So... I've gotten my flock off kilter. I have twenty-five 30 week old pullets. I took them off chick feed and put them on Nutrena laying pellets at 19 weeks. The first egg was laid at 23 weeks. All has been fine (getting 9-15 eggs/day), but a few weeks ago I noticed that my two favorelles and an EE had lost their beards. Then I noticed there were no feathers anywhere (my flock is not free range - tons of hawks/foxes/coyotes). And I noticed a few birds sampling the feathers of their buddies. Talked to a knowledgeable chicken person who thought it was probably low protein. (they didn't molt - too young this year).
I was giving them:
16 percent protein Nutrena laying feed (with 1/2 cup DE, 1/2 cup brewers yeast/garlic, 1 cup BOSS, 1 cup oats, 1 cup kelp per 50lb bag)
They also got 1-2 cabbages a day, plus 1-2 cups of scratch per day (whole oats, BOSS, whole barley, meal worms)
Occasional pumpkins/butternut/broccoli - maybe 2x/week
free choice oyster shell
I'm thinking that the cabbage/veggies/scratch lowered the protein content too much?
So... per suggestions, I changed them to 1/2 layer feed, 1/2 chick feed, plus 3 cups fish meal per 50lbs feed. 1/2 cabbage per day. 1 cup scratch per day in the evening, meal worms and cat food for snacks.
I removed the two favorelles since it looked like they might get eaten :) They've always been on the bottom anyway, and are presently happier than I've ever seen them in a dog crate in my art studio. Hopefully they'll be in their own little coop next week.
At one week on this diet, the EE is still getting plucked a bit, thought I coated her with Bluekote. I gave them a hambone tonight and they took it down to nothing in about 10 minutes. Saw a feather come off someone today - four chickens attacked it - gone immediately. So, I'm thinking I've not got them back to normal yet.
Any and all suggestions welcome.
1. How much is too much protein? I haven't seen any layer food over 17 percent around here.
2. Should they be on something other than layer feed - can I do that or will it affect laying? Is the only difference in layer feed the amount of calcium?
3. Or would it be better to stick with 17 percent layer feed and add fish meal? If so, how much fish meal?