Dumb Question - when to start layer feed?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by TexGardenGirl, Dec 20, 2010.

  1. TexGardenGirl

    TexGardenGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 2, 2009
    northeast of Dallas
    I know, this has been addressed a million times. But when I go looking for it I can't find anything directly addressing my current situation. I have 5 hens almost 2 yrs old (plus their roo). I also have 21 younger birds - mixed male & female, chickens & guineas - who are 21 weeks old. They free-range and I've been feeding grower-finisher feed for awhile now (used the gamebird starter first then regular chick starter, then the grower-finisher, according to directions on the feed package). I was feeding the older hens separately until we had to merge the coops due to predator problems, so there's been oyster shell and/or ground eggshells available to everyone for about 6 weeks now.

    Currently only one of the older hens is laying - they were slowing down for the winter, and several were molting, then they suddenly stopped when the predator problems happened. (Last year they laid right through the winter with only a little reduction in frequency.) One started up about a month ago, then a predator got her, and now the one has finally laid one egg every other day for a week. Several of the young pullets have just gotten red combs and I think one may be starting to squat, but none are investigating the nest boxes yet. The males have been practicing mating for weeks now - I expect the eggs to be fertile from the start [​IMG] (And I guess the guineas aren't expected to start until March or April anyway.)

    So my question is this: I have enough of the current bag of feed to last maybe a week. I'm thinking of going ahead and switching to layer - I think they're well beyond the age where the extra calcium is bad for them. Am I right? Does anyone think that would be a terrible idea? (I know chickens have survived on scratch and table scraps, but I would like mine to be as healthy as possible without going totally crazy!)

    Thanks to everyone for listening!!
  2. Chickenkate17

    Chickenkate17 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 1, 2010
    Your chickens are old enough to be on layer feed...my feed store recommended I switch mine at after 4 months, but before 6 months. Hope this helps!
  3. TexGardenGirl

    TexGardenGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 2, 2009
    northeast of Dallas
  4. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

    Jun 1, 2009
    I never feed layer to non-laying birds.
    When the pullets/ hens start to lay then I start them on layer. Feeding layer with it's high levels of calcium to a growing bird can cause health problems.

    Here is a quote from the one feed Manufacturing Co. I use.
    Do not feed Layer Pellets to poultry, which are not in production because of the high calcium levels in the diet. This is particularly true of young growing birds.

  5. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    The trouble is, you don't know when they will start laying, or how much organ damage might occur until then. Layer is just feed with extra calcium, and it's simple enough to provide oyster shell, you probably already do. Some people never feed layer.

    Roosters survive on layer and don't need the calcium. Are they as healthy as they'd be if we offered a feed without layer's levels of calcium? Really, I doubt it, but if someone has investigated this, I'm not aware. I've read several posts by people who have their roos separated saying what they feed, and it is not layer, it's usually a higher protein feed. That's another aspect of this, supposedly layers lay best on 14% protein, but people often feed a higher percent to growing, nonlaying birds.

    You could probably switch to layer now and never see any negative effects, but that doesn't necessarily mean that no organs have been damaged.

    Mine are currently on grower because of the roos and babies, plus several are molting and I'm lucky to get 4 eggs from 13 hens. I'm seriously thinking of not going back to layer.
  6. Luckytaz

    Luckytaz Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 28, 2010
    Rogers, Mn.
    I don't use layer feed at all, just grower because it has higher protien, and oyster shells free joice. This way all my chickens can have it without problems.
  7. HeritageHens

    HeritageHens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 9, 2010
    Quote:This is also the option I will be using. If only hens need the extra calcium and I still have 2 roos [​IMG], I don't want to be feeding them extra calcium. Besides, I'm wanting to keep them on a higher protein level than the layer feed.
  8. Cindy in PA

    Cindy in PA Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 8, 2008
    Fleetwood, PA
    Most layer feed says 18-20 weeks or at point of lay. I really don't think feeding layer to 21 week old pullets is going to do damage.
  9. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    I would not start layer feed until you see the first eggs. Then start mixing it in until the old feed is used up.
  10. Wynette

    Wynette Moderator Staff Member

    Sep 25, 2007
    I never feed mine layer until the first one from that particular hatch beings to lay. And the feed store person that said to start feeding it at 16 weeks....well, they need a slap. You really can't trust what a feed store employee says on these things. Sorry!

    If you push them to lay earlier than they are ready (which could happen when feeding layer feed too soon), you can very well end up with issues later such as internal laying, prolapse, or hernia. I know this for a fact - I had a pullet that I started on layer feed (ashamed to admit this, but if someone learns from it, it's worth telling) at 16 weeks. All was fine for her first 4 months of laying, but she then developed a hernia. I have a thread here about her. I took her to my avian vet, who told me more than likely it was as a result of laying too early.

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