7 Misconceptions and Facts About Medicated Chick Starters

It’s finally spring and that time of year again to buy feed for the new chicks you have just purchased. You’re walking down the feed aisle at your local Centra Sota Country Store, finding the chick starter feed section and now you have a tough decision to make. Should you go with medicated chick starter or non-medicated chick starter?

The decision you’re making may concern safety for the chicks and/or safety for your family. After all, you may be trying to keep your meat and eggs natural. There are many misconceptions surrounding chick starters so we put together 7 myth busting facts!

To clarify, when we refer to medicated poultry feed, we’re talking about a feed that includes Amprolium, like those that can be found at you local Centra Sota Country Store.

The Adversary: Intestinal Parasites
Medicated chick starters utilize coccidiostats, which help limit the incidence of coccidiosis in young birds. Coccidiosis is a parasite found in the intestine that is widely spread and found just about everywhere. It multiplies rapidly in the stomach and then appears in the feces. As chicks scratch and peck they ingest the coccidiosis from feces and become infected. Symptoms of infected chicks are a red or orange tint to their feces, a drop in feed consumption as well as lethargy. This disease can quickly infect your whole flock of birds and is often fatal if left untreated. Coccidiosis is one of the leading causes of death when caring for baby chicks. One of the easiest ways to help protect your birds against this disease is to feed a medicated chick starter.

While the choice to feed medicated or non-medicated chick starter is solely your own, there are certain instances where it is typically a good idea to feed a medicated starter. This includes brooding large batches of chicks (50 or more at one time), brooding large batches consecutively, living in a warm and humid environment, or if there is a history of coccidiosis in your coop.
Additionally, there is a situation where feeding medicated chick starter is not recommended – vaccinated chicks. If chicks will be vaccinated, it is not recommended to feed medicated chick starter.

7 Misconceptions and Facts About Medicated Chick Starters: 

Let’s learn more about what medicated chicken starter is and what it isn’t.

1: I do not want to feed an antibiotic to my chicks, so this means I do not feed medicated feed.
Fact: Contrary to popular belief, Amprolium is not an antibiotic. It is a thiamin blocker, and the coccidia parasite needs thiamin to multiply in the stomach of a bird.

2: Medicated feed will ‘cure a bird that has a cold or runny droppings.
Fact:  Medicated feed with Amprolium, will only help prevent coccidiosis, nothing else.

3: Medicated feed will leave residual drugs in my meat or eggs.
Fact: There is no egg or meat withdrawal time for Amprolium in poultry feed. The FDA has deemed it safe to eat the eggs and meat from birds that have consumed medicated feed.

4: If I see an outbreak of coccidiosis (bloody droppings), I should start to feed my chicks medicated feed immediately.
Fact: The dosage of Amprolium in medicated feed is not strong enough to cure an outbreak. Its purpose is to serve as a preventative measure. A stronger dose of Amprolium should be added to the water immediately if there is an outbreak, but consult with your veterinarian because it may be necessary to fully address what’s going on.

5: I should always feed my chicks medicated feed.
The fact: It is a personal choice, and coccidiosis can be managed with or without Amprolium. If there are wild birds present on your farm, it may be a good idea to introduce medicated feed, but the decision is yours. 

6: It’s a good practice to feed some medicated feed and some non-medicated feed as a mixture so I don’t give my flock too much medicine.
Fact: Feeding a medicated feed takes the guesswork out of dosing since it is formulated carefully. Mixing medicated and non-medicated feed reduces the effectiveness of the medicated feed. If you decide to use a medicated feed, a 16-week duration is what most experts recommend. If you have not started your chicks on medicated feed, it is okay to switch, but it may not be as effective.

7: I need to obtain a prescription from my veterinarian for medicated chick starter to comply with the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD).
Fact: Amprolium is not an antibiotic so no veterinary prescription is necessary. But, as with any medication, read and follow all label instructions for maximum efficacy and safety.

Successfully brooding healthy chicks sets your flock up for a successful future. Chicks can be healthy and productive whether you choose to feed medicated or non-medicated starter feed. However, we encourage you to use this information to make a better-informed choice next time you find yourself deliberating on your chick starter purchase.

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