? About chicken feed

May 9, 2020
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Clark County, KY
I have had chickens off and on for over 20 years, and have always feed a chick starter feed and then switched them over to a layer feed at about or a little before point of lay. On occasion but not real often have had a rooster in with the hens. Was reading last night some articles that were stating that layer feeds were not anything great and harmful to roosters. It mentioned that it caused health issues and they would not live over around 4 years if fed that. I don’t keep a particular group of chickens that long usually and especially not a rooster. I am now wondering what would be the best and or most practical feed for our chickens? They are on a Southern States Starter/Grower now. They will be all pullets except for a couple roosters. I am wanting to maintain as much egg production as possible.
 

hysop

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Some do all flock feed and leave oyster shells and grit for the hens to pick at which will be enough for egg production. The roosters won’t eat more calcium than they need so no need to worry about them eating the oyster shells.

I still feed 16% layer feed to my chickens and each flock has a rooster so I am guilty of feeding my roosters layer feed. I’ve only had chickens for 2 years, this one being the third year.

Eventually I will do what I recommended which is what I’ve seen others recommend for flocks with roosters.
 

GC-Raptor

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Jul 26, 2016
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Was reading last night some articles that were stating that layer feeds were not anything great and harmful to roosters. It mentioned that it caused health issues and they would not live over around 4 years if fed that. I don’t keep a particular group of chickens that long usually and especially not a rooster. I am now wondering what would be the best and or most practical feed for our chickens?
I would continue like you have been, especially since you don't usually keep them long term.
That said I don't feed a Layers feed to my Hens, no Roosters here.
I feed a Non-medicated Starter Grower or a All-Flock feed 18 to 20% Protein, with a container of Oyster Shells separately.
My eggs have good shell quality, but the trick is to offer Oyster Shells at 16 weeks of age and never feed a Layers feed. GC
 
Last edited:

Ridgerunner

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They are not going to all fall over dead at four years. Real life doesn't work that way.

The issue I've seen is that Layer has excess calcium for the egg shells. There have been plenty of studies that clearly show that excess calcium can harm growing chicks. They take two groups of chicks and feed one a feed with calcium equal to what is in Layer, around 4%. The other group gets the same feed but only about 1% calcium. Then they count how many chicks die in each group. At certain points they cut some of the chicks open to look at their internal organs. The chicks on the high calcium feed had a higher mortality rate, a larger percentage dies. Not every one, but a higher percentage. The chicks they cut open on the high calcium diet had more internal damage to their organs. Many of the chicks were OK but it was clear that higher calcium levels harmed many of the growing chicks.

One member on here posted a link to a similar study on roosters for a high calcium feed. The results were similar. Some roosters died or had internal damage but many were OK.

One thing to remember, that high calcium feed was all they ate in those studies. It's not about how much is in one bite, it's how many total grams of calcium they eat in the entire day. And that is actually an average over several days. If a fair portion of what they eat is low calcium feed like grass or creepy crawlies, the amount of calcium in the Layer feed they eat gets diluted. It's less likely to hurt them.

The flip side is true for your laying hens. If they are eating a lot of low-calcium food in addition to Layer, they may not be getting enough calcium for the egg shells. It may be a good idea to offer a calcium supplement like oyster shell even if you feed Layer.

Of course it is more complicated than that. Why should anything be easy or simple. They can get a lot of calcium from things other than feed or oyster shells. Some plants contain fairly high levels of calcium. Some creepy crawlies contribute calcium. If your native rock is limestone they get calcium from the rocks they eat as grit. If your egg shells are hard they are getting enough calcium from somewhere.

All this probably doesn't help you much with your rooster. He doesn't lay eggs so you don't have any shells to look at. I don't know how much feeding Layer to your rooster in your circumstances will actually hurt him. I think it is a case that it can, not necessarily will.

I don't have to worry about this. Since I have growing chicks in the flock most of the year I feed them all a low calcium Grower and offer oyster shell on the side.
 

Jenthehen127

Songster
Mar 16, 2020
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Western Pa
I would continue like you have been, especially since you don't usually keep them long term.
That said I don't feed a Layers feed to my Hens, no Roosters here.
I feed a Non-medicated Starter Grower or a All-Flock feed 18 to 20% Protein, with a container of Oyster Shells separately.
My eggs have good shell quality, but the trick is to offer Oyster Shells at 16 weeks of age and never feed a Layers feed. GC
@GC-Raptor so you don't recommend a layer feed? And add oyster shell at 16 weeks? My girls get starter chick feed. Should I add oyster shell to that or change feed as well?
 

Jenthehen127

Songster
Mar 16, 2020
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Western Pa
Oyster Shells are for laying hens. So no need to add em for chicks
Oh yes, I meant when they're ready to lay. The thread was saying no later feed, just add oyster shells. I had just been wondering about all that. I was going to switch them to later feed around 20 weeks I think.
 

GC-Raptor

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@GC-Raptor so you don't recommend a layer feed? And add oyster shell at 16 weeks? My girls get starter chick feed. Should I add oyster shell to that or change feed as well?
Layers feed is fine for many.
But like many Backyard Chicken keepers, I give my hens treats.
With my first Flock of 5 Golden Comets, I started offering treats at 8 weeks old. They were still on a Start and Grow feed 18% Protein.
I gave them Scratch Grains scattered in their pen twice daily, what they consumed in 10 to 15 minutes.
Everything was fine and dandy.
I switched to a Layers feed with 18% Protein after the first egg and continued to feed that for more than a year without any issues.
Well I decided to switch to a different Layers feed with less Protein, 16%. I was still giving Scratch Grains twice daily.
Within 3 weeks, three of the five Hens were feather picking.
I did some research and found that feather picking can happen if you give to many low Protein treats.
Well I had no problems till I switched from 18 to 16% Protein feed.
So after switching back to a 18% Protein layer feed, the behavior continued.
I ended up buying Pinless Peepers and put them on the three culprits for 3 weeks and when I removed them, I had no more feather picking.
20180128_101256.jpg

So 2 1/2 years later I continue to feed at least a 18% Protein feed and have no further issues.

So if you give low Protein treats like Scratch or veggies occasionally or balance it with high Protein treats like mealworms, or BSF larvae, a 16% Layers feed should be fine after 18 weeks or the first egg.

I switched from a 18% layers feed to a Non-Medicated Starter-Grower or a All-Flock crumble "whichever is cheaper or available" to save money, compared to a 18% Layers feed.
My second Flock "Barred Rocks" are 21 months old, and never had a feather picking issue. 20200416_192404_resized.jpg .
I'm currently raising my 3rd batch of chicks.
20200528_191103_resized.jpg

I feed a Medicated Start and Grow for 10 weeks, then when bag is empty I switch to a Non-Medicated feed. GC
 

Jenthehen127

Songster
Mar 16, 2020
248
534
156
Western Pa
Layers feed is fine for many.
But like many Backyard Chicken keepers, I give my hens treats.
With my first Flock of 5 Golden Comets, I started offering treats at 8 weeks old. They were still on a Start and Grow feed 18% Protein.
I gave them Scratch Grains scattered in their pen twice daily, what they consumed in 10 to 15 minutes.
Everything was fine and dandy.
I switched to a Layers feed with 18% Protein after the first egg and continued to feed that for more than a year without any issues.
Well I decided to switch to a different Layers feed with less Protein, 16%. I was still giving Scratch Grains twice daily.
Within 3 weeks, three of the five Hens were feather picking.
I did some research and found that feather picking can happen if you give to many low Protein treats.
Well I had no problems till I switched from 18 to 16% Protein feed.
So after switching back to a 18% Protein layer feed, the behavior continued.
I ended up buying Pinless Peepers and put them on the three culprits for 3 weeks and when I removed them, I had no more feather picking. View attachment 2178012
So 2 1/2 years later I continue to feed at least a 18% Protein feed and have no further issues.

So if you give low Protein treats like Scratch or veggies occasionally or balance it with high Protein treats like mealworms, or BSF larvae, a 16% Layers feed should be fine after 18 weeks or the first egg.

I switched from a 18% layers feed to a Non-Medicated Starter-Grower or a All-Flock crumble "whichever is cheaper or available" to save money, compared to a 18% Layers feed.
My second Flock "Barred Rocks" are 21 months old, and never had a feather picking issue. View attachment 2178040 .
I'm currently raising my 3rd batch of chicks. View attachment 2178035
I feed a Medicated Start and Grow for 10 weeks, then when bag is empty I switch to a Non-Medicated feed. GC
Thank you for the information. This is my first flock and I want to keep them healthy! There is a lot of information on that subject! Its hard to soft through it all! Lol, those peepers! I can't believe they leave them on! Do they just clip to the beak? You chicks are sweet!
 

MANNA-PRO

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