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Feeding a multi-age flock

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Peregrine, Jun 9, 2011.

  1. Peregrine

    Peregrine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What in the world do I feed my flock? I've got so many questions. [​IMG]

    We have a small flock (under a dozen) and hatch eggs about once a month to have a constant supply of meat birds. When the chicks are about 10 weeks old they are moved from the brooder and join the rest of the flock. We had been letting them eat the layer pellets. I read on this site that the excess calcium could shorten their life span, which really wasn't an issue! [​IMG]

    But now we have some pullets that we would like to keep as layers. We've been trying to feed them grower/finisher separatly from the rest of the flock each morning, but it's been a pain! The bigger chickens go over and eat their food, scaring them away, then they turn around and start eating the layer pellets I had spread on the ground for the hens! Or I'll let the bigger hens out to free range and keep the rest in the run, but then I have to remember to let them out later, when they promptly go over to the pile of layer pellets! [​IMG]

    Now that our bag of grower/finisher is gone, I'd like to feed everybody the same thing. But I've heard so many conflicting bits of advice:

    --Don't feed chicks layer feed; it will shorten their lifespan. (from BYC thread)
    --Feed them whole flock feed. (from BYC thread)
    --Never heard of whole flock feed. Maybe it's scratch feed. (every local feed store)
    --Chickens need more protein to be good layers. If they're free-ranging, the 16% layer feed may not be giving them enough protein. (BYC thread)
    --Scratch feed has 8% protein. (ingredients label)
    --Once the chicks are high enough to reach the feeder, they are old enough to eat the pellets. (from a local farmer)

    I hope you can see my dilemma. How early can they start eating pellets and still live long, happy, egg-laying lives? Is there anything that we can give the meat birds to "beef them up" before the slaughter? Is there anything out there with lots of protein but less calcuim, and then I can suppliment with oyster shell?

    WHAT IN THE WORLD DO I FEED MY CHICKENS? [​IMG]
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    My flock's ages range from a few weeks to four years, hens and roos, broodies, the whole works. I feed them all either unmedicated grower or flock raiser. Haven't fed layer in ages. A separate bowl of grit and another of oyster shell are also offered. I have no problems with this. The chicks ignore the oyster shell, the hens eat it, egg shells are fine, everyone is happy. I don't plan to buy layer ever again -- even if my flock change to laying hens only, I prefer the higher protein in grower. If they sold unmedicated finisher or game bird feed around here I might consider that, too, although game bird feed might be too high in protein. I don't give them scratch. Sometimes they get a little treat of BOSS, and I do give them some sort of animal protein source two or three times a week, because feeds around here all seem to be vegetarian.

    The only real no-no is, don't feed layer to baby chicks. Not that a day of it will kill them -- but it's enough calcium to damage organs, if not immediately, then down the road a ways.
     
  3. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Quote:1. true
    2, 3. never heard of this either; maybe it's flock raiser
    4. Complex issue. I've seen layer as low as 14%. Somewhere I read that commercials discovered they lay more eggs on a lower % of protein. I have no specific source for this, but from scanning a bunch of posts I'm inclined to believe that around 18% or 19% is better for the chickens. Guess I've just read too many posts where the flock was pecking/feather pulling on layer and a little scratch -- and of course any scratch reduces the total protein intake. And it is established that too little protein leads to feather picking.

    On pellets -- that is a texture of feed, not involved with content. I've never seen anything but layer in pellets, but I don't have a lot of feed source choices around here, and don't do a lot of shopping of them anyway. There is mash, crumbles and pellets -- textures. Things like grower, flock raiser, etc. have to do with the content.

    I used to feed layer pellets, which they waste less of. Anyone old enough to eat layer feed (around 20 weeks) never had a problem eating pellets. I've never fed pellets to a younger chicken because it was layer, not because it was pellets. Not much help, I guess.
     
  4. CochinBantams

    CochinBantams Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote:How young should they be NOT to let them eat laying?

    I have 4 12 week olds that are getting into the hens all the time.
     
  5. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    I never started layer til they started laying. Some feel 18 weeks or so is good, that they are starting to form the eggs in the ovaries so need the calcium. Others do as I did. Again, I have no handy dandy link to prove either is correct.
     
  6. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Another thought -- it's got to be whole lot better for 12 week olds to eat layer than for day olds to eat it. It may be you'll never see signs of damage at that age. I sure wouldn't waste a bag of feed -- but I might put the layer away and feed grower or something for a few more weeks then go back to the layer -- if you don't have more chicks by then. I switched to my method because we do something like you do, hatch now and then, eat extra roos (and really mean hens and even extra hens.) At some point I decided to try not buying layer at all. Took me a while to find a source of unmedicated grower, but when I did, that was the end of my search. (There are sources that say it's ok to eat eggs when the hens are eating amprolium medicated grower, as the med stays inside their gut for the most part, but I can't bring myself to do it.)
     
  7. CochinBantams

    CochinBantams Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 19, 2011
    Thanks Dawn...
     
  8. CoyoteMagic

    CoyoteMagic RIP ?-2014

    I don't feed layer feed. I feed Purina Flock Raiser from hatch to plate. Just give some oyster shell in a bowl. Your hens will take what they want.
     
  9. featherz

    featherz Veggie Chick

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    Quote:X2. I just feed flock raiser or equivalent and put the oyster shell separate. Chicks and roosters don't seem to be interested in it.
     
  10. Peregrine

    Peregrine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 28, 2009
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    What great info! [​IMG]

    I guess I need to scratch the scratch!

    Unfortunately, I just bought a whole bag. Is scratch good for anything? Why even sell it, other than to keep your chickens alive?

    Also, I buy Dumor brand starter, finisher, and layer in the yellow bag. The checkout lady told me they were all unmedicated, and that the medicated bags were red. Can anyone comment on this? I've tried reading the ingredients, but there's just too many long words!
     

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