At our local feed store, there are five bins of chicken food. All are available in 50 pound bags, but until we get into the egg-laying stage, I won't be buying in bulk:
- starter (don't need it anymore)
- chick scratch (what we're giving them now)
- hen scratch (for post-egg-laying years?)
- Layena(R) mash (for egg-laying hens, and suggested as a good iguana food, too!)
- Layena(R) crumble (crumbled quasi-pelletized versions of the mash)
Advice is given on what to feed the chicks weeks 0-4 and post week 18 but nothing in the middle. However, I found this section on scratch (what we're feeding the girls now):
Keep in mind once you start feeding them scratch or cracked corn you also need to add a supply of grit for digestion. As you have guessed chickens do not have teeth, without getting to technical, the grit is stored in the chickens gizzard and as the food they eat passes through the gizzard it is ground up.
A good way to check out the gizzard is after you have given you new chickens grit pick one of them up the next day and feel the base of her neck, you should feel a lumpy pocket that is the gizzard.
Another interesting thing I noticed on that same Feeding page was the following caution (in an annoying blink style font held over from 1995):
The things chickens should NEVER get:Ewww.
Large amounts of salt, raw potato peels, chocolate
and the biggest NO NO of all do not ever feed beans of any kind to a chicken (they can't expel the gas and it will get ugly so please do not try it)
Oh, I'll be switching the girls to a laying feed once the first egg comes out. Still haven't decided which brand yet (will keep you posted)