Egg laying testimony

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by goodb, Nov 10, 2013.

  1. goodb

    goodb Chillin' With My Peeps

    I was given ten 3-week old chicks back in June by a friend who wanted to get me into chickens. She had EEs from the same batch, same hatchdate, same hatchery that she shared with me. I have 3 EEs who started laying at 21 weeks to the the day and a couple of her 10 just started at 25 weeks and 4 days. We keep in contact a lot and we've determined that we give them the same food from the same vendor except that I mix crushed meal worms in my feed daily and often treat them with whole mealworms out of my gloved hand.

    The grower mash has 18% protein and layer has 16%. After being frustrated she tried what I was doing by adding crushed mealworms to their feed and wouldn't you know, she got eggs in two days. What we have deducted is that the protein is the key factor to get the girls started laying.

    Is this commonly known or did we stumble onto something?
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

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    I don't know if it is WIDELY known but I'm a big proponent of sufficient protein. But not just any protein but animal sourced protein. Chickens are omnivores and I don't think these all vegetarian feeds do them justice.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Commercial egg laying operations use different ways to keep their pullets from starting to lay too early. They are a little different from most of our backyard flocks so don’t panic by what I’m about to say. Those pullets are specifically bred to lay a lot of large eggs and they can start pretty early. Laying large eggs before their bodies have grown up enough to handle it can lead to medical problems like prolapse. Besides, if the pullets start really young the eggs are smaller and not as valuable as Grade A large. The pullets also eat more when they are laying. Why spend more money on food when you are not getting eggs that valuable?

    One obvious way they delay them starting going into full production is lights, but they also feed a lower protein feed during their adolescent time. You might notice a 15% protein finisher/developer at the feed store. That’s what it is for, to slow down their physical development and the onset of egg laying to give their bodies time to mature internally. The lower amounts of protein also means any eggs laid will be smaller too. That’s less likely to cause damage.

    When they are ready for the pullets to start laying, they make the days longer and up the protein to get them started and to get the larger eggs. So the link between protein and onset of egg laying has been known in the commercial industry. I’m not sure how well it is known to the chicken owning population in general.

    It would not surprise me at all that your feeding them a higher protein diet started yours earlier. That makes perfect sense. But I’ve processed enough pullets and seen those yolks inside the body cavity to doubt that her upping the protein was all that important in hers starting when they did. It would take longer than that for the protein to work its way through their system. It takes about 25 hours for an egg to make its way through a hen’s internal egg factory. That first egg would have had to start the day after the pullet got its first dose of extra protein. That’s just too quick for a nutrient to work. I think what happened to your friend is more of a coincidence than anything.

    I also believe in animal protein for chickens. When I see an advertisement for vegetarian chicken feed I just shake my head. That's not natural.
     
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  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    So, RR, I'd like to jump into your conversation, if I may. Here's my question... or questions. When I started my chicks, I thought that the percentage of protein in the feed was pretty minimal, so I mixed in multiflock which is 26%. My girls started laying at 16.5 weeks. A neighbor who got chicks on the same day, same breed, same source was about 1 month behind me in first egg production. So, in my experience, increased protein does hasten onset of egg laying. In discussion with other BYC folks, re: protein, it was suggested that heritage birds would benefit from increased protein, "to help them gain size" before onset of laying. So, knowing that the commercial feed has the bare minimum nutrient to meet the birds needs, what do you think would be an acceptable protein goal for chicks up to laying age? There's also the issue re: sexual maturity in relation to the summer solstice which also affects the onset of laying. That's a discussion for an other day!!
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    We all have different goals so acceptable is going to be different for different people. I’ve got some opinions too that are not always popular with everyone.

    For example, when some people talk about heritage birds, they are really talking about show birds. To me, that is two different things. When you take chicken to a show, you are rewarded if the chicken is big. One of the certified APA judges has commented on that in this forum. In his opinion, the birds winning championships are often birds that don’t meet the SOP. They are too big. But people get rewarded for having big birds so that is a goal. You feed them well early for that.

    To me a heritage breed was developed for a purpose, usually meat, eggs, or both. They were utility breeds. The meat bird was not valued because of how big it got. Size was important but it was valued because of how well it converted feed to meat. A good Delaware would weigh 4 pounds at 10 weeks.

    An egg laying breed was not valued on the size of the bird. It was valued because of the eggs it produced, size and frequency. A big bird is uneconomical. It has to use a lot of the feed it eats to maintain that big body. A large uneconomical bird of an egg laying breed will be rewarded at a show but that is not heritage to me.

    A dual purpose bird was in between. It was expected to lay a lot of eggs without eating you out of house and home, yet have enough meat to feed a family.

    My goals are certainly not show birds. Heck, I have a mixed breed flock. I couldn’t show them if I wanted to. I want a bird that lays fairly well yet makes enough meat to feed us. There’s only me and my wife so even a fairly small pullet is good for two meals. We get a lot more eggs than we can eat just by keeping a breeding flock so we can raise birds for meat so I’m not overly worried about great egg production. I’m not into egg or meat production commercially. I’ve also noticed a distinct difference in the price of a bag of feed based on protein content.

    I generally feed them a 20% protein Starter/Grower the first 4 weeks or so. That’s mainly to get them feathered out so they can handle the weather on their own. Then when that bag runs out I switch to a 15% Developer/Finisher. That’s too low a protein for many people and less than “recommended” by people interested in good egg production. That recommendation is a 16% Grower from 4 to 13 weeks, then you switch to a 15% Finisher until they are ready to lay. That’s normally what the commercial operations do. A Starter to get them started well, a Grower to get them to puberty, then a Finisher while they are reaching maturity.

    My pullets normally start to lay around 20 to 24 weeks. That’s plenty early for me since I have older hens already laying more eggs than we can eat. I normally don’t process them until they are at least 18 weeks old so they can grow slowly. I practically always have immature chicks with my flock so they all eat the 15% Finisher with oyster shell on the side. If I fed a higher protein feed the eggs would be larger. The amount of protein they eat has a big effect on egg size. Mine forage some, not a lot because of predators so they are behind electric netting, and they get a lot of stuff from my garden for most of the growing season, so I don’t control their total protein intake anywhere nearly as well as chickens that only get chicken feed anyway. Since they forage I’m not in total control.

    I’m not opposed to anyone else feeding higher levels of protein. We all have our different goals, management techniques, and circumstances. What they do is their business. What I do is below minimum for a lot of people. I see nothing wrong if people want to feed them a 20% protein feed from hatch until they die of old age. I really don’t think that will hurt them, but for me it is not necessary. There is $2 difference in a 50 pound bag of 15% and 20% at my local Tractor Supply.

    I do process a lot of my birds. When I open them up they have plenty of fat and their internal organs look fine. They are not sickly. They lay pretty well though the eggs are not as big as they could be. I‘ve never had an eggbound or prolapsed hen. They hatch and raise chicks and chase a lot of bugs. What I’m doing works for me. It won’t work for everyone.
     
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  6. goodb

    goodb Chillin' With My Peeps

    Ridgerunner, I appreciate and value your inputs. Thank you first for validating what we suspected and you've given me something to think about for next year.
     
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    RR, thank you. I'm so looking forward to the next season with my little flock, will be adding (hopefully) a few home hatched birds, as well as hatchery Doms and meaties.
     

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