If you are raising chickens for meat, it’s important to give them high-quality food for fast, healthy growth and balanced muscle development. The higher the quality of your feed, the better the quality of the chicken meat, and knowing exactly what you are feeding your birds means you know exactly what you are feeding your family or your customers.
For healthy, natural birds with great growth, here are some of the best chicken feeds you can get:
Broiler Chicken Feed Mentioned In This Article
Reviews of The Best Chicken Feed For Broilers
1. Naturally Free Organic Grower Feed for Chickens and Ducks
The Naturally Free Organic Grower Feed for Chickens and Ducks provides complete nutrition for chickens, ducks, and all other domestic waterfowl. It is an organic and GMO-free grower feed, formulated for chickens from 8-20 weeks old. It is free of corn and soy, made from whole grains that are grown and milled in the Pacific Northwest. The raw, whole grains of the feed are a more complete nutrition, and suitable for fermenting.
Scratch and Peck feeds is a Certified B Corporation, committed to sustainability and animal welfare, and this feed comes in minimal packaging for improved environmental impact. Fermenting instructions and benefits can be found on their website.
- High protein and complete nutrition for growers
- Can be fed to ducks and domestic waterfowl
- Soy free and corn free
- Certified organic and non-GMO
- Whole grains for improved nutrition
- Suitable for fermenting
- Eco-friendly packaging
- Certified B Corp. promotes animal welfare
- May leave a lot of fines that don’t get eaten
2. Prairie’s Choice Non-GMO Backyard Chicken Feed
The Prairie’s Choice Non-GMO Backyard Chicken Feed is 100% non-GMO for improved nutrition and digestibility. This is a complete growing formula, with 18% protein and fortified with vitamins and minerals. It is made with non-chemically processed soybeans, and is a complete feed for starters and growers. This grower feed is made in the USA.
- Non-GMO and non-chemically processed soybeans
- Complete nutrition for starters and growers
- Easy to digest
- Made in the USA
- Not certified organic
3. Manna Pro Organic Grower Crumbles
The Manna Pro Organic Grower Crumbles has 17% protein for weight gain and muscle development in chickens from 8-16 weeks old. This feed is certified organic and verified GMO-free, and is non-medicated for easy digestion. It contains no pesticides. Crumbles are easy for chickens to eat during crucial early growing stages.
- Certified organic and verified GMO free
- Complete nutrition for growing chickens
- High protein for healthy muscle development
- Free of medication and pesticides
- Crumbles are easy for growing chickens to eat
- Contains copper and should be kept away from sheep
4. Small Pet Select Garden Goodness Grower Chicken Feed with Pumpkin Seeds
The Small Pet Select Garden Goodness Grower Chicken Feed with Pumpkin Seeds is soy-free, corn-free, and non-GMO. This feed is high in protein for good health and growth for chickens from 6-8 weeks to 16-18 weeks. The pellets provide complete nutrition and is rich in vitamins. Ingredients are grown locally in the Pacific Northwest, and ships in sealed, stay-fresh packaging. Small Pet Select backs their grower feed with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
- Corn- and soy-free
- Complete nutrition and high protein for growing chickens
- Ingredients grown locally in the Pacific Northwest
- Ships in stay-fresh bag
- Backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee
- Pellet form leaves few fines and is easily eaten
- Not certified organic
5. Mile Four Organic Grower Feed for Chickens
The Mile Four Organic Grower Feed for Chickens is certified organic and non-GMO, and is suitable for chickens, ducks, geese, and other domestic waterfowl. It provides complete nutrition for growers from 8-20 weeks. It is free of corn and soy and has 18% protein. The whole grains are natural, balanced nutrition, grown and milled in the Midwest. Whole grains are suitable for fermentation which makes the feed more digestible and nutrients more bioavailable. Instructions for fermentation can be found on the Mile Four website.
- Certified organic and non-GMO
- No corn or soy
- Suitable for chickens and domestic waterfowl
- Provides complete nutrition
- Whole grains can be fermented
- Mile Four is a new company without an established reputation
What to Look for When Buying Feed for Broilers and Meat Chickens (Buyers Guide)
Raising chickens for meat is very different from raising chickens for eggs. Chickens that are bred to lay eggs have leaner, thinner bodies because they devote a lot of their energy and nutrition to their eggs. Chickens that are bred for meat have more muscle development and mature more quickly. So the first thing to do is to purchase chicks from meat breeds, rather than laying breeds.
When feeding chickens who will be used as broilers or for meat, here are some of the things to look for in their food.
Some chicken feed formulas are “all-purpose” feeds that can be given from hatching to market. While these foods are not harmful to birds, and can be easier to purchase and use, since you don’t need to change feed all the time, it doesn’t give the best results for bird size, and can end up costing more money over time.
The best solution is to use a starter feed that is very high in protein for good muscle and bone development in the first few weeks, then shift to a grower feed that has slightly less protein and more calories for overall size. A mature chicken that is not laying eggs can eat an adult, all-purpose feed that is still lower in protein.
Generally speaking, starter feeds are highest in protein, at 20-25%. Grower feed typically has 17 -20% protein, and layer feed has 16-18% protein. The more protein a meat chicken gets in their lives, particularly in their early lives, the more muscle development they will be able to achieve.
