Medicated Chick Starter Facts

baby chick being held by a child representing medicated chick starter facts

You’ve decided on a breed, you decided how many to get, you may have even decided on some names – now there is one more decision to make: should you feed medicated or non-medicated chick starter? This is a personal choice, and to help you make an informed decision, we’ve summarized what medicated starter does and does not do.

Defending Against Coccidiosis: The Power of Medicated Chick Starter

Medicated chick starters utilize coccidiostats, which help limit the incidence of coccidiosis in young birds. Coccidiosis is an intestinal parasite that is widely spread and found just about everywhere. It multiplies rapidly in the gut and then appears in the feces. As chicks scratch and peck they ingest the coccidiosis from the feces and become infected.

Understanding Coccidiosis: A Threat to Baby Chicks

Symptoms of infected chicks are a red or orange tint to the feces, a drop in feed consumption and lethargy. This disease can quickly infect your whole group of birds and is often fatal if untreated; Coccidiosis is one of the leading causes of death in baby chicks. One way to help protect your birds against this disease is to feed a medicated chick starter.

Medicated Chick Starter: What It Does and What It Doesn’t

It is important to note a few things when considering medicated chick starter:

  • Medicated chick starter with amprolium must not be fed to chicks that have been vaccinated for coccidiosis for 28 days post inoculation or waterfowl.
  • Medicated starter is not a cure after you have an outbreak of coccidiosis. There is only enough medication in the feed to act as a preventative – and once your chicks become sick with coccidiosis their feed intakes usually drop dramatically, so feeding them medication will not help.
  • Medicated chick starter is not targeted to prevent anything other than coccidiosis. It is not a dewormer, respiratory medication, etc.

Factors Influencing the Decision: When to Choose Medicated Starter

There are certain instances where it is usually a good idea to feed a medicated starter:

  • Brooding large batches of chicks – 50+ at one time
  • Brooding large batches consecutively
  • If you live in a hot, humid environment
  • If you have a history of coccidiosis in your facility

Notes on Amprolium: Amprolium is the coccidiostat that is used in Nutrena’s NatureWise® and Country Feeds® medicated chick starter. Here are some specifics about this medication:

  1. Amprolium is a drug that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
  2. Amprolium IS NOT an antibiotic
  3. Amprolium has no withdrawal period, either in birds raised for meat or those used for egg production.
  4. Amprolium works by limiting uptake of thiamine (vitamin B1) by the coccidia parasite, which needs the thiamine to actively multiply.
  5. Amprolium allows some of the coccidia to remain in the system, stimulating creation of antibodies to develop against the disease.

Beyond Medication: Additional Strategies to Combat Coccidiosis

Whether  you decide to feed a medicated or non medicated chick starter, there are other things you can do to help decrease your chances of coccidiosis in your flock:

  • Chicks kept on wire have less access to feces to peck at and this reduces their chances of becoming infected
  • Clean regularly, change litter frequently and keep  the brooding area dry
  • Don’t crowd your birds – overcrowding quickly leads to unsanitary conditions

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15 Replies to “Medicated Chick Starter Facts”

  1. There is an “Old Wive’s Tale” that you should not feed medicated feed to waterfowl. This was true 25+ years ago when the coccidiostats used were harmful to waterfowl. But the coccidiostats used now (such as Amprolium) do not harm waterfowl. So if your only choice is a medicated starter or a non-medicated feed that is not adequate for young ducklings or goslings – you should always use the medicated chick starter.

    1. Thanks for the comment! In addition to knowing facts about medicated feeds it is extremely important to read the tag and feed only to approved species that are listed there.

    2. i wanted to use medicated, but the store only had organic chicken starter. Do u think my chicks will be ok with this. One of the chicks had pasty butt. i am giving the acv in their water right now.

      1. Hi there, the medicated chick feed is only a preventative for Coccidiosis, nothing else. Pasty butt is probably unrelated. Soak the chicks butt in warm, not hot water, for about 10 minutes, then lightly blow dry with a hair dryer, then a little dab of Vaseline around the vent. If you see blood in the droppings, then that is Cocci, and needs to be treated with Sulmet or Corrid.

  2. Wanted to share what happened to us and what we found out. I have raised chicks the same way for over 300 chicks, both store bought, shipped and my own hatched chicks. I changed how I raise them and lost 90% of the chicks we just bought. What changed .. how I feed them. I started out with non-medicated feed until their feet hit the dirt outside and then switched to medicated feed. Then I would alternate the feed every other bag between medicated and non-medicated. I decided to go with non-medicated feed only. That is when the chicks started to die, had bloody poop before dying and they died fast, within two days. I’m going back to how I used to feed them.

    1. Amy – Sorry to hear about the mortality rate of your last round of chicks. It sounds like they developed coccidiosis. Thank you for your real life story on why medicated chick starter can be helpful.

  3. I raise my chicks on the medicated feed for their first several weeks. One question a friend raise: When they’re adults and lay eggs, can you say they’re organic or no?

    1. Thank you for your question, Gwendolyn. If you are raising meat or eggs to be certified organic, you should follow the guidelines outlined to meet that certification. Generally, “organic” meat means raised with organic feed from start to finish and with only approved treatments for disease.

      As you make your decision consider:
      – Amprolium has no withdrawal period
      – It is FDA approved
      – Amprolium is not an antibiotic
      – Amprolium works by slowing the growth of the parasite by limiting its absorbtion of Thiamine

      If you do decide you want to start your chicks on organic feed, you can use our NatureSmart certified organic starter/grower.

  4. My chicks are now about 7 to 8 weeks old now. The first 5lb starter bag of feed was non medicated. I’m finishing now a 50lb bag of medicated feed. How long should I continue feeding medicated? I also raise puppies, and about every 2nd or 3rd litter has coccidia infection in my pups, so I know I’ve had the parasite here on the ranch. Chicks are still in a brooder area, but will be shifted to the main coop before long. I only have 3 older layers left from my previous flock. My birds rarely free range. I hope that’s enough information for an accurate response.

    1. Jeanne – Mericated starter should be fed through 8 weeks of age. Coccidiosis affects young chicks most often, so once you’ve fed the medicated starter and kept their environment clean and dry, you have done everything you can to prevent it. So it sounds like you’re all set! Have fun with your new chicks.

  5. Aside from proper temperature, there are 2 things that you can do to ensure that your chicks survive and thrive:

    1) Use medicated chick starter for 4-5 months;
    2) Use a teaspoon of apple Cider vinegar per gallon of water from the first day onward.

    I have used this method for many years, and hardly ever lose a chick, and none to coccidiosis.Plus, your waterers will not sour and get slimy.

  6. I ordered 27 which had the coccidiosis’s and mareks shot but I ordered 15 more from a different place which did not give them any shots. So how long do I need to keep them separated and can they stay in the same room but separate. And being those were vaccinated at what point can they eat the medicated food. Thank you.

  7. Thank you for the article – I have three sets of chickens: 21wks, 19wks, and 15wks. They have all been on Country Feeds® Chick Starter Grower Feed Medicated Crumbles since birth. Oyster shells were provided 3 wks ago and Layer Pellet feed has just been mixed in this week with the remaining medicated starter so that I could finish it off. One of our eldest just laid her first egg this morning and I’m not sure if these eggs are safe to eat yet? I am getting conflicting information. Thank you!

    1. Hi Nicole,
      How exciting! So the medication in Country Feeds® Chick Starter Grower Feed Medicated Crumbles is Amprolium, which has no withdrawl time and is not an antibiotic. So your eggs should be safe to eat. Best of luck!

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