Companion Hens - What do I feed them?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Poppy123, Apr 8, 2018.

  1. Poppy123

    Poppy123 Hatching

    1
    1
    6
    Apr 8, 2018
    i have rescued hens that i do not use for meat or eggs. they were on layer pellets, however since i don’t need the eggs i switched them to cracked corn, full veggies and veggies scraps so as not to put uneccesary stress on their systems. A few weeks after the switch i noticed that one of my girls is losing feathers around her neck. She also had an extremely pale comb one day but the next day it was bright red again. Another of my 4 is starting to show similar symptoms, her feathers aren’t falling out completely but they are definitely looking abnormally shaggy and dull. could this be from the sudden diet change? and if so, is there some kind of more nutritious feed that i could give them that does not promote egg laying?

    Am I wrong in thinking that putting them back on the layer pellets is putting unnecessary stress on their systems? are layer pellets bad for the hens in any way? they were laying about 20 eggs in a single weekend almost! which i know is far more than 4 hens could produce naturally. i thought the corn and veggies plus free roaming would be more than enough nutrition and they were fine for a while after the switch...Could something else be wrong with them? i already lost 2 of them to foxes and i would hate to lose more because of something i’m doing wrong!

    i heard that sometimes chickens do a mini moult at the beginning of spring or when their diet is changed. i also heard the pale crops and dusty feathers could be a sign of parasites so i’m curious to hear what some of you think!

    help please! & thank you in advance!


    edit: i have raised many happy, healthy, thriving free range flocks on cracked corn, homemade mash, and lots of vegetables. I understand that layer pellets have all the nutrients they need for consistent LAYING, but laying is not a concern for me and i would rather not shorten the lifespan of my girls if there another product out there that can help supplement some of the things they were used to getting in the layer feed and help wean them off of it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2018
    ChooksNQuilts likes this.
  2. ChooksNQuilts

    ChooksNQuilts Crowing

    1,903
    3,752
    477
    Nov 26, 2017
    Southwest Idaho
    Cracked corn and veggie scraps do not have enough nutrients for any chicken- hen or rooster.
    You must get a good chicken feed for them.
    You can’t stop a chicken from laying an egg anymore than you can stop a human woman from ovulating.
    It’s a natural biological process for all females.
    You are actually putting more stress on them by not offering them complete nutrition.
    I would recommend a good all flock feed with oyster shell offered on the side free choice. They will take as much oyster shell as they need for calcium.
    Even layers pellets or crumble is fine also.
    Grower feed will also work.
    Chicken feed is formulated to meet all their nutritional needs!


    Scratch corn is the equivalent of feeding a person French fries all day.
    It’s fine as a small treat but only as a treat.
    Treats, including scraps should only make up 10% of their diet.
     
  3. ChooksNQuilts

    ChooksNQuilts Crowing

    1,903
    3,752
    477
    Nov 26, 2017
    Southwest Idaho
    Chickens can only lay one egg a day.
    More is not possible.
    They lay roughly every 26 hours.
     
    Poppy123 likes this.
  4. DiamondSwan

    DiamondSwan Free Ranging

    961
    7,802
    532
    Sep 18, 2015
    Desti-ny-Nation: Swan Pond!
    Hens still need the nutrition and calcium from a layer feed regardless if you want them for laying or not -- even roosters. ;)
     
    peeper89 and Poppy123 like this.
  5. DiamondSwan

    DiamondSwan Free Ranging

    961
    7,802
    532
    Sep 18, 2015
    Desti-ny-Nation: Swan Pond!
    I don't think it forces them to lay more. They naturally lay an egg a day. And if you deprive them of calcium, their bodies will still use any calcium they have in their bodies to produce eggs (which results in an unhealthy hen and soft-shelled eggs).
     
  6. DiamondSwan

    DiamondSwan Free Ranging

    961
    7,802
    532
    Sep 18, 2015
    Desti-ny-Nation: Swan Pond!
    Really? That's strange. I don't think a layer feed would cause that, though. But you definitely wouldn't want to deprive them of calcium if they're laying that much (it would cause some serious health issues). Yes, I would definitly give them oyster shell.

    How long have you been feeding them cracked corn? And how long have they been laying like that?
     
  7. SeramaMamma

    SeramaMamma Songster

    574
    959
    156
    Jul 12, 2017
    Idaho
    Use an all flock feed and offer oyster shell in case they need it. They won't get what they need from their current diet.
     
  8. Ponyfeather

    Ponyfeather Songster

    303
    68
    136
    Feb 26, 2014
    California
    I would feed a high-quality feed(all flock feed works) with free choice oyster shell also, hens will always produce eggs if they're healthy since we have breed them for it. You can't make them stop laying or back of laying if that is what their body wants. They simply drop off in production in egg laying depending on breed, age and season. As other said their bodies will suffer if you don't give them what they need.

    If you really want to spoil them buy a high-quality feed one the avoids corn and soy. I would be more worried about the corn and soy than the other parts of the layer feed. I have found my chickens prefer it to the typical feeds since I switched.

    With having raised other flocks without obvious issues I think that your other hens free ranged better and scavenged what they needed better. These rescues might be relying on the corn way too much as it is yummy and I am guessing in a feeder which they're use to eating out of. Also, the high egg yield might be the breeds of hens you have rescued.

    If you aren't eating all the eggs you can scramble or hard boil them and feed them back to the hens chopped up as a super treat. This would also be a good food to feed those who aren't doing well. But if your girls provide you with eggs eat those not the icky ones from the store.
     
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    27,610
    26,560
    907
    Nov 7, 2012
    CENTRAL MAINE zone 4B
    You have received good advice from all. I would also add that by NOT giving them a good balanced feed, they may be forced into molt, or even start feather picking (which it appears has already started) and may even resort to cannibalism. A hen will rob nutrients from her body to continue producing those eggs. Only when her body reserves are completely depleted will she then stop laying. At that time, the hen will be scavenging nutrients from where ever she can get them, including picking feathers and causing wounds on her flock mates. She will also be very prone to disease and parasites, both external and internal.

    You can also feed their eggs back to them. If that is not an appealing thought, then find someone who would appreciate having some high quality back yard eggs.

    ETA: a hens productivity is based on her genetics, as well as her receiving proper nutrition. While it can be argued that giving the bird less than optimal nutrition would negatively affect her egg productivity, a comparison would be: cutting the calories and nutrition supplied to a large breed puppy in the hopes that the puppy would not then grow as big.
     
    ChooksNQuilts likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: