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Comb question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by GSPx2, Aug 20, 2013.

  1. GSPx2

    GSPx2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I picked up my two RIR hens at the same time and I was told they are over 20 weeks. I've only had one of them laying so far. So as I am learning more from this site, I am starting to notice things different about them. The laying hen is a little bigger, stands with her tail up all the time (the other does not) and her comb is bigger. She just seems like an older chicken. She was also the lead bird when I let them out for the first time yesterday.

    Does it seem like they may be a few weeks apart in age? My profile picture is of the two hens from yesterday. Not sure if you can get a clear view of the combs or not though.
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    I think your lead hen's just developed faster. Anything can set a chicken back in development, from injuries to illnesses to insufficient dietary issues... Even if it only happened for so short a time you didn't notice any symptoms. Just like humans develop at different rates during puberty, so do chickens.

    Even your laying hen's face is pale. I would advise amping up their nutrition a bit, that'll help them both.

    I think they're maybe red production type hens or something like that. Many chooks looking like those are sold as RIRs but apparently are not RIRs, they're from similar breeds or derived from RIRs but not purebred.

    Best wishes.
     
  3. GSPx2

    GSPx2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You'll have to excuse me since in new to this, but what can I do to up their nutrition?
     
  4. chfite

    chfite Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feed them a complete feed. At their age, layer food would be appropriate. Provide food all the time.

    Depending upon how long you have had them, they may not have yet settled in to the routine of laying. Chickens don't like change.

    My chickens aren't all the same size. One is much smaller, but they are all the same age.

    Chris
     
  5. GSPx2

    GSPx2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I currently feed them Layena SunFresh Recipe crumbles. Is this enough or should I give them something else as well? One thing I noticed, I haven't been giving them enough food to last them all day when I am at work. Luckily I was ale to stop home during work so I can refill their bowl when needed. Today I gave them a hefty scoop so it should last them all day.
     
  6. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    If they're free ranging having feed available all day is not necessary and can bring vermin. But the makers of those feeds do say to have it on hand 24/7.... Maybe in a feeder so rats and birds etc can't help out would be the best idea if letting them have food nonstop. My birds, and those of others I've spoken to, prefer a diet that is more comprised of fresh feed than cooked stuffs. (Pellets, etc). One issue with pellet or crumble feeds is that oils and fatty acids, which are vital for everything, don't cope well with being cooked. Feeding any animal cooked feed as a rule is not advisable, just like it isn't for humans either.

    But, it depends on what you want the birds for: simply replacing storebought eggs with something healthier, or trying to get the best health possible for yourself via their eggs. For me it is the latter choice due to family members being sensitive to storebought meats with their antibiotics and vaccinated stock's products. Increasingly, more and more people are sensitive to those additives. For many, complete health is too expensive but death is the only alternative.

    Complete feeds from stores are mostly equivalent to survival rations, only designed with the bare essentials to keep your birds producing for two years, on average, at the lowest possible cost. Obviously many folks keep their birds longer than this but if you want them to produce and be healthy beyond two years you should add more nutrition of a wider range. Both humans and animals can live for years with malnutrition before disease caused by that kills them. But how they were raised has a huge impact (can't just put them on a healthy diet and expect them to change the cells they're built from in retrospect; they will change most, but can't change all). A bird raised sub-par will always be sub-par compared to others raised over-par, no matter what you feed it. I've exhaustively tested that theory, but of course I am not any kind of infallible expert. There is not a single person who doesn't have more to learn. :)

    I feed my chooks Kelp granules or powder as their multivitamin and mineral source, and I make sure there are raw sources of fatty oils etc in their diet as a rule. They don't need much, but it should be cold pressed not cooked. Some things you could use include wheat grains or bran, or olive oil, all of which are high in vitamin E and other nutrients. Vegetable oil is a misnomer; vegetables don't have oil. It's derived from various sources and has been linked to health problems and is cooked. Canola is an industrial lubricant and classed as a toxin. There will be class actions against those who sell it in future, it seems, there are already organizations preparing for it. Anyway.... I'd mix up their grains with a pinch of kelp per bird per day, and for 100 birds I'd give something like half a cup of olive oil per month or less... They had other sources of natural oils so that wasn't crucial. Most of their meat protein they had to find, having great paddock and forest areas to free range, but most of their total protein intake I supplied through plants, grains, seeds, etc.

    However while your birds are on a 'complete' feed, it can be unadvisable to supplement them daily with kelp. Overdose is as dangerous as under-dose, but kills faster (and mostly from identical symptoms to under-dose, just acute). For your chooks, I'd just make them a sandwich once a week, on wholemeal bread, with a little cold pressed olive oil, to bind the kelp to the bread and supply extra oil. Between two birds you wouldn't need much. A sandwich isn't the healthiest thing but it's not the worst if it's wholemeal, and you can use whatever's easiest as a carrying medium for the kelp. You can add some herbs and spices like pepper, cayenne etc, (easy worming, good for circulation, etc) or whatever else you want. Cayenne is a great anti-inflammatory and can also kill worm eggs within the chicken, without harming them. In this manner it can also prevent some diseases like blackhead from fulfilling their normal cycle.

