Help on what to feed!!!!!

adshoemake

In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 21, 2013
43
2
26
We have 5 hens and 1 rooster and they are about 3 months old now (just an estimate). And they are eating the finisher food and we have given them some sun flower seeds and some lettuce so far. I tried to give them some yogurt and they wouldn't eat it and looked at it confused haha. But I have read where people give their chickens oyster shells or crushed up egg shells? Should I be doing this and how often? And where do I get them from? What are the main essential foods I should be giving my chickens for good health and nice eggs? I am new to this and trying to get as much info as I can. And also should I switch their food to layer? I have read a lot of people feeding that but I'm not sure at what age I should switch them. My rooster just started crowing today!!! Very exciting thing but now I am thinking the chickens may not bee too far behind on maybe starting to lay eggs soon??? Any advice would be great! Thanks!
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,282
20,106
907
Southeast Louisiana
A lot of people get confused on all this, mainly because it is so simple that many different things work. There are very few rules to feeding your chickens.

First, do not feed growing chicks Layer. There are a lot of other types of feed out there, but the important difference in any of them and Layer is that Layer has excess calcium in it for the egg shells. There are studies out there that show that the amount of calcium in Layer can harm growing chicks. So rule #1. Do not feed Layer to growing chicks.

Oyster shell and egg shells are primarily calcium. A common way to feed a mixed age flock of chickens where some are laying eggs and need the extra calcium and some are growing and should not have the extra calcium is to offer it on the side, not mixed with the regular feed. They seem to know instinctively if they need it or not. The ones that need it eat it. The ones that don’t won’t eat enough to harm themselves. You can buy a bag of oyster shell fairly cheaply at the feed store. Usually a small bag goes a long way.

The processed chicken feed has been ground up enough that you do not need to provide grit if the processed chicken feed is all they are eating. But they need grit in their gizzard to help them grind up about anything else. Yogurt of course is OK, but don’t feed any grains, green plants, hard shelled bugs, much of anything else without first giving them grit. That’s rule #2,

That’s it for the rules. Pretty simple, Huh?

All you need to give the chickens for good eggs is the feed. It is formulated to contain all the protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fiber, amino acids and all that they “need”. Many of us go beyond that. We might allow our chickens to forage for grass and weeds, grass seeds and weed seeds, and all kinds of creepy crawlies. Or we might give them extra grain, greens, or creepy crawlies. If they forage they’ll balance it out themselves but if you are feeding them this other stuff, it’s best to not give them too much of any one thing. The basic feed is a balanced diet. Treat the other stuff as a dessert, nice to have but it should not be a major portion of their diet. Just feed it in moderation, not excess.

The normal recommendation as to when to switch to Layer is when you see the first egg or at 20 weeks, whichever is first. They really don’t need it until they are laying eggs so there is no reason to switch until you actually see an egg. What I’d suggest is to keep feeding what you have and offer oyster shell on the side around week 20 or when you see the first egg. Then when that bag runs out you can switch to Layer or keep feeding what you are and count on the oyster shell to provide the extra calcium. Either way works.
 

adshoemake

In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 21, 2013
43
2
26
Thank you so much and I found the date that I bought them and it was on Feb. 25th so I know they were just born within 8 hours of when I got them so they are still very young but they are getting huge so I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing out on something. We only give them a couple of pieces of lettuce between 6 birds and then just throw a handful or so of sunflower seeds in there. But they always have the finisher feed and water available. I want to let them run around but we have neighbors that don't keep their animals put up and I don't want any of them to get hurt or killed. Our dog is great with them but everyone else's I don't trust. Plus at night we have coyotes and such. But we built a pretty big coop and put some perches in there and some nesting boxes already (2 boxes for 6 birds) and then we built a run attached to the coop that they spend most of the day in. We leave the coop door open in case they want to go back in. But the run is about 8 feet long by about 5 feet wide and maybe about 7 feet tall....just guessing. But they have eaten almost all the grass out of there and that's why I started giving them some lettuce! I will just keep an eye out for the eggs! I can't wait to see what kind of eggs we get bc I'm still not 100% sure what kind of birds we even have. I have heard a couple of different things and I'm still not sure bc some of the breeds look a lot a like. But thank you for all your info it was a huge help! AND what did you mean by they "need grit in their gizzard"??? I'm not sure what that means sorry!
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,282
20,106
907
Southeast Louisiana
Chickens don’t have teeth to chew their food like we do. They eat rocks which collect in their gizzard to grind the food that needs to be ground. Those rocks are called grit and they use them like we use our teeth. The rocks eventually get ground down into sand which passes through their system but then they just eat more rocks. You might see them pecking at the ground when they are taking a dust bath. Guess what they are looking for.

Since yours are on the ground like that, they are getting their own grit. If you were keeping them caged where they could not get to the ground it would be a good idea to provide rocks for them. You can buy grit at the feed store, collect pea sized or smaller from a gravel road or driveway, maybe get some from a sand bar or gravel bar in a creek or river. They can use about any rock as grit. If it is soft it gets ground up faster and they just have to eat some more.

Oyster shell is not acceptable as grit. It doesn’t last long enough before it is ground into a powder plus the chickens produce acid in their digestive tracts to aid in digestion just like we do. That acid dissolves the oyster shell. It just doesn’t last. Some people get confused about that but grit and oyster shell do different things for them.
 

adshoemake

In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 21, 2013
43
2
26
WOW thanks. You are full of very useful information! I thank you so much! I think I may throw some crickets or meal worms in there with them every once in a while just for fun and I already see them out there trying to catch bees and flies and whatnot. Thank you for all your help!!
 

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