If you are new to chickens, you might have heard a little about medicated chicken feed. What is it, and is it something you should give to your chicks? There are so many misconceptions about medicated feed that it can get confusing quickly. Let’s look at a few medicated chicken feed pros and cons and how to use it. By the end of this, you will not only be an expert on the feed but also about the best conditions to use it.
What Is Medicated Chick Feed?
Medicated chicken feed helps your chickens build up a tolerance to coccidiosis. What is coccidiosis? Coccidiosis is a terrible intestinal parasite caused by microscopic organisms called protozoa. Coccidiosis claims the lives of thousands of flocks every year around the globe. And once you get it, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of. That’s why people look for things like medicated feeds and vaccines to irradicated it.
Is It An Antibiotic?
Contrary to what most people think, medicated starter feed is not an antibiotic. You can’t give it to cure illnesses or to treat bacterial infections. This is a common misconception, especially here in the USA. You can’t find food like that in these parts, though it would be helpful for a few reasons.
You can’t find antibiotics in food because it is illegal to sell an antibiotic without a prescription. The reason for this law is that all bacterias come from several strains. Therefore, different antibiotics work for various infections. So a proper diagnosis is needed first to see what types of antibiotics you need.
So How Does It Work?
What’s in medicated chick feed, and how does it work? Medicated feed contains small amounts of Amprolium in it. If you have dealt with coccidiosis before, you know that this medication is like a bomb to this parasite. When you give Amprolium to an adult chicken, it blocks all absorption of thiamine by the body. And without thiamine, these tiny parasites can’t reproduce.
So how does it work in chick feed? Medicated starter feed does not have a full dose of Amprolium in it. Instead, it has small qualities to slow the reproduction of coccidiosis to help your flock get natural immunities. With the parasite weakened, your chicks can build an immunity to fight the disease.
Pros Of Feeding Medicated Chicken Feed
Let’s take a look at a few medicated chicken feed pros and cons. You can determine if medicated feed is the right choice for your flock by starting with the good side.
The biggest pro to medicated feed is that it helps your chicks develop natural immunities to coccidiosis. That is the whole reason that scientists invented the feed in the first place. If your flock has known cases of coccidiosis, you can never be too sure that you have irradicated the problem.
The tiny protozoa can live in the soil, water sources, and deep in the cracks of your coop. You might think that you can never add more chickens to your flock. But that isn’t always the case. If you brood some chicks, you can feed them a medicated food to build their immunities. Once your chicks are old enough to integrate with your flock, they will be strong enough to fight the infestation.
Coccidiosis affects chicks and pullets more than adults. If your young chicks get introduced to coccidiosis too early, it could be detrimental. Not only will they get sick and have a high chance of dying, but it has long-lasting effects.
Chicks that have a terrible case of coccidiosis or get it frequently can have permanent damage. They will have problems digesting their food and foraging materials. Some hens even have chronic diarrhea or bloody stools, leading to decreased egg production.
So feeding a medicated feed will strengthen your flock to prevent damage long term. Stronger chicks equal stronger hens and more eggs. And who doesn’t want that?
Some people don’t believe in vaccinations for their chicks, and that is your personal choice. But if you want to protect your flock by other means, feeding medicated starter feed is an excellent way to go. Your chicks could eat this feed to defend themselves against coccidiosis. And it has the same long-lasting effects as a vaccine would. Some studies show it might even be more effective too.
No Eggs And Meat Withdraw
Next on our list is that your meat and eggs will be safe. With some medications, you can’t eat the eggs or meat afterward. But Amprolium is approved by the FDA for meat and egg-producing birds. So you can give your chicks medicated feed without fearing their egg and meat quality is compromised.
Don’t Need A Prescription
And finally, the last pro we have is that you don’t need a doctor for this feed. Since medicated feed doesn’t contain antibiotics, you can get it anywhere. Most feed stores carry it, or you can buy it online in bulk. Cutting out the middle man saves so much time and money.
Cons Of Feeding Medicated Chicken Feed
Now let’s take a look at a few downsides to this feed. Not everything is easy, and there can be too much of a good thing. So let’s take a look at a few cons here.
The biggest misconception is that this feed treats disease. Some people will claim that they feed it when they see the signs of coccidiosis in their flock. But this isn’t how the medicated feed works. If your chickens are sick with coccidiosis, the Amprolium in it is too low of a dose to get rid of it. And while this is technically a user error, we thought it deserved a spot on the cons list. Not to blame the food, but to open the eyes of those spreading false information.
Only For Coccidiosis
Another myth is that medicated feed treats other diseases. Again, this is more of a user error, but it’s a big thing to be wrong about. Since medicated feed doesn’t contain antibiotics, it can’t treat respiratory infections. Amprolium only treats coccidiosis, so it really won’t be much help in any other case.
Can’t Be Used With Vaccine
Some day-old chicks get vaccinated against coccidiosis by the hatchery they come from. And if you were to feed them the medicated feed on top of this, it could negate each other. So before feeding a medicated feed to your chicks, check that your breeder hasn’t already vaccinated. While it won’t give your chickens any defects, it will take away all protection.
If you keep your chicks in the brooder and feed them medicated feed, you aren’t doing anything for immunities. For a medicated feed to work, your chicks need exposure to coccidiosis outside. You can do this in a few ways. If it’s warm enough outside, you could set up a brooder in the back. But in colder weather, this isn’t always an option.
In that case, you could take some dirt or bedding from your coop and place it in the brooder. This will give your chicks exposure to coccidiosis while the feed builds their immunities. It’s this step that most people don’t know about, and so their chicks never get the protection they thought they had.
Possible Thiamine Deficiency
Last on our medicated chicken feed pros and cons is the issue of thiamine. This is one point where not everyone agrees. In adults, Amprolium blocks the absorption of thiamine. After being treated with Amprolium, your flock will have a thiamine deficiency and will need extra vitamins to make up for it.
Some claim that the same is true for chicks. They claim that Amprolium blocks chicks from taking in thiamine and causing straddle legs. But the amounts of Amprolium in the medicated feed is so small that it shouldn’t stop all thiamine absorption by the body. So this is one of those things that you will need to keep an eye on and stop feeding if you notice a problem.
Do I Need Medicated Chick Feed?
Now that you’ve read the medicated chicken feed pros and cons, you might wonder where that leaves you. Should your chicks eat medicated feed? Medicated feed is best for people who don’t have vaccinated chicks and have had known cases of coccidiosis. If you’ve never had coccidiosis, medicated feed won’t do much for your flock, and vaccination might be the better option.
How Long Should I Feed My Chickens Medicated Feed?
Do you think that medicated feed is the best option for your chickens? Then you might have a few more questions about how to feed and for how long. Your chicks should have the medicated feed available to them at all times. And remember that this feed is already measured out to the proper dosage, so don’t mix it with other foods.
For the best protection, your chickens should eat this food until at least 16 weeks old. After 16 weeks old, your chickens will have strong immunities against coccidiosis. But you should always follow the directions on the package for the best results.
What’s The Healthiest Chicken Feed?
To conclude medicated chicken feed pros and cons, we would like to give you a few recommendations. Choosing food for your flock can be difficult. Here is a list of our top three recommendations for medicated feed.
- Manna Pro Chick Starter Medicated Chicken Feed
- Purina Start & Grow Medicated Formula
- Small Pet Select- Starter/Grower Medicated Chicken Feed
These foods will keep your chickens safe and full. You won’t have anything to fear and everything to gain.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!