Soy is an extremely common way to add inexpensive protein to chicken feed. In fact, it can be difficult to find high-protein grower feed that doesn’t have soy. However, soy has become a controversial ingredient: it is often grown with pesticides, and some people are sensitive to soy products.
For a person with sensitivities, there is a possibility that soy protein in a chicken’s diet can pass into the human diet, particularly in eggs. Today, many chicken feeds are avoiding soy and using other plant-based sources of protein, and pea protein is being used more often.
Corn is high in starch, and therefore calories, and has often been used to add size and bulk to meat animals of nearly every species. Corn is a frequent source of “hidden” calories, that can contribute to chicken obesity, and no chickens should live on a corn-only or high-corn diet (even if the chickens think otherwise). Corn is safe for chickens to eat in moderation.
Organic and non-GMO Ingredients
Organic and non-GMO ingredients are always the best for any chicken, but particularly for meat chickens. People want to know that their foods are free of chemicals, pesticides, and unknown ingredients. Feeding chickens, particularly broilers and meat chickens, simple, natural foods that are certified organic is a great way to keep the chickens healthy and produce safe and healthy meat for people.
Free of Medications and Hormones
In the past, it was fairly common for animal feed to come with medications and growth hormones already in the feed. Of course, we now know that this is a dangerous practice that can give rise to resistant diseases and have unknown effects on the environment. Be sure to read the labels carefully on your chicken feed and know the ingredients, and look up anything that doesn’t make sense or seem to belong in animal feed.
Crumbles, Pellets, or Grains?
The most basic answer is that you should feed your chickens whatever form of food they prefer, but there are some advantages of these different forms.
Pellets typically take all the ingredients and mash them up together and compress them into a pellet form. Pellets are dry, easy to feed, and offer consistent nutrition. Small chickens may need to peck at them a bit to break them down into beak-sized pieces.
Crumbles are usually pellets that have been broken down further, into smaller pieces that are easier for chickens to eat. They offer the same storage and feeding advantages.
Whole grains and seeds
Whole grains and seeds are more natural, with a more complete nutritional profile that includes all the natural fiber and trace minerals of seed husks and so forth. They are also often more visually appealing to chickens, because the feed has a variety of flavors and textures, rather than the uniformity of pellets and crumbles.
However, this does mean that some chickens may pick through the seeds for their favorite bits and ignore everything else, and therefore not getting the full nutrition of the feed. Whole grains may also attract wild birds or other pests more than pellets. And some pieces of whole-grain foods,, most notably whole peas, which are high in protein, may be too large for smaller birds to eat.
Whole grains are an excellent way to feed chickens, but may not be ideal when you want to ensure that chickens are getting all the nutrients in their feed.
Should You Ferment Grower Feed?
Speaking of whole grains, you may have noticed a couple references to fermentation in the feed descriptions above. Should you ferment chicken feed? And if so, how do you do it?
Reasons to Ferment Chicken Feed
We know that fermented foods are good for human digestion, and people are constantly discussing the benefits of yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and other fermented foods. Here’s why it’s a good idea to ferment chicken feed:
Improves the bioavailability of nutrients
Many seeds, grains, nuts, legumes, and other foods are nutrient-rich, but difficult to digest. This is nature’s way of making sure that these seeds survive to the next generation, but it means that it’s difficult for the digestive system to break down these foods enough to get all the nutrients out of them. Fermentation breaks down some of the protective enzymes in these foods, so they are more digestible and a chicken can more readily digest the nutrients. In fact, one study shows that chickens actually eat less feed when it is fermented, because they get more nutrition from every meal.
Boosts beneficial bacteria
Fermentation increases the amount of beneficial probiotics in foods, helping to improve intestinal health and reduce acid imbalances in the stomach. This helps to boost the immune system.
Creates new vitamins
After fermentation, chicken feed is richer in B vitamins.
Some feed may have added prebiotics or probiotics, but that isn’t necessary if you are fermenting the food.
How to Ferment Chicken Feed
Choose the right feed
You can use any common chicken feed nuts and grains, and you can even add some crumble and scratch if you like. Make sure your mix is at least 2/3 whole grains and seeds, and avoid using any product with yeast in it (to avoid fermenting into alcohol).
Use the right container
It’s best to use a large (gallon size) glass jar or pitcher. If you need to use a plastic container, make sure it is food grade, BPA-free plastic.
Use the right water
The water should be filtered and chlorine free. If you don’t have de-chlorinated water, let it sit out for at least 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate.
- Place your feed into the jar, filling it no more than 70-75%.
- Add enough dechlorinated water to cover the feed by about ½-1 inch depth. The grains need to remain completely submerged as they absorb water and swell, or they may mold.
- Drape a linen towel or napkin over the container, so that it is covered but can breathe
- Stir the container completely, bottom to top, once a day. If necessary, add more water to keep the grains covered. If the water gets cloudy or a film forms on top, that’s normal and stir it in. If you see mold, you should discard the batch and start again.
- After 3-4 days, you should see small bubbles on the surface, and it should start to smell a bit like sourdough bread or yogurt; the smell will have a tangy, sour note. It shouldn’t smell spoiled.
- Once it is ready, strain out the liquids from the grain. You can re-use the liquid to start another batch, and feed the grains to your chickens.
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