Maker Supplement,” 16% pellets or crumbles with probiotics, meat bird starter with 22% protein, grit with probiotics, oyster shell, vitamin supplements, and even an “All Flock” blend.
This blend is for different types of poultry and a “Golden Girls” senior hen food.
Manna Pro has specialty food for any scenario, and it is easy to find in Walmart, Tractor Supply Company, Chewy.com, and Amazon.
The following feeds do not offer all three growth stages, but the types they do supply are very well regarded.
Hiland Naturals has feed suitable for all three ages: starters, growers, and layers, but the Non-GMO Chicken Layer feed specifically rates very highly on top feed lists.
Their ingredients include soybeans, corn, soybean meal, and a large number of vitamins and supplements.
It’s herbicide and pesticide-free, non-medicated, high in protein, and high in calcium, so supplements are not needed with this formula. It also ranks very highly because of its very competitive pricing.
Prairie’s Choice currently sells grower formula and layer formula. Their niche specializes in non-chemically processed food, generally regarded as a healthier option, and non-GMO ground corn.
Also balanced in their feeds are protein, fat, fiber, calcium, phosphorus and salt, vitamins A, D-3, E, B12, and more.
This feed is a great choice for separate ages of layers and growers. Prairie’s is definitely specialized enough. It allows you to limit feeding to the age of chicken it was intended for.
Another brand that offers only grower and layer feed, Kalmbach, is unique in its commitment to providing nutrition that contains high calcium, amino acids, and Omega-3.
It results in hens laying eggs with strong shells and a high Omega 3 fatty acid content.
For this reason, it is highly regarded for layers.
Brown’s Layer Booster is unique in that its feed uses only natural plant protein. Their grower/layer food contains no animal proteins or fats and adds vitamins and minerals in proportions designed for dense outer shells.
Because of the amount of protein and calcium in this food, it is not recommended for chickens under 18 weeks.
Their feed cost is not the most competitive in the market, but if you’re looking for food free of animal protein, this is a good choice.
Kaytee Starter Diet is a completely vegetarian diet for newly hatched and growing chicks.
This simple and relatively inexpensive starter crumbles high in protein for growing chickens with added vitamins, minerals, and probiotics.
Common Questions Asked About Chicken Feeds
Are you still confused about chicken food? Maybe you’re still looking for “chicken food near me” online or asking at forums.
To save you some time, here are common queries people ask about chicken feeds and their best answers:
What is the Healthiest Feed for Chickens?
Aside from what is listed above, you can opt for healthy, natural feeds for your chicken. You can add selected vegetables, fruits, and grains to your chicken starter feed.
The best feeds are the healthiest ones. Beans, corn, leafy greens, apples, and berries are a good addition to your chicken feed.
What is the Best Feed for Laying Chickens?
There are plenty of choices for choosing the ideal laying feeds. In this case, you may have the Kalmbach Feeds that are considered the best feeds for laying hens.
They are packed with the additional calcium and a sufficient amount of protein for hens laying eggs. You can also supplement these feeds with oyster shells for that added nutrition.
Are Pellets or Crumbles Better for Chickens?
When it comes to the mess, pellets are better than crumbles. They are less likely to clog up your feeder.
You can only use crumble if you are looking for an alternative to chicken started. Just make sure the crumbles are small enough before making a chicken starter feed out of them.
How Much Does a Chicken Eat Per Day?
The average standard-sized chicken eats about ¼ lb a day or at least 1.75 lb of feed per week. It would also depend on the number of treats and the kind of chicken food you provide.
For instance, if you give fermented chicken feed, you would need less food. However, the number of treats would vary, and they are less costly compared to chicken food.
How Long Does Chicken Feed Last Before It Goes Bad?
The best thing about Dumor chicken feed or any other brands is that they can last up to 4 weeks since you first opened it. But in most cases, feeds wouldn’t last four weeks until they are consumed.
With its expiration in mind, just make sure to purchase enough amount of chicken feed. Also, you may want to properly estimate the size of your feed so that it doesn’t go bad.
Chicken Feed Brands – Closing Thoughts
All in all, choosing a feed for your flock is a very personal choice, generated by parameters such as flock age, flock type, price, and preference regarding the status of GMO, organic, and vegetarian type feeds.
Use this guide as a tool to start the search for a diet that suits your own flock’s best nutritional needs. Trial and error might be necessary to find the exact fit for you.