Weeks 1-4: Baby Chicks
Start your birds strong by providing a complete starter-grower feed with at least 18 percent protein to support chick growth. If your chicks were not vaccinated, choose a medicated feed.
Weeks 5-15: Teenage Stage
During weeks 5 and 6, chicks will go through visible growth changes including new primary feathers and developing pecking order. Growing birds are now referred to by pullet for a teenage female and cockerel for the teenage male. The differences between the genders will become even more obvious in the weeks between 7 and 15. Continue to feed a complete starter-grower with 18 percent protein. You do not need to continue to provide medicated feed in this stage.
Weeks 16 and 17: Setting the Stage
Around week 16, you will start to check nesting boxes for that first coveted egg. At this point you can start the transition to a layer feed. Layer feed will have less protein and more calcium which is important for egg production. Make sure that the layer feed is made with wholesome ingredients and includes 16 percent protein and at least 3.25 percent calcium as well as key vitamins and minerals.
Week 18: The First Egg
When birds reach 18 weeks old, or when the first egg arrives, complete the transition to layer feed. It is best for this transition to be done gradually to prevent digestive upset.
Month 18: Molting
Once the first egg has been laid, it will be business as usual for awhile. Around 18 months, feathers will likely begin to cover the chicken coop.
The first molt usually occurs in the fall, the flock will take a break from egg laying and shed feathers for a few weeks. Protein is the key nutrient in a flock's diet during molt. This is because feathers are made of 80-85% protein, whereas eggshells are primarily calcium.
When the molt begins, switch to a complete feed with 20% protein. A high-protein complete feed can help hens channel nutrients into feather regrowth. Once they begin producing eggs again, switch back to a layer feed to match their energy needs.
When the day comes that the hen stops laying eggs, she still has an important place in the flock as a steady companion. At this point, transition back full circle to a higher-protein feed. If you have a mixed flock, supplement with oyster shell to assist the younger hens in their egg production.