What to Feed Chickens By Age for Optimal Health

Article Summary

  • Feeding chickens according to their age is essential for their optimal health and egg production.
  • Newly hatched chicks should be given “starter” feed high in protein (around 20%) and calcium to promote muscle and feather development.
  • Transition from starter to “grower” feed (16-17% protein) after the first 8 weeks to support continued growth.

Raising chickens from chicks to layers requires providing age-appropriate feed. Knowing when to transition (and the different types) between starter, grower, and layer feed ensures proper nutrition for their bodies’ growth and egg production. This guide covers everything you need to know about feeding chickens by age.

When to Switch From Chick Starter to Grower Feed

Chicks require a feed called “starter” that is high in protein for proper muscle and feather development. Starter feed contains around 20% protein and up to 1% calcium.

After the first 8 weeks, chicks should be switched to a “grower” feed with lower protein, around 16-17%. This provides sufficient nutrition as the chicks grow rapidly between 2 and 20 weeks old. Grower feed also contains calcium, but less than starter feed.

Look for signs like increased size, darker feathers, and mature pecking order behavior. If chicks are eating well and gaining weight, it’s a good time to switch feeds.

How Long To Feed Chickens Grower Feed

Grower feed should be provided to pullets from 8 weeks old until around 18 weeks old. This nutrient-dense feed supports quick growth during adolescence until the birds are ready to begin laying eggs.


The grower feed phase lasts about 10 weeks as the pullets transition from chicks into mature hens. Think of it like a chicken teenager diet. Don’t switch too early or growth could be stunted.

What to Feed 0-8 Week Old Chickens

Newly hatched chicks need chick starter feed. This feed is usually medicated to prevent common diseases like coccidiosis. The high protein and calcium content of chick starter promotes muscle growth and bone development.

Provide starter feed in clean, accessible feeders…

Provide starter feed in clean, accessible feeders. Allow 1-2 linear inches of feeder space per chick. Replenish feed often and discard any that gets soiled or wet.

Supplement feed with small grit particles for digestion. Give chicks fresh, clean water at all times to support growth.

What to Feed 8-16 Week Old Chickens

At 8 weeks, transition chicks from starter to grower feed. Lower protein levels in grower feed prevent leg problems while still supporting growth.

Between 8-16 weeks, pullets will grow quickly and develop mature feathers. Free choice grower feed ensures they get adequate nutrition.

Grower feed should contain 16-17% protein, 0.8% calcium, plus vitamins and minerals. Feed this until 16-18 weeks, when it’s time to switch to layer feed.

What to Feed 18-Week-Old Chickens

When pullets reach 17-18 weeks old, they should be switched to layer feed. This feed is lower in protein but higher in calcium to support egg production.

Too much calcium can be harmful before hens start laying eggs around 18-22 weeks old. However, not enough calcium can cause issues like thin eggshells later on.

Layer feed contains 16% protein, 3-4% calcium, and added nutrients like vitamin D3. Continue feeding layer feed year round as long as hens are laying eggs.

What Age Can Chickens Eat Scratch Feed?

Scratch is a supplemental treat for chickens containing whole grains like corn, wheat, and oats. Laying hens enjoy scratch as extra energy, but it lacks complete nutrition.

Chicks under 16 weeks old should not be given scratch or treats. Their main diet should be starter/grower feed only.

Once pullets are fully feathered at 16 weeks, they can be offered a small amount of scratch. This allows them to get used to different foods before egg-laying starts.

Limit scratch to no more than 10% of the total feed. Too much can lead to overweight birds and issues like fatty liver disease.

In summary, providing the right feed at each stage of growth is crucial for raising healthy, productive chickens. Follow this guide on what to feed chickens by age for the best results. Give your feathered friends a balanced feeding and diet for a long, egg-laying, and flavorful life!

Frequently Asked Questions

At what age do you stop feeding chick starter?

Chick starter feed is typically fed to young chicks for the first 6 to 8 weeks of their life. After this period, you can transition to the grower or developer feed.

How long should chickens be on grower feed?

Chickens can be on grower feed from around 8 to 20 weeks of age. This feed provides the essential nutrients needed for proper growth and development during the adolescent stage.

What is the correct feed for chickens?

The correct feed for chickens depends on their age and purpose. Chicks should start with chick starter feed, followed by grower feed, and finally, layer feed when they reach maturity. For meat birds, there’s also a specialized broiler feed.

Can you go from chick starter to layer feed?

It’s not advisable to directly switch from chick starter to layer feed. Transitioning through grower feed is important to ensure that chickens receive the appropriate nutrients for their stage of growth. Layer feed is designed for mature hens and contains specific nutrients required for egg production.

Can I continue to feed chick starter to my hens?

Chick starter feed is not ideal for adult hens because it doesn’t provide the necessary nutrients for egg-laying and overall health. Once hens reach maturity, typically around 20 weeks of age, it’s best to switch to layer feed to meet their specific nutritional requirements.