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Medicated VS Non-Medicated Chick Feed - What’s the Difference?

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Medicated VS Non-Medicated Chick Feed - What’s the Difference?

baby chicks

Baby chicks are fragile, and there’s a lot that can hurt them. If you’re new to raising chicks, you’ve probably been reading nonstop about what to watch out for.

One of the main things you need to look out for are the illnesses and diseases they can catch. Most of these have to do with keeping their food, water, and brooder clean.

But some, like coccidiosis, are harder to avoid. The common solution to this disease is to give your chicks medicated feed. But what’s even in that stuff? Is it worth your time? And is there another way to avoid coccidiosis?  

In this article, we’ll compare and contrast medicated and non-medicated chick feed. We’ll also address important questions about your chicks health, and how you can help them grow into healthy adults.

Why Does Medicated Feed Matter?

As we mentioned already, medicated chick feed is mostly intended to prevent a single disease: coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is an intestinal parasite that can infect all kinds of animals. And even worse, it’s found almost everywhere.

Once ingested, it appears in the chicks’ feces. As they peck at the ground, they will ingest the parasite again, and become infected with the disease.

This usually manifests itself in your chicks’ poops, usually tinting them red or orange. Chicks will also become lethargic and eat much less. Eventually, it will kill. Chicks can quickly spread it between them until your whole flock is infected.

Medicated chick feed contains Amprolium, a drug that prevents coccidiosis. It does this by blocking the parasite’s ability to multiply in the gut. But remember, avoiding the disease is all about prevention.

Can You Cure Coccidiosis?

But let’s say you’re already seeing symptoms of coccidiosis in your chicks. In some cases, switching to medicated feed can cure them. This is dependent on how long the chick has been infected.

In most cases, Amprolium will have to be added to the chickens’ water as well. Because coccidiosis reduces appetite, they may not be getting much of it through food and drink. As a result, Amprolium has to be given orally. This treatment usually lasts seven days.

Prevention is the best strategy

Survival is much lower for baby chicks than it is for chickens. That being said, we can’t overstate how important it is to prevent coccidiosis, rather than waiting for your birds to get sick. It’s always easier and safer to prevent than it is to cure.

Do My Chicks Need Medicated Feed?

Short answer, yes. It’s crucial that you stop your chicks from getting coccidiosis. But is there another way around this? Maybe you don’t want to feed your chicks drugs if you plan to eat them later, or are concerned about the other things in medicated chick feed.

Can I consume meat and eggs from medicated chickens?

These are valid concerns, but luckily, nothing to worry about. The FDA has approved the consumption of meat and eggs from chicks fed Amprolium feed as safe. And while some medicated feed contains vitamins, it usually doesn’t contain antibiotics.

So medicated feed is an easy answer to the issue. Depending on where you got your chicks, they may be vaccinated for coccidiosis.

If they are vaccinated, you won’t need to feed them medicated feed. But if you raised them from eggs or they’re not vaccinated, medicated feed is a must.

Baby Chick Nutritional Needs

When selecting a feed, it’s important to think about nutrition too. Baby chicks need at least 18% protein in their diet. We recommend slightly more (18-20% if you can get it) for the first while.

Chicks also need amino acids and high concentrations of vitamins. It’s also usually recommended to give your chicks prebiotics and/or probiotics.

Sometimes these things are found in non-medicated chick feed. But they’re more often found in medicated feed.

If your chicks are vaccinated and you don’t need medicated feed, you can always fortify their diet with a vitamin mix. This will offset the cost of non-medicated feed by quite a bit, but could be worth it if you have a large flock.

Differences in Cost for Chicken Feed

If we run a quick cost breakdown, it costs about $20 a piece to vaccinate your chicks for coccidiosis. The difference in cost between medicated and non-medicated feed comes to $5 or $7 per 50 lbs of feed.

In short, vaccinating your whole flock is much more expensive. Speaking purely economically, vaccination doesn’t add up the same way as just using medicated feed.

This is the main reason most homesteaders and poultry farmers opt for medicated feed. It’s a cheap, effective solution that keeps your chickens healthy and strong as they grow up.


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