We’re well into spring, which means that many people are well into raising their chicks. The downy fluff is being replaced by more defined feathers that will help them stay warm as they become more adventurous and roam about to forage. As their bodies grow and change, so do their nutritional needs. This next phase in development is when chicks become pullets and are ready to be transitioned from Naturally Free Organic Starter to Naturally Free Organic Grower. Let’s take a look at when this dietary shift needs to happen and why.
When chickens are still little (chicken littles, shall we say?) their bodies work quickly to build strong bones and muscles, so a higher level of protein helps boost that development. Their beaks and digestive system are not yet able to process whole grains, which is why our Naturally Free Organic Starter is ground to a smaller size. As chicks move out of this phase, yet are not of laying age, their growth rate slows down and the level of protein in their diet can be decreased. They’re now heading into a new stage of development, known as pullets.
This in between stage (the teen years) starts at about eight weeks. At this point the pullets are now able to consume whole grains. Consider this phase a slight pause to regroup after the rapid growth as a chick, but also to prepare for her next phase as a laying hen. During this age, the pullets benefit from a diet that includes Naturally Free Organic Grower. Our Grower feed is a minimum 17% protein, whereas our Starter is a minimum 20.5% protein – quite a difference! Because the Grower is a whole grain, and therefore less susceptible to oxidation, it has a longer shelf life than the Starter by about three months. If you still have Starter feed leftover during this transition, you can mix it with the Grower to use the remaining feed.
Because pullets are not quite to laying age, they are not ready to be fed Naturally Free Organic Layer feed, which typically starts being fed around 20 weeks. The Layer has extra calcium that will help not only build strong eggshells, but also will help prevent calcium depletion in the bones due to so much of the calcium going toward eggshell formation. Just like our Grower feed, our Layer feed is whole grain, although it has slightly less protein than the Naturally Free Organic Grower (a minimum 16% protein). Higher protein is needing when hens molt to help feather regrowth. Otherwise, a 16% protein layer feed is appropriate for laying hens.
No matter what stage your chickens are, you always want to provide them with the appropriate sized Cluckin’ Good Grit. It helps them not only break down the grains, but also helps chicks develop a healthy gizzard by strengthening this muscular organ so it is better able to break down food to be absorbed into the intestines. For pullets, you want to feed them Cluckin’ Good Grower Grit, which is ground to the proper size for the birds’ age. If the grit is too small, it will just pass through their intestine, rather than help in digestion. If the grit is too big, they simply won’t eat it.
Grower feed is just as important as Starter and Layer feeds. Transition your birds to their new diets gradually at each phase so their bodies adjust to the various levels of nutrients in each feed. With time, care, and patience, your little pullets will grow out of their awkward teenage years and move into their laying years, where you’ll reap the rewards of your love and hard work.