Chickens need more protein?

Discussion in 'Nutrition - Sponsored by Purina Poultry' started by josie705, Feb 2, 2017.

  1. josie705

    josie705 Just Hatched

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    This is not a problem that I have, but it's both a question and observation from other people's protein problems.

    If chickens on layer feed need more protein, shouldn't people look for a layer feed with more protein? Why haven't businesses started making layer feed with more protein? To me, it sounds like a plot to get you to buy their supplements.

    What are your thoughts on this?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I don’t know what protein level you are talking about. 16% protein in Layer is pretty common, but some members say they can get an 18% protein Layer. I wonder if they are talking about a special feed they get from a mill? I did find one 18% Layer with Google but they quit making that a while back. So I’ll assume you are talking about 16% protein Layer. That’s what I see at Tractor Supply.

    My opinion. Layer feed is formulated for the egg laying industry. The hybrid commercial laying hens have relatively small bodies and have been bred to be really efficient at converting feed to eggs. They don’t have big bodies so they don’t need extra protein to maintain those big bodies.

    The hybrid commercial layers generally lay Grade A Large eggs relative to body size based on what they eat. Extra protein would be detrimental to those chickens’ health because higher protein would mean the eggs are even larger. The larger eggs could lead to those small-bodied hens being egg bound or maybe cause prolapse.

    Feeding high levels of protein can cause a hen to release extra yolks instead of the normal one at a time, especially with those hybrid laying hens. This would lead to more double yolked eggs if the yolks are released at the same time. This could lead to soft-shelled or otherwise less desired eggs if the yolks are released at different times so she lays two eggs that day. The hen’s body normally makes enough materials to create one egg a day. For example, if a hen uses her daily allotment of shell material on her first egg for the day, there isn’t enough shell material left to cover the second egg. If two eggs are in the shell gland at the same time, this can lead to marks on the egg that make them not suitable to go to a supermarket for sell to consumers. Not only does this endanger the hen’s health there isn’t much of a market for these weird eggs even if they don’t break and cause a mess that can contaminate other eggs or be a pain to clean up. Many of the weird eggs they get are sold to bakeries or such places at a reduced cost for use as broken eggs. It’s more profitable if those eggs go to supermarkets.

    Layer feed is formulated to provide all they need if Layer is all they eat. When you start feeding treats you upset that balance. That could be protein of any of all the other nutrients they need to maintain health and production. That’s why you often see the recommendation that treats should not be more than 10% of their daily diet. That allows the nutrient levels to remain in the range where they need to be. People like to fixate on protein levels but a balanced diet is about a lot more than just protein.

    In my opinion most of our chickens don’t need the extra protein as long as we don’t feed them a lot of low protein treats. The commercial operations for egg and meat production use hybrids especially bred to convert feed to eggs or meat very efficiently and have determined the exact amount of protein and other nutrients they need to maximize production. Overfeeding those hybrids can lead to to an increase in medical problems or other undesirable effects. Underfeeding them can lead to them being less productive.

    In general our chickens are not that finely tuned. They can do quite well on less or more protein. They can generally maintain their bodies quite well if they eat a bit less protein, but the eggs may not be quite as large. If they eat a bit more than what is optimum for those laying hybrids their bigger bodies can handle it. They can handle a range of protein levels (along with other nutrients) and do quite well. That’s why the 10% rule-of-thumb on treats. If you feed a low protein treat, that drop is within they acceptable range. If you feed a high protein treat, that increase is within an acceptable range.

    There are some exceptions. If you are raising chickens for show, you need to feed them a special diet with extra protein and other stuff. There are weight targets for show chickens that generally require bigger chickens than ours. They handle a lot of that by breeding but then they need to feed to that breeding. If you have always fed a high protein diet to your chickens, their bodies are tuned to that higher protein. If they are used to it, don’t change it, you might cause problems, not just medical but behavioral. Some people claim to resolve behavioral issues by increasing the protein content of their total daily diet. I haven’t seen that but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. We all manage them differently and there are many different possible causes of most behavioral issues. I can certainly see diet as one of those factors.

    So, that's my thoughts.
     
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  3. josie705

    josie705 Just Hatched

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    I completely forgot about the commercial layers. I didn't even know there was 16%. Out here we only have feed stores and their protein is only 12%. I was thinking that's a little low. Tractor Supply has just moved here though, and opens on Saturday. Maybe I should take a look.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    12%? Wow! Where are you and what is the store that sells that? I wonder if it’s meant for chickens or maybe something else?

    No wonder you were asking.
     
  5. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    Ridgerunner gave you excellent advice and information.

    And your intuitions are totally right, 12% is not adequate protein for chickens...UNLESS....your birds are free ranging and have lots of protein sources (like lots and lots of bugs). The only time you can get by with cutting protein is if they can find it on their own. (My daughter and her husband use their chickens to glean through their farm fields during summer, and that's the only time the birds get enough bugs on their own.)

    Most of us BYCers are on limited fields with limited ranging sources, which tend to get over grazed.

    For that reason, I encourage owners to use the formulated feeds which are geared for the average layer. 16% is excellent for the typical commercial layer in average weather.

    During winter, I do choose18% protein in layer or even an 18% all flock, as they are molting, its cold, and I have heavier breeds. That little extra protein helps them get through the rebuilding of feathers and winter cold in better shape.

    I also suspicion that the 12% protein feed is for something else...or it is a locally formulated mix. I've seen a lot of those with really low protein that honestly are not adequate nutrition.

    While it may be popular to look down on the "boxed" feeds for more "natural" stuff, honestly, those feed manufacturers spend thousands of dollars and use scientific analysis to get feeds that produce the healthiest birds with the best production....a whole industry is banking on it.

    I'm glad to hear a feed store will be coming in so that you have other choices.

    My thoughts.

    LofMc
     
  6. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    One other thought...are you using what is marked as "layer feed" or is it scratch?

    The two are not the same.

    Scratch is treat food to toss on the ground so that the chickens get some exercise and mental stimulation by doing what comes natural, scratching in the dirt.

    Scratch feed is not meant to be the main source of nutrition.

    LofMc
     
  7. josie705

    josie705 Just Hatched

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    It's layer feed. I use wild bird seed as scratch as the scratch out here has corn :/
     
  8. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    For egg production, chickens require a minimum of 16% protein content. Scratch grains and seed mixes are usually about 8% protein. You need to find a better source for feed.
     
  9. josie705

    josie705 Just Hatched

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    Nope! It's meant for chickens...layer chickens to be exact. I do believe it is a feed that the store makes themselves. It's not organic, nor natural, and had a lot of fillers. I don't use it
     
  10. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    12% protein is usually a gamebird maintenance for adult birds in non-breeding season.
    15% is usually a finisher feed for meat birds.
    Less than 16% protein is insufficient for body maintenance and egg laying.
    Some feeds like feather fixer have about 3-4% calcium and about 18% protein. Breeder feeds are usually 17% protein.
    I have access to a 20% protein layer feed but it is intended to be supplemented with scratch grains to lower the overall protein.

    You may want to ask your feed mill why they are providing a layer feed with only 12% protein.
     

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