Ask a Poultry Farmer: Tips for finding the right feed for your fowl
Feed often makes the difference between healthy birds and slower growth.
Some people want to lovingly prepare their flock's food from locally produced and sustainable organic scratch feeds, such as corn, wheat and oats. While that could reduce your feed bill, it also reduces the amount of protein a bird takes in. A lack of protein slows growth and feather development.
The following are feed recommendations from most feed companies.
Standard/bantam chickens: 21% medicated starter, 15% non-medicated grower
Turkeys/meat chickens: 27% medicated starter, 20% non-medicated grower
Waterfowl: 20% medicated OR non-medicated starter, 16% non-medicated grower
The percentages refer to the amount of protein in the feed. There is a difference in percentage from company to company. However, there should not be more than a two percent difference either way. Here's an example of percentages from Nutrena.
You can guess that starter is the feed to start chicks. Medicated feed is recommended, because the medication is used to prevent coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is a prevalent disease that causes 100% mortality in chicks. Read more about it here.
The old rule was, "Do not use medicated feed for waterfowl". Most authorities agree now that medicated feed also helps prevent coccidiosis in waterfowl. Only keep waterfowl on starter feed for three weeks, otherwise you risk a condition called "angel wing".
As you become more experienced, you may make some changes to your flock's diet. For example, we substitute 16% layer feed for grower for our regular chickens and 20% turkey grower for show chickens.
The best advice is to buy a name-brand feed and keep it dry and clean. Give the birds all they want without wasting it. They will do fine.
As always, post further questions in the comment section.
Dale Wheelock has been raising chickens, turkeys and waterfowl since he was a farm kid in the 1950s. He owns and operates the Wheelock Family Farm in Walworth County with his wife, Barb, and has been an agriculture leader in the community for decades. Read more about poultry farming at askapoultryfarmer.blogspot.com.