Backyard Poultry

Non-Medicated vs. Medicated Chick Starter Feed

Starting a Flock : Chick Nutrition

Starting a Flock : Caring for Chicks

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Purina Animal Nutrition

To start baby chicks strong, provide a complete starter-grower feed with all 38 nutrients they need each day. Choosing between a medicated or non-medicated chick starter feed depends on whether or not your baby chicks have been vaccinated for coccidiosis. Continue feeding the same chick starter feed from day 1 until week 18, or when the first egg arrives.
 
When selecting a chick starter feed, first look for an option that is complete. Complete chick starter feeds from the Purina® Flock Strong® Feeding Program are formulated to provide all the nutrients needed in one package. Look for 18 percent protein to support early chick growth, vitamins and minerals for development and ingredients such as prebiotics and probiotics to support chick health.

The option you select should be based on whether or not your chicks have been vaccinated against coccidiosis. Feed Purina® Start & Grow® Medicated to chicks that have not been vaccinated for the disease, or if you are unsure of vaccination status, and Purina® Start & Grow, a non-medicated chicks starter feed, to those vaccinated for coccidiosis.
 

 

What is coccidiosis in baby chicks?

Coccidiosis is one of the most common diseases chickens face. There are numerous strains with at least seven strains known to affect chickens. This intestinal disease is caused by parasites, called coccidia oocysts, which live in the soil and can be carried by equipment, people or other birds. Keeping the brooder and enironment clean for growing baby chicks is a key to helping them grow strong.
 
Once ingested, these oocysts reproduce in the chicken’s intestinal tract. When the population of oocysts reaches a high enough level, the chick becomes sick. An infection damages the intestinal lining of the bird’s digestive system, preventing nutrient absorption within 4 to 7 days.

Symptoms of coccidiosis in baby chicks often include a change in droppings with blood, mucous or diarrhea. The disruption in the digestive system causes birds to stop eating, seem very tired and experience decreased growth. Impacted birds can appear hunched with ruffled feathers. If symptoms progress rapidly, death is possible.

Baby chicks are most susceptible because their immune system is still developing. When the oocysts enter a chick’s digestive system, it is less able to fight off the infection because the beneficial bacteria in the chick’s digestive system are still growing. Once the chicks have recovered from a coccidiosis infection, they build immunity to that specific strain and are less likely to get sick from that strain again. Just remember that there are several types of coccidiosis that can cause your chickens to get sick.

Coccidiosis is a species-specific disease. This means that you, your children, or your other pets will not get sick from the oocysts in your chickens. That doesn’t mean that they can’t get coccidiosis, but it won’t be because of your chickens. 

Prevention through vaccination

One way to prevent coccidiosis is through vaccination. Hatcheries are able to vaccinate chicks prior to shipment. To prevent potential disease problems, purchase chicks from a credible U.S. Pullorum-Typhoid Clean hatchery or your local Purina® retailer. Ensure the hatchery vaccinated chicks for both coccidiosis and Marek’s Disease, a Herpes virus found in poultry.

Because coccidiosis and Marek’s Disease can impact chicks at a very early age, the vaccinations should be provided at the hatchery in the first few days of life.

If chicks have been vaccinated against coccidiosis, a non-medicated chick starter feed can be provided. Select a complete feed that includes: Enhanced amino acids to promote early chick development; prebiotics and probiotics to support immune health; and a balance of vitamins and minerals to support bone health and bird growth. 

Build immunity through chick starter feed

Another way to address coccidiosis in baby chicks is through the feed you provide. Medicated complete feeds, like the medicated option of Purina® Start & Grow®, includes Amprolium. Amprolium is a coccidiostat formulated to reduce the growth of the coccidia oocysts, allowing the young chick to develop an immunity to cocciodosis as they grow into adulthood.

Chicks that are fed a cocciodiostat are more able to fight off infection from the environment. This is because the preventative in the medicated chick starter feed can then slow the growth of oocysts while the chicks develop their own immunity.

Be sure to feed a medicated (with Amprolium) chick starter feed to chicks who were not vaccinated for coccidiosis. For chicks that were vaccinated, it will not hurt to feed the medicated version but the added protection may not be needed.
 
How long do you feed medicated chick starter? Regardless of which chick starter feed you choose for your baby chicks, feed the same starter-grower feed from day 1 through week 18, or when the first egg arrives. At this time, you can begin the transition to a layer feed.

In either case, be sure to provide a clean, warm and draft-free brooder along with fresh feed and water.  Comfortable, well-cared for chicks are most often the happiest and healthiest.

Want more tips on how to start your chicks strong? Visit our Flock Strong® resource hub for local poultry events, a guide to raising chickens and much more!