Added younger chickens to my flock - food questions

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Herself, Oct 26, 2011.

  1. Herself

    Herself In the Brooder

    May 3, 2010
    I recently added 4 new younger chickens to my flock. I had the younger ones on grower pellets, and the older girls are on layer food. Now they all go after each others food. The younger chickens are not yet full grown. They are about 4 months old. Will it hurt them if they eat the layer food?

  2. Darklingstorm

    Darklingstorm Songster

    Jan 10, 2011
    Durant, Oklahoma
    I asked this question myself and the answer is yes. There isn't enough protein in Layer food for the fast growing bones of chicks, also if your bigger girls are laying and you feed the little ones medicated food, then you shouldn't eat the eggs. Someone suggest using flock raiser and give oyster shell free choice. This is what I'm about to do with my 2 flocks when I combine them (9 months old and 3 months old), which will happen as soon as I finish the last bag of feed for each.
  3. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    chick feed, grower feed, raiser feed, etc, for everyone. Anything but layer.

    Put the layer feed away for a few months. Offer hens calcium supplement on the side.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Both Layer and Grower should be about 16% protein. There is no protein difference in Layer and Grower. The only significant difference is Calcium. Layer has a lot more calcium than Grower. Calcium is what will do the damage.

    Actually, you'll see a product called Developer on the market. This is a 15% protein feed that is good for them from 13 weeks until they start to lay. The slightly lower protein feed slows their body growth a bit so their skeleton and internal organs can develop better relative to body growth. But you can feed 20% protein combined Starter/Grower from day 1 until they start to lay. The exact amount of protein is not that important as long as you don't go to extremes either way.

    Will feeding Layer to 4 month olds hurt them? Probably not, but I'm not sure. There are plenty of studies that show that feeding Layer to chicks can seriously hurt them. Mortality rate is higher and when they look at the chicks internal organs in those studies, they find nasty growths on the liver and kidneys. Not all chicks have significant damage, but a whole lot do. Not all of it is evident without opening them up to look.

    My problem is that all these studies start with one day old chicks eating Layer for all their lives. I don't know of any studies where they started the chicks on Starter or Grower, then at 6 weeks, 10 weeks, or 16 weeks switched to Layer. I don't know where the age cut-off to where the calcium in the Layer causes damage is. Also, it is not purely the percent of calcium in the feed that counts, but how much total calcium they eat in a day. If they are free ranging or eating a lot of things other than the Layer, they are not eating as much total calcium so it is not as likely to harm them.

    It is not an instantaneous effect either. It won't hurt them to eat a bite or two of Layer. The damage is more long-term. It is the steady diet that counts, not a one day thing.

    So I'll say it probably won't hurt them at that age for them to eat Layer, but I really don't know. I feed Grower with oyster shell on the side when I have a mixed age flock. I've also fed 20% Flock Raiser when I could not get the Grower. You really don't have to be that precise with protein.
  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member


    I have seen some studies on early calcium for layers. The study wanted to see if pullets 15 weeks+ would benefit from higher calcium in hopes they would store it, I in their bones, I presume, for production at 19 weeks and beyond.

    The study was thorough and scientific for the layer industry. The result? There was no benefit.
    The study did not seem to indicate there was much harm done, but again, they weren't really looking for that.
    This was an industry sponsored study in hopes of finding that earlier calcium intake would pay dividends. It did not. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2011

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by