Feeding Layer Pellets to 3 month old chicks?

cochins1088

Crowing
8 Years
Jul 17, 2012
3,247
128
251
Southern Minnesota
For each of my batches for chicks, I buy 1 or 2 bags of chicks starter and when it runs out, they go straight to layer pellets. This is usually when they are around 2 -3 months of age and it's because I want to integrate them with the older chickens. When they are with the older laying hens, it's pointless to keep both foods out when they are together because they will both end up eating each others food. My problem is that in the past 4 years, I have rasied about 30 chicks to adult hood, and of those, 5 died a sudden death at 5 months old. They were happily running around as healthy birds one day and gone the next. I just now realized that this is a problem and I'm trying to figure out the cause. Other than these 5, the only other deaths were caused by old age.

When I brought these deaths to attention, I was asked by a fellow BYCer when I switched the chicks to layers pellets. I thought about it and they were all switched early. Another BYCer thought that the extra calicum causes kidney damage. So, could the fact that they were switched early be the cause of the sudden deaths at 5 months? Not everyone died, like I said, 5 died out of about 30. Are there any other problems associated with switching the later pellets early? I currently have five 3 month old chicks that have been eating layer pellets for the past couple of weeks, are they at risk? Should I switch anybody under 10 months old back the chick starter? I'd feel horrible if I killed those 5 through the feed, I never thought about that posiblity until it was brought up.

Thanks.
 

kreagerm

Chirping
7 Years
Feb 11, 2012
229
13
91
Maybe an old wives tale but I heard that you shouldn't switch over to layer feed until laying begins. Now will switching over to soon kill the birds, that I don't know. I hope others can chime in.
 

cafarmgirl

Crowing
10 Years
Mar 24, 2009
5,521
613
327
California, central valley
I cannot say what killed your birds but birds that age do not need the higher calcium level that is in layer feed and I have read also it can cause damage. Many people will switch to a flock raiser feed at that age if they don't want to continue chick starter/grower. Mine stay on starter/grower until they are ready to lay.

Not necessary to switch birds as old as 10 months back to chick starter, at that age they should be laying. If a bird is point of lay or laying, layer feed. Young birds under 20 weeks and not yet laying, starter/grower or flock raiser.
 

Fred's Hens

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
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ChickensRDinos

Songster
7 Years
Aug 19, 2012
2,242
240
208
Los Angeles
If you have a mixed age flock, any non-laying birds or any roosters it is better to not ever switch to layer. A grower or flock raiser with a calcium source on the side will be great for all of your laying and non-laying birds.
 

cochins1088

Crowing
8 Years
Jul 17, 2012
3,247
128
251
Southern Minnesota
Not an old wive's tale. The studies have been repeatedly. Heavy Calcium in adolescent birds loads in the renal tract and causes damage as well as gout. This is not something you can see until or unless you cut open the birds.

http://www.pvj.com.pk/pdf-files/24_3/113-116.pdf

http://www.hyline.com/redbook/Health/Gout.html

To know precisely what may have contributed to the death of your young birds, you'd need to have had one of them studied. Necropsy.

I don't have any of the birds currently, the last one that died (which got me wondering) died 3 days ago, and it's to my understnading that the body's must be fresh and not frozen (it's been freezing every night here) for a necropsy. And I sure hope the other birds at 5 months won't follow. I didn't realize the damage that the calicum can do. If this was the problem, do you believe it could atribute to a sudden death, or would this be a long slow decline from the build up of calicum. I just don't understand why these birds all died so sudddenly looking perfectly healthy the day before.

If you have a mixed age flock, any non-laying birds or any roosters it is better to not ever switch to layer. A grower or flock raiser with a calcium source on the side will be great for all of your laying and non-laying birds.

I do have some oyster shell bits but I haven't been putting them out lately. If I do leave them out, won't the younger chickens/chicks peck at them too? Otherwise this sounds like a good idea because I really don't want to separate them.

I cannot say what killed your birds but birds that age do not need the higher calcium level that is in layer feed and I have read also it can cause damage. Many people will switch to a flock raiser feed at that age if they don't want to continue chick starter/grower. Mine stay on starter/grower until they are ready to lay.

Not necessary to switch birds as old as 10 months back to chick starter, at that age they should be laying. If a bird is point of lay or laying, layer feed. Young birds under 20 weeks and not yet laying, starter/grower or flock raiser.

Large Fowl Cochins take a long time to mature, I don't get eggs until they are a least a year old. So then anybody not laying should be switched back to chick starter or a grower, correct?
 

ChickensRDinos

Songster
7 Years
Aug 19, 2012
2,242
240
208
Los Angeles
I do have some oyster shell bits but I haven't been putting them out lately. If I do leave them out, won't the younger chickens/chicks peck at them too? Otherwise this sounds like a good idea because I really don't want to separate them.

Chickens are actually very good about regulating their own calcium intake if you give them that option. The birds will not eat it unless they need it. You may even see your rooster eat it from time to time. Rooster do need calcium just not nearly as much.

The problem with layer feed is that the calcium is mixed into the feed so the birds do not have this option. All of the birds are forced to eat the full amount whether or not they need it. If you have any non laying birds because they are male or young or molting or it's winter or whatever then they are getting WAY too much calcium on a layer.
 
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cochins1088

Crowing
8 Years
Jul 17, 2012
3,247
128
251
Southern Minnesota
Ok, so cochins aren't very productive and pretty much stop laying every winter. I haven't had and egg in 5 days and throughout winter, I probably get 1 egg a week from my 18 hens. So I guess that everyone is getting way too much calcium in the winter. Next time I go to the feed store, I will ask for grower.
 

cochins1088

Crowing
8 Years
Jul 17, 2012
3,247
128
251
Southern Minnesota
Ok, they are officially on an all flock feed. Thanks for the advice. I feel really bad about the deaths, but I hope this was the cause so that it never happens again.
 

Jacqdiva

Songster
5 Years
Mar 23, 2014
274
35
111
Hervey Bay QLD Australia
I am frustrated that my livestock outlets don't sell an unmedicated grower. What should I do? Are layer pellet bad for roosters too? What about feeding a free range food? Or a meat bird grower? Any advice here? They keep assuring me I can have my flock on layer. Would a scratch mix be better? At a loss here, and worrying about my young birds and roosters in the flock.
 
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