Hen in the dog house - different soft egg layer now... HELP

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Gypsi, Nov 26, 2011.

  1. Gypsi

    Gypsi Chillin' With My Peeps

    I may be getting to the bottom of my soft egg shell calcium mystery. One hen lays extremely fragile eggs, I knew she was one of my 4 production reds. I think I have ID'd her, because she doesn't come for breakfast. I toss out a cup or 2 of layena game bird layer feed right now, trying to get them through molt and get some eggs. But one of the healthier looking hens doesn't let her eat. She seems to be low bird on the totem pole. (They also have a deep bowl of feed, a coop floor which averages half an inch of pure feed substrate, and free choice oyster shell calcium)

    So today while they were back yard ranging, I mixed them a bowl of that feed mixed with whole milk, and some egg shell, fetched a big dog crate, stuck it in the run, put some straw in the back, food and water in front, caught the hen losing the most feathers (because she's the one not eating), and stuffed her in the dog crate. I let her out to range when the others did a couple of hours later, so I could remove the cardboard box I'd tried to fix her a nest box in, it wasn't working out. After half an hour or so, she went back in, and they all went back in the run.

    Certainly with molting and aging hens, I'm not getting many eggs. I got 3 on Tuesday, one on Wednesday, none Thursday or Friday, and one from my barred rock today. But the egg-eating is probably only my penned red's eggs. Especially since I trick-or-treated them with a nice brown ceramic egg. (They've kicked it out of the nest once or twice)

    Suggestions - am I doing this right?

    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
  2. ChicKat

    ChicKat Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Hi Gypsi,

    If you put apple cider vinegar in their drinking water, at a rate of 1 Tablespoon per 1 gallon of water, it will change the pH of their water. The changed pH will help the chickens absorb the calcium that they ingest.

    Along with oyster shells you can take the shells from the eggs that they give you---and crush them up. I zap mine in the microwave to eliminate microbes, help them dry out and cook the whites that stick to the shells, so that they crush cleanly and easily. I just do it when boiling water for the morning cuppa. Some BYC forum members think this is over-kill. (i hope so I read an article about microbes on poultry shells that was pretty creepy, just the other day!) ;O)

    I crush pretty coarse, and put them on top of the oyster shells in a cage cup. They prefer the egg shells, and the eggshells are gone quickly.

    It is great that you are giving your lowest pecking order chicken a chance to eat protected. Hopefully when the days get longer, and the molt is over you will have plenty of eggs.
  3. Gypsi

    Gypsi Chillin' With My Peeps

    I am starting to feel that I am fighting an incurable disease. BUT it only affects my production reds. My barred rock is fine, her eggs are hard. I had the puniest production red in the dog crate. And lo and behold the one egg in the nest this morning had a soft shell and was broken.

    If they do not have a parasite, they certainly are possibly siblings, all purchased on the same day, and perhaps the problem is genetic in origin. Genetic and triggered by aging. They will be 2 years old in February.

    Should I worm them to see if it helps? And how do I do it.

    I've cut out treats - feeding them oatmeal seemed to trigger the first soft eggs, in spring 2011, so I quit feeding it. (it was just a "round em up treat", not a steady diet.)

    I've been doing ACV in their water, I've added eggshells to yogurt to be sure they got them in them, I can no longer afford yogurt. So I got the game birds layer feed from the feed store and changed their feed to raise the protein level. If I didn't have a couple of pulled muscles I could change the sand in the run, fresh sand seems to help, maybe the increased grit helps them digest better?

    I'm on a tight budget til I see how insurance handles my truck being totaled during a 6 car wreck last week. I am afraid to spend $20 on sand. I am suspicious that production reds simply have a short laying life and I'm trying to fix something that isn't going to fix.
    I see freezer camp coming eventually. I can't afford to keep these ladies as pets - pen space is fine, I want to add another coop and run on the lot as soon as I can afford to, but the cost of feed? They waste most of it. If I move them to the run on the lot, which has lotsa bugs, I could feed less. Once I can afford to build the run. I do have young Americauna's I bought as chicks in October.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
  4. Gypsi

    Gypsi Chillin' With My Peeps

    Will anything take hens "off their feed?"
  5. ChicKat

    ChicKat Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Hi Gypsi,

    Hope things are going better. I think any animal can be off it's feed in the event that it gets upset, etc.

