ASAP - Questions About Early Egg Laying

Countryhippie

In the Brooder
Aug 29, 2021
18
30
39
Massachusetts
Hello everyone,

So on August 5th, 2021 I adopted 6 supposedly pullets, but two turned out to be roosters. That makes my flock 2 Roosters and 4 Hens. So far no issues with aggression between the roosters, one rooster is mating with the hens however. My hens are only a little over 15 weeks and I didn't expect egg laying until 18 weeks like all forums said. That being said two of my hens already laid eggs, they were extremely tiny.

Is this normal for hens to lay this early? Is it something I am feeding them? They have been getting normal chick starter with the occasional treat. How do I switch my chickens to layer feed? Will the layer feed be okay for my roosters? Is there anything else I should be feeding my hens once they start laying? I haven't been giving grit because they are free ranged. Should I start giving oyster shells or buy chick grit as they are still young? Also, I need to get the chickens brooding boxes, how high off the ground should they be?

I will be going to the store later to day to pick up the items. Please respond as soon as possible. I am completely new to everything regarding chickens. Thank you.
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
8,660
18,968
726
USA
I haven't been giving grit because they are free ranged. Should I start giving oyster shells or buy chick grit as they are still young?
Oyster shell: yes, make it available so the females can get the extra calcium they need to make eggshells (but the males do not need it.) Just put oyster shell in a dish or container, and let the chickens choose how much to eat. Do not mix it with anything else. Yes, the males will probably have a few bites to see what it is, but that will not harm them.

Grit is rocks to help grind up their food. It is not the same as oyster shell. Chick grit is in smaller pieces than grit for adult chickens. If you want to provide grit, use the adult size. But since they are free ranging, they can probably pick up enough rocks for themselves. So just give oyster shell (provides calcium) and do not bother with grit (rocks to grind the food in their gizzards.)

How do I switch my chickens to layer feed? Will the layer feed be okay for my roosters? Is there anything else I should be feeding my hens once they start laying?
You do not need layer feed at all. Layer feed has more calcium mixed into it (good for laying hens, not good for roosters.) But you can provide calcium by offering oyster shell separately, so there is no need to switch.

I need to get the chickens brooding boxes, how high off the ground should they be?

Nestboxes to lay eggs: I would mount them high enough that the chickens can walk underneath without bumping their heads, but lower than the roosts where they sleep at night. Chickens like to sleep on top of whatever is highest, but they poop when they sleep-- so you do not want the nests to be the highest place to sleep! (Poopy eggs are no fun, and cleaning nestboxes every day is no fun either.)

Be sure to have a perch in front of the nestboxes, so the hens can fly up and land on the perch, then step gently into the box. If they try to fly directly into the box, they might break the eggs. You also need a lip on the front of the box to keep eggs from rolling out and falling on the floor.

Is this normal for hens to lay this early?
They may have been older than you were told, or they may just be starting quite early. It happens sometimes.

How do I switch my chickens to layer feed?
Any time you need to switch feed:
--feed the old feed until it is nearly gone (enough left for one week)
--mix some new feed into the old feed, and let them eat it for a day or two
--mix more new feed into the old feed, and let them eat it for another day or two
--continue adding more new feed every few days, until they are eating only the new feed

(If the old and new feed are similar, you may be able to just use up the old feed and then start the new feed with no problems. But the gradual mixing lets the chickens adjust gradually in case the feeds are different, and it is fine even when the feeds are not different.)

In this case, I do not think you need to switch, but that is how I would do it if you do want to.
 

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