Difference Between Starter, Grower, And Finisher Feeds

You probably have heard about different types of chicken feed; say starter feed, grower feed, and finisher feed. Have you wondered why these chicken feeds are specific in action; I mean why you can’t feed day-old chicks grower or finisher at the initial stage of growth?

Well, you are just the best resource as this article discusses the meaning and difference in all the available types of chicken feeds, explaining the nutritional composition of starter feed, grower feed, and finisher feed with respect to the growth stages of chickens.

Difference Between Starter, Grower, And Finisher Feeds

Types of Feeds For Chicken

Feeds and feeding take about 75 percent of the total cost of poultry production; the type of feed fed to chickens determines the productivity of the chickens and the profitability of the poultry business.

Chicken feeds come in different forms; they are pellets, mash, or crumbles. All these forms are made to reduce the particle size of the feed ingredients such that the chickens find it palatable and for better utilization.

Chickens have stages of growth and each stage requires different nutritional requirements, medication, and other management practices. There are different types of feed fed to chickens at each stage, they are the best feed for chickens at each stage of their growth; their composition contains what the birds need at that particular age.

In the poultry business, there are four types of chicken feeds namely:

  • Starter.
  • Grower.
  • Finisher.
  • Layer.

All these feeds are formulated to perform distinct functions in the development or growth, both physiologically and metabolically, of the chicken. These feeds are a function of the birds’ age.

You do not just feed your chickens any type of feed because they are made of grains; day-old chicks cannot eat grower feed and layers of feed cannot be fed to broiler chickens and still expect good performance. These are wrong feeding programs; hence, you need to understand why you are feeding your laying chickens layers feed and why you feed day-old chicks starter diet.

1. What is a Starter feed?

You are familiar with the starter diet but do you know what it is called or what made it a starter diet?

day old chicks eating starter feed

A starter diet is the type of feed given to chickens from a day old to four (4) weeks, during the brooding stage. At the age of a day old to 3 – 4 weeks, chickens need certain nutrients that only the starter diet can provide.

Starting from the particle sizes, a starter diet has a relatively smaller particle with a large surface area; this gives room for proper digestion and utilization of the feed. Considering the nutritional composition of this diet, a starter is more nutritious and contains the nutrients required for the optimum growth of the chicks.

A starter contains 22 percent crude protein with high-energy content. Younger chicks need high crude protein content to build their immune system and tissues to make them fit as they grow. This diet is characterized by high nutrient content to aid the development of the birds.

2. What is Grower feed?

Grower feed is given to pullets or cockerel at the age of five (5) to nineteen or twentieth (20) weeks for pullets and broiler at  (4) five (5) weeks. The nutrient composition of this feed is low compared to the starter diet.

The grower feed for chickens contains 16 percent crude protein and high energy, the protein content has been reduced to the level required by the birds. The energy content is much because the chickens are now grown and tend to perform more inherent or habitual activities that enervate them, therefore, they need additional energy to complement the used ones.

Although the grower feed is not usually fed to broiler chickens, to reduce the cost of production and maximize profit, you can include grower feed in the feeding program.

Is Grower Feed Good for Broiler?

Grower feed is a good option for broiler chickens when looking to reduce the cost of feeding. A grower diet contains between 16 – 18% protein; it can be fed to chickens between 3 – 5 weeks of age if you intend to rear broilers longer than 6 weeks. Grower feed is less expensive than finisher feed.

How Long Should Broilers Eat Grower Feed?

Grower feed can be given to broilers between 4 – 6 weeks of age. Ordinarily, the grower feed is not included in the broiler diet, but because the grower feed is cheaper and can limit the fat content in the broiler meat, it is often added. Starter feed should be replaced with grower feed at 4 weeks of age.

Grower feed has a lower ratio of nutrients and vitamins for broilers as the starter and finisher feed. If your chicks are being raised for meat, you should stop feeding them starter when they are 4 weeks old and switch over to grower feed till they are 6 – 7 weeks before giving them finisher for a week or two before slaughtering.

3. What is Finisher feed?

Finisher feed is the last feed given to broilers at the age of five (5) and six (6) weeks before the sale. The finisher feed provides the nutrients that will sum up the basic requirements of the birds. It contains 21 percent crude protein with high energy to sustain life.

At this age, they are ready for sale so the farmer might tend to reduce costs here. The diet is high in energy because the birds are much engaged in inherent activities. The protein content is lower than the starter because as the birds grow, their protein content decreases and energy increases.

broiler chicken

What Is The Purpose Of Broiler Finisher?

Broiler Finisher is typically given for broilers that are close to slaughter age; it helps to boost the growth of broiler chickens. When broilers are fed finishers, they gain more weight within the short period of feeding. This is good for attracting good market prices.

The purpose of finishers is to help the broilers gain more weight to sell higher and get more meat in return. Chicken finisher feed is a type of chicken feed that helps broilers develop their muscles and grow to maturity.

Broiler finisher contains more protein than grower feed. It also has higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients than either grower or layer feeds. The composition of the Finisher diet allows broilers to grow at a fast rate, so they can be ready for processing sooner than other types of chickens.

How Long Should Broilers Eat Finisher Feed?

When it comes to broilers, you want to start giving them finisher feed from about 5 – 6 weeks to the point of slaughter. This will usually be 7- 8 weeks.

Finisher feed is designed to give your birds the nutrients they need to grow as much as possible in a short amount of time. It has a high protein content and also contains adequate vitamins and minerals for fast growth.

Read: Tips On How To Get Bigger Broiler Chicken

4. What is Layer feed?

Layer feed is a special feed formulated to aid egg production in laying birds; it is the best chicken feed for laying hens. The standard layer diet is given to laying birds at about 20 – 22 weeks. One of the mistakes most poultry farmers make is that they give standard layer feed to 17-week pullets.

Standard laying diet should not be fed to birds at the point of lay or during their first week of lay. Giving them layer feed at 17 weeks would not meet their nutrient requirement at that age thereby reducing their production potential in the long run.

As said earlier, a layer feed is specially formulated to enhance the egg production of laying birds. A layer feed has 17 percent crude protein and is high in calcium and phosphorus to aid shell formation. Some farmers feed layers grower feed; the hen will lay eggs but not to their genetic potential. Layer feed is what to feed chickens to lay eggs profitably.

Read: How To Know A Good Laying Chicken (Layers) With Pictures

The Difference Between a Starter And Finisher Feed

The starter and finisher feed are fed to broilers at the younger and older growth stages respectively. Both are designed to help broilers grow strong and healthy, but there are some differences between the two.

The broiler starter is fed to day-old chicks till they are 4 weeks old. Broiler starter contains between 22 – 24% Crude protein. The purpose of a starter feed is to meet the nutritional needs of young chicks. The high protein in the starter feed helps the chicks grow faster and develop properly, while also providing enough energy for them to keep up with their rapid growth.

Broiler finisher is also a high-protein feed that helps the broiler reach its full potential size. It’s less rich than the broiler starter. Finisher feed contains at least 21% crude protein and it is designed for mature broilers to attain good weight before sale or processing.

Difference Between Grower Feed And Layer Feed

The difference between grower feed and layer feed is in their nutritional composition. The grower feed is designed for young chickens after eating the starter feed, while layer feed contains the required nutrients to enhance the profitable laying of eggs in hens.

Grower feed is designed to help chicks grow into mature hens, and it’s generally less expensive than layer feed. The reason for this is that grower feed contains less protein than layer feed does, typically 16% versus 18% crude protein.

Layer feed is for laying hens, that have reached maturity age. Layer feed has more protein, vitamins, and minerals than grower feed; Layer feed has higher levels of calcium and phosphorus than grower feed. The reason for this is that laying birds need higher calcium and phosphorus to aid proper egg formation and stronger eggshell quality.

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Final Notes

Feeding the chickens rightly in terms of giving preference to the types of feed given to them makes the poultry business more productive. These feeds are formulated considering several factors such as age, physiological demand, and health. I hope you find this article helpful. In case you have any questions, drop them in the comment box below.

11 thoughts on “Difference Between Starter, Grower, And Finisher Feeds”

  1. I ran out of finisher for my birds and couldn’t get to buy and someone advised me to mix equal parts of starter and grower feeds to give me finisher feeds.
    Is it ok to do so ?


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