Baby chicks got into layer feed!

OzarkChooks

Songster
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Jul 12, 2021
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I know younger chicks shouldn't eat layer feed. I have some 3 week old chicks that are being introduced into my flock (with their broody mama) and today they were eating the older flocks layer pellets.

I removed the food but I don't know what to do. Do I just feed everyone chick food? What can I do to keep them out of it?

They are free ranging in a 1 acre fenced area with 20 other chickens of various ages.
 

topochico225

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Dec 27, 2020
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I know younger chicks shouldn't eat layer feed. I have some 3 week old chicks that are being introduced into my flock (with their broody mama) and today they were eating the older flocks layer pellets.

I removed the food but I don't know what to do. Do I just feed everyone chick food? What can I do to keep them out of it?

They are free ranging in a 1 acre fenced area with 20 other chickens of various ages.
@Kiki ?
 

bruceha2000

Addict
9 Years
Apr 19, 2012
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I have often had chicks jump into the hanging feeder and eat layer feed. It won't hurt them. Since they clearly don't need the starter size food anymore, switch to grower. If you have any starter left, toss it in with the grower.

I'm feeding the entire flock grower, have been since the 6 chicks were about a month old. I think they should start laying in a few weeks though I may stick with grower since the other 19 hens won't start laying again until late February. They don't need the extra calcium and maybe the extra protein will be good for them since a lot of them are moulting. I'll switch back to layer then. The brand I use doesn't have an "all flock". I always have a bin of oyster shell available.
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
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Jul 3, 2016
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Chick starter, grower or an all flock type feed would be fine to feed the entire flock. Given the age of the chicks, starter would be optimal for a few more weeks, for the extra protein, but each brand of feed is different so you want to check the nutrition panel - some growers/all flocks have as much protein as some chick feeds.

A few bites of layer won't harm the chicks. But the more calcium they take in, over a prolonged period of time, the greater possibility of kidney/liver(?) issues once they're older, as their bodies aren't meant to process the extra calcium a laying hen would take in.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
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I know younger chicks shouldn't eat layer feed. I have some 3 week old chicks that are being introduced into my flock (with their broody mama) and today they were eating the older flocks layer pellets.
Fist, don't worry, they did not harm themselves. One bite won't kill them. The danger comes from them consistently eating a large amount of calcium over a time period. It is not what is in one bite, but how many grams of calcium they eat in an entire day and that is averaged over a relatively long time period.

There are plenty of studies that show that eating the amount of calcium in Layer can harm growing chicks if all they eat is Layer. In those studies they feed some groups of chicks nothing but Layer and they feed some groups of chicks Starter or Grower where the amount of calcium is reduced. They count how many chicks die in each group. They also cut chicks open to see what kind of damage was done to internal organs. The kind of stuff you don't see but can make hem unthrifty. Not all chicks in the Layer groups die before they mature, but more die in the Layer groups than the Grower groups. Not all chicks they cut open in the Layer groups have damage to interior organs, but more have damage in the Layer groups than the Grower groups. The evidence is pretty conclusive that if they eat nothing but Layer the excess calcium can harm them.

These studies are paid for by the commercial operations. They are the ones that have the money and interest in real outcomes. They may hatch 1,000,000 chicks a week per hatchery and split them up into many different flocks to raise. We may not notice any significant deaths or unthrifty inefficient chicks due to damaged organs in our flocks but in the numbers they hatch and raise it becomes noticeable. In our smaller flocks we'd just think that sometimes a chick or chicken dies or some chickens produce better than others.

A critical factor is that these test groups eat nothing but Layer. It's the total grams of calcium per day, not what is in one bite. We all raise and feed our chickens differently. Some of us provide every bite they eat, some of us have chickens that forage for a lot of their food. Some of us provide "treats" in addition to the chicken feed, often low calcium treats. The less Layer they eat as part of their overall diet the less likely it is to harm them.

Chicks raised by my broody hens tend to eat chicken feed a couple of times a day. Most of the day the hen has them out foraging on the grass and dirt, eating low calcium foods. I could probably get away with feeding Layer to the flock if I wanted to, but I don't. I feed the entire flock either a Starter or Grower, depending on the age of any brooder raised chicks I have. I want to feed them all the same feed, it's simpler and easier on me. I offer oyster shell on the side, the hens that need the extra calcium for egg shells seem to know it. The ones that don't need the extra calcium don't eat enough to hurt themselves.

What can I do to keep them out of it?
I can't. At first my broody hens spoon feed out of my raised feeders for their chicks. By two weeks the chicks are flying up to the raised feeders to feed themselves while the broody keeps the other hens away.
 

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