    Kelp is a carminative (more or less meaning it will assist even peripheral circulation) which will give them good red faces, crests and wattles and of course the extra health that comes with having blood bringing oxygen to extremities (which includes internal 'extremities' in organs etc which otherwise don't receive the best bloodflow).

    This will take a little while to show. Natural remedies often don't tend to force an instant result, which is often a harmful way to do it rather than encouraging the body to achieve it at its own pace. Kelp is also a strong endocrine regulator. One theoretical issue with this I just thought of is that if the hens are bred to lay too much, maybe kelp will correct their hormones from doing that, if it is based simply on hormones. Diet plays a large part, high production layers tend to slow production when not fed the feed their breed was developed in conjunction with. My commercial layers slowed production a bit while on a kelp diet but were much healthier. But that loss of a few eggs is not acceptable to some; each to their own.

    Whether or not you are willing to go to the extra time and expense is up to you and depends on what you want from your birds. It doesn't take much time or money but it would still be too much of both for many. Are you planning to cull them after two years and replace? Or do you want to keep them longer?

    Another issue is the breed of bird you have. For many generations, as a breed, they've been developed on the pellet diet to produce at a rate that harms them, and they tend to be prematurely aged and run down, approaching being ready to die by the time people cull them, just as they're approaching what should be their full maturity, at two years. (Laying eggs does not mean they're at their prime physically but being bred and reared the way they are, they often never reach their true prime). These hens will often severely lower production after two years. They won't die of old age, that's almost 100% guaranteed.

    Adding anything healthy to this breed's diet will provoke them to lessen production slightly while they try to rebuild their bodies on healthier foodstuffs. Most people who keep this breed don't want to put up with less eggs. What you put in is what you get out, though. People say all eggs are the same chemically but that's only as true as saying you or anyone healthy are chemically identical to someone who has cancer or is extremely unhealthy.

    High production layers cannot produce truly great eggs because the demand on their body is too high, it keeps them permanently sub-par. No matter how much they eat they don't get enough for themselves and their constant production, so instead of stopping and healing/regenerating like any other chicken, this breed just keeps putting it into the eggs until they die. I've sworn off these breeds, they are rife with issues and even on a healthy diet can never approach the health of a chicken whose system does not force it to overproduce at the expense of its health. I did manage to keep my high production layers on a pellet free healthier diet but their eggs never measured up to the other hen's. Their bodies are simply running at a loss. Putting more in doesn't mean their bodies can process it all at the right rate.

    These high production breeds are quite like those cows which were bred to have udders so large the teats touched the ground. Seems great, so many litres per cow per day; commercially efficient; but in reality, they had chronic spine, teat and udder problems, pressure sores in their hind hooves that rendered them crippled due to the weight of the udders, and of course the immense strain on the system of producing massive quantities of once seasonal product nonstop. Their milk was, of course, sub-par. Amazingly quickly that line of thought was abandoned. It will be with these chickens too in future I believe. False economies.

    An example of what seems wasteful but is actually more efficient is a mother and daughter laying tag team system I use. I breed the mother as soon as she wants to breed, keep her first daughter/s as well, and this age difference works to ensure that when the mother stops laying to have her seasonal break and let her body rest and replenish, the daughter will be ready to take over the laying duties. When the mother's ready to lay again, due to their age difference, the daughter is ready to take a break. Both hens eat less than one high production bird, but lay the same amount as it does. Plus, they will keep laying for a minimum of five years, in great health. The seasonal break is vital. Also having different aged hens ensures you get eggs in winter too.

    The very high production commercial breeds are a good interim solution to feed many people at the lowest cost possible, but it is at the expense of both the human's and animal's health. They're not as bad as cage eggs though. Definitely the lesser of two 'evils'. Hopefully over time they should be bred into something better or phased out completely, because they do not remain in true health because of the excessive demands on their bodies; when given more nutrition they produce less and try to heal.

    I would premix their feed since I never used pellets until temporarily between houses and therefore moving the flock and unable to feed them like usual... Their health took a steep nosedive on 'complete' feeds from stores. They're still considered healthy by normal standards but there are many levels of health, and varying degrees of malnutrition are accepted as and classed as 'health' for commercial standards/reasons. They do not apply to my flock because I grow my birds to be as healthy as possible so we benefit from their eggs and meat as much as possible, so I put in the extra nutrition and time.

    Anyway, it really depends on what you want from them. Best wishes with your choice, whatever that is.
     
  7. GSPx2

    GSPx2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My reason to have chickens is for the eggs. I don't have any intension on eating the chickens. I also don't need a dozen eggs a day. I just want to keep my chickens healthy and happy for a long time.
     
  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Then you'll definitely need to look into some more natural alternatives to pellets, crumble, and most mashes, too. There are various cheap books available which can help start you on your way. Best wishes with that.
     

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