Earliest time to switch from starter/grower to layer feed?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by F106A, May 18, 2011.

  1. F106A

    F106A Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My flock of 6-8 week old pullets are still on starter/grower feed, but those gals are growing so darn fast I really need to plan ahead. This is my first experience with chickens, and everything I've read tells me it's okay to keep them on an 18-20%+, starter/grower feed anywhere from 18-22 weeks, then go to a layer feed. I've also read that it's okay to start them on layer as early as 4-5 weeks before you expect them to start laying. I started mine on 20% DuMor, and am currently using 18% Nutrena.

    I'm just curious to know what experiences others have had with respect to changing the feed from stater to layer, and would love to hear about them. BTW, I'm also curious to know what the earliest age your hens started laying.

    Many thanks.

    Mark
     
  2. Shannon33

    Shannon33 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi,
    With mine I switched to layer food when they were about 10 weeks old. Now just to make a disclaimer here, I am also pretty new to chickens, and this was on the advice of the worker at the feed store. I needed a new bag around that time and he suggested moving onto the layer. So, I don't know if I should have waited or not, but everyone grew up happy and healthy. Those chickens (silkies) started laying at 5 months old. One hen hatched out some chicks when she was six months old, and those chicks I did the same thing, starter until they were about 10 weeks. They also grew up healthy and they started laying at about 5 months as well.
     
  3. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    I would keep them off layer until close to the point of lay (5-6 months usually) or laying.

    It can cause damage to their bodies because of the excess calcium.

    Also, you never have to switch to layer if you feed unmedicated starter/grower or flock raiser as long as you offer oyster shell on the side when they are laying.
     
  4. F106A

    F106A Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:That's interesting, as I've never heard the medicated/unmedicated comparison before. My chicks have been on unmedicated since I purchased them. I wonder though why I should buy an oyster shell supplement in addition to standard starter/grower when I could just wait, and get a layer feed.

    Edit: I'm sorry I forgot to add this, but what time period is "close" to the point of laying? Weeks? Days?

    Thanks,

    Mark
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2011
  5. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Quote:That's interesting, as I've never heard the medicated/unmedicated comparison before. My chicks have been on unmedicated since I purchased them. I wonder though why I should buy an oyster shell supplement in addition to standard starter/grower when I could just wait, and get a layer feed.

    Mark

    You don't want to be eating that medication in your eggs is why I mentioned the unmedicated.

    The layer feed does have calcium but I recommend still buying a bag of oyster shell for them. They DO eat it, from my experience. If they need the extra calcium, they have it.

    Some folks just feed egg shells back to them, crushed instead, but I don't because I worry about starting egg eating. Others do this without problems and swear by it.

    Some like the higher protein content of the flock raiser or starter/grower feeds. There is constant debate here on BYC about it:
    http://poultry.purinamills.com/OURPRODUCTS/Products/FlockRaiser/default.aspx
    flock raiser feed

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=111411
    feather eating thread - more protein recommended

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=3491968
    there are many threads on protein and constant debate- you will make your own mind up! [​IMG]

    I personally stick with around 16% with my homemixed feed after 6 weeks- with high protein seeds thrown on the ground for treats if they desire. I throw layer pellets occasionally too for the layers.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2011
  6. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Quote:That's interesting, as I've never heard the medicated/unmedicated comparison before. My chicks have been on unmedicated since I purchased them. I wonder though why I should buy an oyster shell supplement in addition to standard starter/grower when I could just wait, and get a layer feed.

    Edit: I'm sorry I forgot to add this, but what time period is "close" to the point of laying? Weeks? Days?

    Thanks,

    Mark

    http://poultry.purinamills.com/OURPRODUCTS/FeedingChart/default.aspx
    here's a chart by purina
     
  7. maclady

    maclady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have 4 BOs and asked the feed question awhile back. All the responses I received said to wait on the layer feed. I can only get my feed in 50lb bags and with only 4 girls it lasts awhile. They finished the medicated starter/grower so I got the flock raiser and a bag of crushed oyster shells. They are 13 weeks today and I don't plan to offer them the oyster shell until they hit 18 weeks. I'm doing it this way to keep from wasting feed. I may switch them to layer feed once the flock raiser is finished though.
     
  8. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    The "rule" tends to be do not feed layer until actual eggs appear. That is still pretty good counsel.

    Not to muddy the water, but new research in Ag Science seems to indicate layer feed can be fed at 16 weeks and following. The research seems to suggest that additional calcium just prior to point of lay is beneficial. FWIW.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    You'll find different recommendations from different manufacturers. That Purina chart uses a combined Starter and Grower which can be used from Day 1 until you switch to Layer. I usually feed the combined Starter/Grower until about 6 weeks, then switch to Grower. My feed store does not carry just plain Starter. We don't all have the same choices. If you have the straight Starter-Grower-Layer progression available, you can feed Starter anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, just switch to Grower whenever the Starter runs out in that period.

    The normal recommendation is to switch to Layer at 20 weeks or when you get your first egg. I have not seen any study that mentioned 16 weeks as beneficial as opposed to the normal 20 weeks. Not that I doubt Fred has seen it. I'd just be interested in the source.

    The earliest I have ever had a pullet start laying was 16 weeks. That was from a mutt pullet I hatched from my mixed flock. Normally, out of a flock of maybe 8 to 10 pullets, first egg is around 19 to 20 weeks with about half of them laying by 23 to 25 weeks. I don't switch to Layer until after that first egg appears.

    When I have younger chickens with the flock, I feed Grower with oyster shell on the side. This way, the ones that need the extra calcium get it and those that don't need it don't. Occasionally, I'll see one of the young ones pecking at the oyster shell, but that is just curiosity. They don't eat enough to cause any harm as long as they have grit available. If you look at the analysis on the tag, you'll see that the only reallly significant difference in Grower and Layer is calcium. The rest are pretty much the same with just minor differences.

    Extra calcium can cause problems in growing chicks. That has been well documented. It is not that it absolutely will cause a problem each and every time, but it can and does. Of course, it depends on how much extra calcium they eat. A few bites of Layer or a peck or two of oyster shell will not be a problem. The two problems mentioned are bone deformation and kidney damage. The bone deformation, if it occurs, may or may not be noticable and may or may not cause a problem. The kidney damage may not be immediately apparent, if it occurs at all. Maybe a year later the chicken falls over dead for no apparent reason. The long term kidney damage finally caught up with it. A lot of times, you just don't know what if any damage was done.

    Now I'll muddy the water a bit. This all assumes that the processed chicken feed is all they are eating. If they are free ranging or you feed them a lot of other stuff so they are eating very little of the processed feed, this changes a bit. It is not about the percentage of calcium in the feed that they eat, it is about how much total calcium they eat per day. I'd still not offer Layer to young chicks but just offer oyster shell on the side for those that need it. I free range mine and find that when I have them on the Grower with oyster shell on the side, they eat very little of the oyster shell. They are getting a lot of the calcium they need from bugs and plants they find.

    Good luck!
     
  10. mulewagon

    mulewagon Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 13, 2010
    Alabama
    Good, I'm glad to read that the adults can eat starter/grower okay! I have hens setting, but was worried that I didn't have enough room to confine the chicks until they were 16 weeks. So if I can feed everybody the same thing, with oyster shell on the side, that'll be dandy.
     

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