Chicken Care 101: Difference Between Chicken Layer Feed & Chicken Scratch

October 22, 2018

A lot of beginner chicken keepers {even veteran chicken keepers} have questions that they are too embarrassed to ask – but in my book there’s no stupid question. 

Thankfully there’s the internet and social media where you can, sort of, ask anonymously when you wouldn't otherwise ask in real life! Ahnnd, recently I received one of those questions via email. 

A fellow backyard chicken keeper was puzzled about what she should be feeding her chickens. Can you blame her? I mean, seriously, there are SO.MANY.CHOICES these days.

On a side note, if you’ve got questions about caring for chickens - now’s your chance to get them answered and remain anonymous! Just email me at Dawn@TreatsForChickens.com!

Alright, so what’s the difference between chicken layer feed & chicken scratch?

what to feed chickensPhoto: Wikipedia

For starters: a baby chick, teenage chicken (pullet), and adult egg laying chicken (hen) have different nutritional needs that require different types of chicken feed.

Freshly hatched baby chicks grow rapidly, and they need more protein during this stage than any other stage of their life. This means that chicks need to eat baby chick, chicken starter feed, which has the highest protein percentage.

There's a catch though and you shouldn't keep a baby chick on chicken starter feed for the entirety of its sweet little baby chick life or it will develop a whole range of terrible problems, one being: kidney damage from the high protein percentage - and we don't want that. And so, before you know it your baby chick will transition from......

  • Starter Chicken Feed (hatch to 9/10 weeks of age) to
  • Grower Chicken Feed (9/10 weeks to 20 weeks) and then finally
  • Layer Chicken Feed…. right at about 5 months onward.

Who knew? Read on...

So here's the thing: it's important to remember that there is a time and schedule for the different types of chicken food and it's important to be feeding the right rations during the correct period/duration of their lives. And, yes: nutritional treats are okay during any period, as long as the treats are no more than 10% of all feed. {Side note: baby chicks will need grit to assist with digestion of treats or anything aside from basic baby chick starter feed.}

Now, at just about 5-6 months of age (right before your ladies start laying eggs) it's time to switch to layer chicken feed as the regular daily feed.

Layer chicken feed has been formulated to have all the protein, calcium, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that "adult" hens need to produce her healthy “perfect eggs” without unappealing oddities and defects.

But there's a catch to that too.

Not all feeds are the same but there are government guidelines that each manufacturer of chicken feed must abide by when formulating feed. Bhuut, again, ingredients will vary from brand to brand.

This is where you step in and your own values, how you see the world and your beliefs come into play.

You might look for certified organic ingredients, maybe Non-GMO is important to you and your family or price could be the most important component.

Next up: Chicken Scratch

Chickens love it but ......people, love junk food too.

Chicken scratch doesn't have the nutritional value necessary for your hens to be producing strong shelled eggs with vibrant yolks.

Chicken scratch is certainly tasty, but the combination of corn, wheat and milo falls short on nutrition.

feeding chickens chicken layer feedPhoto: Hencam

I don't know about you but when I'm having a craving it's usually for something salty, sugary or for chocolate.

I don't crave steamed broccoli and pan roasted salmon.I mean, it's delicious, but I don't CRAVE it.

And, your chickens are no different - they love treats ahnnnd scratch is a treat {in my book I consider chicken scratch to be junk food}. 

And so being the good chicken keeping steward that you are…… when you supplement your chicken feed {whether it be baby chick starter feed, grower feed or layer feed} be certain to supplement with a healthy version of “chicken scratch” {aka Cluck Yea, Chicken Crack, Worms'n Flakes, Pullet Together}.

This way you are ensuring that your growing flock gets a good nibble on nutrient rich, intentional ingredients!

Pro Tip: Be informed chicken keepers. Read the labels of your chicken feed. 




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