    I have heard that vitamin D3 helps chickens with calcium absorbtion. If I can find it, I will come back to edit and add a link. on the other hand you said that you gave them some milk, and I think that all our milk has vitamin D added now-a-days. (The "sunshine vitamin")-- do they get sunlight? Of course with feathers, I guess it isn't the same as humans....duh.

    Here is a good quote and a good link"

    "Vitamin D
    Vitamin D is required for normal calcium absorption and utilization. If inadequate levels of vitamin D are fed, induced calcium deficiency quickly results and egg production decreases. Feed grade vitamin D comes in two forms, D2 and D3. In most animals, both are equally potent. In birds, however, D3 is substantially more active than D2. In poultry diets, therefore, vitamin D must be supplied in the form of D3."

    Quote is from this link. It isn't the one I was thinking of --- so I may be back yet again.

    Last edited: Nov 30, 2011
  6. Gypsi

    Gypsi Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'd need a link for a chicken D3 supplement that's reasonably priced. The feed store had oyster shell calcium and that is pretty much the limit of their knowledge.. My birds are molting, the one I had in the dog house is starting to look like she needs a sweater, it is getting cold out. They were on Purina Layena, Now Purina Gamebird crumble for Layers, for the higher protein.

    They like yogurt better than milk, and it is easier to mix eggshells into. But it's up to almost $3 for a quart, and I can't afford their high end treats right now. My truck was wrecked in a 6 car spinning mess caused by a semi on Monday the 21st. My groceries are running slim, so I just bought eggs for me, and they have feed at the moment. (and about 70 lbs in the barrel between the 2 crumbles)
  7. dirtsaver

    dirtsaver Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 20, 2010
    Northern Kentucky
    Gypsi I'm sorry to here about your truck. Hopefully you didn't suffer any serious injuries! As for your chickens,I've never had any of the "production" type chickens but my understanding is they are short-term layers. I've heard everything from 1 year to maybe 18 months of laying before they burn out. I do know our Australorps laid very well last fall,slowed down(almost quit)last winter and picked up in the spring and laid well most of the summer until they went into molt. I think the molt has lasted close to three months now,they are getting their feathers back but egg production is still way off. If you can afford to keep them feed I'd give them until spring but I really think they may be finished with high production and down to the 1 or 2 egg a week phase.

    Good Luck!
    and hope you get the truck situation squared away soon!
  8. fiddlebanshee

    fiddlebanshee Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 11, 2010
    Frederick, MD
    Quote:It's really easy to make yogurt yourself, for the price of milk. Just get one small (one serving size) container of organic yogurt (to make sure it has live cultures in it) and use that as your starter. You can use part of the yogurt you make to create subsequent batches. The only two tricks really are:
    1. to put the yogurt in the milk while both are at room temperature. You can boil the milk first and let it cool down or not boil it at all. Don't use either yogurt or milk that comes straight from the fridge, it is too cold. Don't use milk that is too hot (I was impatient once and didn't let the milk cool sufficiently -- big fail).
    2. to keep the inoculated milk (milk+yogurt mixture) at about 90-100 degrees while it is incubating. The oven with a pilot light would work for that. It usually takes about 8 hours to produce a batch of yogurt. I do it overnight.

    The chickens and I are now fighting over this yogurt, I make a quart every two days. It is much better than the yogurt that you buy at supermarkets.
  9. Gypsi

    Gypsi Chillin' With My Peeps

    I am thinking that the next time I want to make chicken soup I may shop the back yard. These hens are almost 2. They are very nice hens, but 1 or 2 eggs a week? that's about what I am getting per hen, and half of them broken as is. Since I gave up my electric range and oven as they were too expensive to operate, I'd have to figure out where to let yogurt culture. I keep the house in the 60's - 70's, warm it up good at night.

    If I could find out which ones were laying the soft eggs, I would cull and cook. This has been going on since early summer, when they were about 16 months old.
  10. fiddlebanshee

    fiddlebanshee Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 11, 2010
    Frederick, MD
    I suppose you could warm the mixture on the stove to about 110 degrees and then wrap it in a blanket and put it in a cooler to keep it at about 90 degrees overnight. It might be worth a try. You can also buy a machine for about $30 to keep it at temp for you, but if you're strapped for cash that may not be an option.

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