Greystone farm

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Jul 7, 2020
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Hey there! I read an article a while ago about feeding laying hens grower feed with oyster shells/eggshells on the side instead of layer crumble because layer feed lacks the animal proteins needed for chickens to thrive as well as all-around diversity. I read that laying hens do best on 20% protein, but layer feed usually only contains 16%. Also, layer feed is almost always vegetarian, when in fact chickens are naturally omnivores.
Those are a few of the reasons why I switched my three lovely two-and-a-half year old hens to grower feed a few months ago with free-choice calcium supplements. However, I recently took in a five month old cockerel who now eats the same feed. This didn’t seem like a problem to me until someone at the feed store told me today that if my cockerel (his name is Banana) is on grower feed for too long, he’ll grow too fast and die prematurely. 😱
So, do you think she’s right? Would it be bad for Banana (and my hens, for that matter) to eat grower feed their whole lives?
If not, what should I feed them—layer feed, or is that bad for Banana?
Thanks for any help!

Also, should I put my birds on organic feed? What are the benefits/downfalls?
 

U_Stormcrow

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It is absolutely NOT bad for Banana, or anyone else, to be on a 20% protein, 1% calcium feed (whether called grower, starter, all flock, or flock raiser) together with free choice oyster shell all their lives. Assuming the bird has some space to run and/or free range, and is given few treats, you can reasonably expect years of happy, healthy life from your birds.

BOSS makes chickens fat. CORN makes chickens fat. Too many treats generally makes chickens fat (less so with kitchen and garden greens). Confinement without opportunity for activity makes chickens ill behaved (and fat).

CornishX, given food free choice and a nearby water source, will eat themselves to fatty liver disease. Almost no other bird will.

There is only one source worse than the farm store for information about your chickens... YOUTUBE. The internet itself is about 50/50.
 

U_Stormcrow

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Re: Organic. Its expensive, and has no proven health benefit. Moreover, there are essentially no extremely good organic plant sources of methionine a critical, and limiting, amino acid. The younger the bird, the more critical it is. Makes it hard to create a complete organic feed.

Its called "limiting" because the bird can't make it itself, and because a deficiency prevents it from using the rest of the protein in its diet effectively. A young bird would be stunted, and eventually suffer a host of nutritional maladies if fed on even a 30% protein diet, if only recieving .1% methionine.

It is, in fact, so critical that organic feed is allowed to add a (small) amount of synthetic methionine and still claim Organic status - though there are efforts by some ignorant {explicatives} to stop even that practice.

That said, if you sell your eggs or birds, and your buyers are willing to pay the premium for the label, it may be worth it to you. Ultimately, its your money, and your politics - maybe buying organic (not for the health benefits, which don't exist, but rather to discourage use of glyphosate and its associated environmental impacts) is a good use of your cash, in your view. Not for me to say.
 

Shadrach

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It seems you have been told a truth but given the wrong reasons for it.
Too fast growth is a real problem but 20% protein is not going to be responsible for it.
U_Stormcrow has given you good advice.
All I would add is that obviously layers feed is not the correct feed for males, chicks or non laying hens because they don't lay eggs.
It's not the protein that is the problem, it's the calcium in the layers feed. Roosters do not store calcium in the same way hens do. They don't need the reserves obviously because they don't lay eggs. So, their intenal organs have to process the calcium and while you will not notice any problems, the calcium buildup damages the liver and kidneys. It may take some years which is one of the reasons it is rarely reported as an issue.
You can't go far wrong with 18% protein and 1% calcium plus a small quantity of fish or meat if your chickens do not have access to decent forage where they can find bugs etc. Leave some calcium available for the laying hens in a seperate feeder. They should take it when they need it.
If you keep an eye on the egg shell thickness that will give you a rough guide on whether your hens are getting enough calcium.
 
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rosemarythyme

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Also, should I put my birds on organic feed? What are the benefits/downfalls?
Keep in mind switching birds to organic feed does NOT make the eggs or meat certified organic. If you're raising eggs/meat for your own consumption, and are interested in organic eggs/meat, then maybe "good enough" is fine for you and your family, however you cannot sell them as such as that's nowhere close to meeting certified organic standards.
 

