Chickens' legs are becoming very pale. Do they need protein?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Pip4Chirp, Feb 7, 2015.

  1. Pip4Chirp

    Pip4Chirp Out Of The Brooder

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    I have 3 chickens - 2 have been laying all winter and 1 started molting in November and is now fully feathered but not laying again yet. We've noticed that the non-laying hen has gorgeous bright yellow legs. The 2 laying hens used to have similar legs but their legs have turned a very pale almost beige color over the winter.

    Are they not getting enough protein? They have free choice high quality layer feed and lots of fresh veggies every day plus a bit of scratch and oats in the morning. On cold days, they don't seem to want much layer feed. I'm starting to worry about them. Is it just a winter thing?

    Don't know if it matters but they are all silver lace wyandottes and not quite a year old.
     
  2. barkinghills

    barkinghills Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi,

    This is very normal and common in laying hens…the yellow color becomes progressively more bleached out as they lay and the yellow color (beta-carotene) goes into the yolks. Feeding plenty of fresh dark leafy greens, some alfalfa, and/or omega-3 supplements will help. I think even corn helps with this but would have to recheck that. I found a great marigold-containing layer supplement from a local mill, and it was like magic.

    This bleaching can also be noticed in the beaks and skin. You can read more about it in the newer edition of Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
  3. Pip4Chirp

    Pip4Chirp Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks very much for the info! Glad to know it's normal. I'll add more leafy greens to their diet and look into the omega-3 supplements. That makes so much sense - they ate so many dandelions this summer which must have helped their legs keep the pretty yellow color.
     
  4. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

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    What feed are you feeding, What is the amount of protein, What breed are they, How much treats are you feeding.
    These all can affect leg color.
     
  5. Pip4Chirp

    Pip4Chirp Out Of The Brooder

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    The chickens get Ranch-Way 16% Organic layer easyfeed with Omega pellets. We give them maybe 1/4 cup of oats and another 1/4 cup of corn scratch in the morning. They also get part of a spaghetti squash and some lettuce or spinach. Or maybe a cucumber or zucchini. When it's really cold, we'll give them canned corn before they go to bed and maybe 1/4 cup of mealworms in the afternoon but it was 70 here yesterday. They got to run around the yard and actually eat grass! If I let them out today, the wind would blow them away... :(

    They're all silver lace wyandottes. we've really tried to nix the treats as they tend to think everything is more delicious than the layer feed. Maybe we're giving them too much oats/corn?
     
  6. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

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    With that low of protein feed they should be getting very little treat at all.
    Buy feeding treats your depleting the nutrition that is in the feed (the layer feed).
    If it was me I would put them on a feed that is at least 18% protein and offer 10% of there diet in treats a day.
    If you cant get a 18% protein feed or better then feed them the 16% feed and cut all treats out and only offer them the treats once or twice a week and no more than a 10% of the feed per feeding.

    Also I would consider the "Omega pellets" a treat unless it is a complete feed.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
    1 person likes this.
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    I agree with Chris. Better quality layer feed, or a grower type feed with more oyster shell on the side, and much less of the other stuff! My 35 birds get free choice layer and oyster shell, and a total of no more than 2 cups of scratch feed some days. The yellow skinned laying hens do bleach out because that pigment is going into the eggs. They should have very red combs while they are in lay. Pale combs are a sign of anemia in a laying hen, but normal in a non-laying hen. Mary
     
  8. Pip4Chirp

    Pip4Chirp Out Of The Brooder

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    Oh no! I thought their layer feed was so good! I'll definitely switch to the 18% protein - maybe eliminate the oats/corn (except for really cold days) and keep the veggies. The Omega is in the layer feed. Their combs (other than the non-laying molter) are still bright red. But their legs are so noticeably pale.

    Just a question - why do they make the 16% feed? There wasn't a price difference. A clerk told me they would lay better with the lower protein. Does it make a difference in the summer when they're eating lots of insects? (This is our first year with chickens.)

    Thanks for all your help!!
     
  9. barkinghills

    barkinghills Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Like others mentioned, that's quite a bit too much scratch and grain treats, and a ton of mealworms for 3 hens. That may be why they don't want to eat their layer pellets! They are filling up on goodies.

    I feed 17% layer in spring/summer/fall and 19% protein all-purpose pellets over the winter. I also use several bags of 30% game bird starter crumbles over the coldest month when they are finishing up their molts. My mixed flock of approx 40 does well on this with all-day free-range.
     
  10. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

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    They make a 16% feed for people that have egg production breeds that only receive that feed and nothing in the way of treats.

    In the summer I feed a mix that is no less than 18% protein with 20% protein being average. In the winter I may (if it is really cold) up the protein to 28%.
     

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