8 Types of poultry feeds for different age groups

Understanding different poultry feeds

Making sense of all the different varieties of chicken feed can be very confusing for first time and even semi-experienced chicken keepers. “Mash”, “grower feed”, “medicated or unmedicated”, there is so much jargon on the chicken menu it can genuinely be quite overwhelming.

Poultry feed types

Starter Chicken Feed

Starter feed is a protein dense variety of chicken feed designed to meet the dietary requirements of baby chicks. Generally speaking baby chicks can live comfortably on a diet of starter feed and water for the first 6 weeks of their life before progressing onto grower feed.

The high protein content, usually between 20-24%, helps young chicks grow into playful pullets, however it’s imperative that you phase out the starter feed once they are 6 weeks old, otherwise the excess protein can cause liver damage.

To complicate matters, there are varieties of feed known as starter/grower feed, which is essentially a type of feed that chickens can eat from 1-20 weeks of age. But always read the label and consult the nearest poultry guru if you have any doubts.

Grower Chicken Feed

Grower feed in many ways is like chicken feed for teenage chicks. The dietary requirements for a chicken between 6 to 20 weeks old is very different from a baby chick. Essentially grower feed contains a protein content that is between 16-18% but has less calcium than regular layer feed. In an egg shell, grower feed supports the continuing growth of your teenage chicks without bombarding them with unnecessary vitamins and minerals that are more suited for fully grown laying hens. Once your girls start laying eggs that’s a good sign that they are ready for layer feed.

Layer Chicken Feed

For most of your flock’s life their diet will predominantly consist of scrumptious layer feed. Layer feed has an ingenious balance of protein, calcium and other vitamins and minerals that encourages top tier egg laying abilities in your flock.

Protein wise layer feed contains similar levels of protein to grower feed, around 16-18%, however has extra calcium to ensure that their eggshells are crisp, clean and crunchy. Feeding layer feed to baby chicks or young pullets however will not meet their unique dietary requirements. Layer feed should only be fed to chickens around 20 weeks of age or once they have started to lay eggs.


To put it simply mash is a loose and unprocessed version of chicken feed. Similar to the texture of potting soil, mash is the finest variety of chicken feed commonly available. Mash is normally used for baby chickens, as it is easy to digest, however it is not uncommon for fully mature chicks to be fed mash.

Some Chicken farmers combine mash with hot water to create a porridge like texture that your flock will love to chow down on. Be mindful however of the fact that this method can cause the feed to expire more quickly. The main issue with mash varieties of chicken feed is that its texture often results in an increase of incidental waste, so bare that in mind.


In simple terms crumble is a coarse variety of mash but not as compact of pellets. Reminiscent of the texture of oatmeal, crumble is a semi-loose variety of chicken feed that is slightly easier to manage than mash. Some chicken lovers use crumble to bridge the gap between mash and pellets for their flock.

Others claim that their chicken just simply prefer the crumbly texture. Whatever your reasons for using crumble instead of mash or pellets at the end of the day it shouldn’t make any significant difference to your flock’s health.



Pellets are perhaps the most common variety of chicken feed available. Just like it sounds pellets are essentially little compact cylinders of chicken feed goodness.

One of the benefits of using pellets is that they hold their shape nice, which means they won’t go to waste if your chicken accidentally knock their feeder over. Easy to manage, store and serve, pellets often become the first choice for most

Shell Grit

Some first time poultry keepers aren’t aware of the importance of shell grit in their flock’s diet. Shell grit essentially serves two key purposes. Firstly, shell grit is a rich source of calcium that helps your chicken form delicious eggs with strong and sturdy shells. Chicks that don’t get enough shell grit in their diet can end up laying a wide variety of egg oddities that could turn even the most dedicated of chicken lovers off their eggcellent bounty.

Secondly, chickens store shell grit in their gizzard, which assists them in pulverizing their feed to help them digest their din-dins with ease. All mature chickens need shell grit in their diet and it should be served in a separate dish from their regular laying feed. Chickens are able to regulate their calcium intake so don’t fret about serving sizes too much – most chicken will be able to tell when they’ve had enough.

Broiler Varieties

Broiler varieties of chicken feed are available for people who are raising chickens for consumption. Without dwelling on the specifics too much there are 3 key varieties: starter, grower and finisher.

Essentially, broiler varieties of chicken feed are denser in protein, which encourages the flock to grow bigger, faster. It is definitely not encouraged to feed your laying hens broiler varieties of chicken feed, as the excess protein is not always beneficial to your flock’s health.

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