Backyard Poultry

Raising Chickens: What to Feed Chickens at 4 to 6 Months Old

Starting a Flock : Chick Nutrition

Starting a Flock : Caring for Chicks

Flock Management : Flock Health

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

When your chickens are 4 to 6 months old, they’re over their awkward teenage phase but not yet full adults. Chickens become sexually mature at this age, which means females will begin to lay their first eggs. Choose the right chicken feed for their rapidly changing needs to help your entire flock prepare for adulthood.
Your coop is full of pullets (female teenage chickens) and cockerels (male teenage chickens). At 4 months old, they’re about to become sexually mature. Your pullets will turn into egg-laying hens and your cockerels will begin to grow into roosters. So, what to feed chickens at this age and when do you need to switch to other feeds?
Our age-based guide for male and female chickens will help you ensure your flock always has what it needs to be happy and healthy!

Raising chickens: 4 months old

DiagramDescription automatically generatedYour 4 month old chickens (16 weeks), should be eating Purina® Start & Grow® feed. All Purina® complete chick starter feeds are higher in protein, lower in calcium and formulated to provide all the nutrition your birds need for a strong, healthy start and lifetime success.
Always provide fresh, cool water for your birds. Water is essential for healthy chickens, not to mention future egg production. As the weather gets warmer, they will drink more water so refill their waterers frequently.
Depending on what time of year your birds are hitting that 4-month mark, you may need to provide them with supplemental light to encourage them to lay eggs. Chickens do their best egg laying when provided with 16 hours of light each day.
However, we need to ease them into a longer day length over time. At 16 weeks, your birds should receive a minimum of 10 hours of light per day. Over the next 6 weeks, add an additional hour of light each week until the hens get 16 hours of light per day. If your day length is already longer than 10 hours, adjust accordingly so they are getting 16 hours of light by 22 weeks of age.
One incandescent 40-watt or LED 9- to 13-watt bulb per 100 square feet of coop space will provide the light your pullets and future egg layers need to be productive. Pro tip: Consider an automatic timer to keep light and dark hours consistent in your coop so your hens stay on a laying and sleeping schedule.
Some backyard flock raisers like to introduce Purina® Scratch Grains. Ideally, you should wait until your birds transition to a layer feed at 18 weeks before introducing treats. If you can’t wait to spoil your young ladies, then at least wait until they are 12 weeks of age. Keep the portions small when they are young. No more than one tablespoon per chick per day when they are less than 18 weeks old. After 18 weeks, you can double the spoiling to 2 tablespoons each day. This natural, all-grain supplement should be fed along with a complete and balanced diet and should only make up 5 to 10 percent of your birds’ total daily intake.

Raising chickens: 4-1/2 months old

At four-and-half-months old (18 weeks), your pullets are about to become hens and lay their first fresh eggs! Now is the time to introduce your laying pullets to a complete layer feed. The transition is essential because hens require different nutrients as they begin laying, including additional calcium for eggshell production.
Choose a layer feed with the Purina® Oyster Strong® System to help your hens lay strong and stay strong. This unique blend of oyster shell, vitamin D and manganese provides everything required for strong shells and healthy hens.
Which layer feed Oyster Strong® System is right for your flock? Our most popular layer feeds Includes added omega-3 fatty acids for your health Includes insect protein Certified USDA Organic
No matter the Purina® complete feed you select, gradually transition your laying pullets to the new feed. On the Purina Farm in Missouri, we mix the starter-grower feed and layer feed evenly for four or five days. If your birds are used to eating crumbles, start with a crumble layer feed. The same goes for pellets. Many hens will eat the mixed feed without noticing a difference. When your hens are eating both feeds, you can stop feeding the starter-grower feed and make the complete switch to all layer feed. Most birds will adjust within a couple days, but some can take a couple weeks to fully transition to their new diet.

Deciding between pellets or crumbles? Both forms contain high-quality grains with added vitamins and minerals for a complete and balanced diet. Pellets are a great way to limit feed waste. Crumbles are simply pellets broken into smaller bits, which makes it easier for some birds to eat.

Raising chickens: 6 months old

Your 6-month-old chickens (24 weeks) are likely supplying you with delicious, fresh eggs. If their first eggs are small, misshapen or have weak shells, don’t worry. Practice makes perfect! As time goes by, your ladies’ eggs will become more consistent.

Pullets usually start laying around 18 weeks of age with peak production between 24 and 30 weeks of age. Peak production is the highest rate of lay in your flock. Excellent peak production would be between 80 to 90 percent, meaning on any given day 80 to 90 percent of your hens will lay an egg. Nutrition, housing conditions, weather, breed and lighting, as well as management will all play a part in how many eggs each pullet lays.

Gather eggs frequently, at least three times per day. Frequent collection keeps the eggs fresher, cleaner and decreases the chance for broken eggs. Brush up on fresh egg tips, like whether to wash them and/or refrigerate them.
Eggs intended for hatching should be stored at 55 degrees Fahrenheit and in 70 to 75 percent humidity. When maintained at the correct temperature, hatching eggs can be stored for up to six days with no effect on hatchability. As storage time increases, the chance that those eggs will hatch begins to decrease. It is best to start incubating eggs within 10 days of collection. Pro tip: Use a pencil to write on the egg the day of collection and what breed it might be (if you can tell!).

After peak production occurs, the rate of lay will decrease by about 1 to 1.5 percent each week. At around 18 months old, your hens will begin molting and losing their feathers. Molting typically lasts 8 to 12 weeks. During this time, your hens take a vacation from laying eggs so they can redirect their energy to growing new feathers.
Molting typically occurs when days become shorter and temperatures drop. Molting is a healthy process that results in a shiny, new set of feathers for winter. To help hens stay strong through molt, follow these steps:
  1. Switch to Purina® Flock Raiser® for more protein and less calcium. The higher protein levels in this feed can help with feather regrowth.
  2. Place a dish of Purina® Oyster Shell as a free-choice supplement need the feeder. The laying hens will eat the calcium they need. Molting chickens will begin eating the supplement as they get closer to laying eggs again.
  3. Once hens start laying eggs again, gradually transition back to a complete layer feed.  
Find the right feed for your birds with our Feed Finder Tool or download our free week-by-week guide to raising chickens, My First Year with Chickens, for steps at each age.
Are you ready to level up your flock with Oyster Strong®? Sign up for the Feed Greatness® Challenge today!

Related Education Content

Related Products