Even if you intend to free range or pasture your flock, you will still need to provide feed as the chickens will not be able to get enough nutrition on grass and bugs alone.
For heritage breed chickens and "ranger" type broilers, we recommend a complete grower blend of feed with a protein content of 18-21%. This blend is good for the ages of 3 weeks to a butchering date of 11-18 weeks depending on the breed.
Ranger broilers will consume a total of approximately 25 pounds of feed per chicken from the age of 3 weeks to the age of 11-12 weeks when they are ready for butchering.
For egg layers, you will feed a grower blend with a protein level of 17-20% protein until they start laying at around 5 months of age. Once your egg layers start laying, you can switch to a layers blend of feed with a protein content of 15-17% protein. Layers will also benefit from a supplement of oyster shell, which will help in developing strong egg shells when the hens are laying.
On average, layer hens will consume about 2 pounds of feed per hen per week.
If you are raising one of the fast growing "white broilers" so common today, you will continue to feed a blend of chicken feed with a protein content of 18-24% for the entire remaining life of the broiler. You will normally harvest the white broilers anywhere from 6-9 weeks of age. It is not cost effective or good for the birds to keep these fast growing breeds for any longer than 9 weeks.
White broilers will consume approximately 20 pounds of feed per bird from the age of 3 weeks to a butchering age of 6-7 weeks.
Because of their extreme growth, the white broilers are known to develop heart and leg problems. You will need to add a vitamin-electrolyte supplement to the water of these fast growing birds. This supplement will be needed from day one to keep them healthy.
In most cases, you are going to be starting your backyard chicken flock with baby chicks. Making sure that the chicks receive the proper nutrition will be essential in your success raising chickens.
Chick starter is a blend of feed designed for all newborn chicks to the age of 3 weeks. The feed is usually in mash (powder like) or crumbles form and should have a protein content of 18-24%. The high protein content is needed for optimum muscle development and weight gain.
At day 3, you will want to introduce chick grit to help aid with digestion. You can sprinkle it on the food like salt or mix it with the food. I recommend that you continue giving grit with their feed until processing time. If you are raising egg layers, you can switch to giving them a separate container of oyster shell when they start to lay.
All breeds of chicks will consume about 3 pounds per bird during the first 3 weeks.