Greystone farm

Songster
Jul 7, 2020
111
116
101
It is absolutely NOT bad for Banana, or anyone else, to be on a 20% protein, 1% calcium feed (whether called grower, starter, all flock, or flock raiser) together with free choice oyster shell all their lives. Assuming the bird has some space to run and/or free range, and is given few treats, you can reasonably expect years of happy, healthy life from your birds.

BOSS makes chickens fat. CORN makes chickens fat. Too many treats generally makes chickens fat (less so with kitchen and garden greens). Confinement without opportunity for activity makes chickens ill behaved (and fat).

CornishX, given food free choice and a nearby water source, will eat themselves to fatty liver disease. Almost no other bird will.

There is only one source worse than the farm store for information about your chickens... YOUTUBE. The internet itself is about 50/50.
Thanks so much! I was thinking the same thing but just wanted to check 👍🏽
 
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You don’t actually want to be judging poultry feed mainly by crude protein. It is used for ruminants because they can take any protein source and the microbes in their rumen can synthesize all the necessary amino acids. Chickens can’t do that. Instead the first thing you want to be looking at the amino acid content of feed. The most important are methionine and lysine which are should generally be 2% and 5% of the CP content respectively. Once you determine you have quality, then you can look at quantity. Typically you don’t want to way over feed protein because (like everything) excess is not a good thing and can lead to problems such as kidney issues and excess nitrogen in the waste, and protein is expensive. As far as the too fast growth thing, younger birds are fed higher protein because they need it, and the protein quantity is slowly lowered as they grow for the above reasons. Amino acid requirements differ depending on breed of bird, age of bird, and sex of bird. Dual purpose laying hens should be kept at 14-18% of high quality protein, depending on amount of lay. Banana should be about the same level currently. 16% high quality protein would probably be a good amount. If the protein doesn’t have a good amino acid profile, then you’re going to need to up the percentage, but then you risk running into the issues mentioned earlier. Too much calcium is a real problem, but if you feed the extra calcium free choice, Banana will leave it alone, while the hens will consume what they need.
 

Greystone farm

Songster
Jul 7, 2020
111
116
101
You don’t actually want to be judging poultry feed mainly by crude protein. It is used for ruminants because they can take any protein source and the microbes in their rumen can synthesize all the necessary amino acids. Chickens can’t do that. Instead the first thing you want to be looking at the amino acid content of feed. The most important are methionine and lysine which are should generally be 2% and 5% of the CP content respectively. Once you determine you have quality, then you can look at quantity. Typically you don’t want to way over feed protein because (like everything) excess is not a good thing and can lead to problems such as kidney issues and excess nitrogen in the waste, and protein is expensive. As far as the too fast growth thing, younger birds are fed higher protein because they need it the protein quantity is slowly lowered as they grow for the above reasons. Amino acid requirements differ depending on breed of bird, age of bird, and sex of bird. Dual purpose laying hens should be kept at 14-18% of high quality protein, depending on amount of lay. Banana should be about the same level currently. 16% high quality protein would probably be a good amount. If the protein doesn’t have a good amino acid profile, then you’re going to need to up the percentage, but then you risk running into the issues mentioned earlier. Too much calcium is a real problem, but if you feed the extra calcium free choice, Banana will leave it alone, while the hens will consume what they need.
Thanks so much! I’ll look into the amino acid content of the grower feed I’m giving them 😀
 

U_Stormcrow

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Jun 7, 2020
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Thanks so much! I’ll look into the amino acid content of the grower feed I’m giving them 😀
In all likelihood, they will list only the Methionine and the Lysine of the four most critical amino acids. The fourth, Tryptophan, is hard to get wrong if you get everything else right, and the third, Threonine, is hard to get wrong in a high grain diet - which poultry feeds generally are.

The US uses, generally, significantly higher protein in our feeds than the EU, in part to compensate for the poor overall amino acid profile, while the EU tends to make more use of synthetic amino acids (which are expensive, but so is European grain, while we tend to export a lot, making it relatively cheaper for us to simply up the protein content by using more hard wheat , soy, and even alfalfa on occasion)

If you buy a 20% all flock/flock raiser from one of the commercial big brands, you can be certain we've already checked the labels. From the local mill, look at the guaranteed nutrition tag.

/edit and the mill date. Always the mill date.
 

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