Hens and pullets together, soft shelled eggs

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ksguy, Jun 28, 2016.

  1. ksguy

    ksguy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi there - I've got 7 adult hens that are about a year old. They started laying in November and have been going strong. On Easter we got 3 chicks, and they started integrating with the big girls about 2 weeks later. A few weeks after that they were fully commingling, and once they were sharing a feeder, I switched everybody to 18% starter. At the time, however, I forgot to supplement with calcium. This would have been around early May. Well early last week I noticed a couple thin-shelled eggs and realized I forgot to put oyster shell out (I've never given oyster shell, I gave sand for grit when they weren't free ranging).

    Last week I put one of these out (note: not my coop) and filled it with oyster shell. I don't think they're touching it, even a little. I don't think the level has dropped at all. Well yesterday when I was getting home from work, my girls ran over to the driveway to greet me, and one of them stopped, squatted, and dropped a jello jiggler style soft-shelled egg on the driveway!

    What can I do to get them added calcium? They usually get to free range from about 3 pm until it's time to roost. Are they getting the calcium they need from bugs and such out in the yard?
     
  2. Poultry parent

    Poultry parent Chillin' With My Peeps

    lack of calcium doesn't cause straight-up shell-less eggs. you can shut the little ones in the coop, and toss some oyster shell on the ground like a treat.
     
  3. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Hens laying well for 8 weeks with a calcium deficient diet could definitely be laying shell-less eggs. 6 grams of calcium is needed for each egg laid. That's about half of all the calcium in a hen's system. She would also be getting rickets by then.
    I agree that separating them would be a good idea because 13 weeks is too young to transition the chicks to layer feed.
    By 16 weeks you could mix layer and starter half and half. That would give them 2.5% calcium which is about what a pre-lay diet is and you could put them back together then.
    You do have to get some more calcium in them.
    I think putting oyster shell in more locations will help.
    Keep in mind that calcium, phosphorus, manganese and vitamin D3 have to be in the proper ratio to correct the problem.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2016
  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    You can feed everyone an all-flock diet like Flock Raiser, with oyster shell in a separate dish. Also, limit treats and scratch feed for now; get them eating the right stuff! Mary
     
  5. ksguy

    ksguy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for this. Note that my adult hens have actually been laying for about 7 months. I haven't seen any signs of rickets, but egg production has markedly decreased as well. I just figured it was the heat. I feel like such a dumb chicken owner. Remembering to put them all on chick feed, but forgetting to supplement calcium. D'oh.

    It does unfortunately sound like I do need to separate them if I can figure out a way to do that. My brooder run is not big enough for three 13 week old birds (it's a small "run within the run"), so I'll have to see what I can figure out.

    If I can't get them separated from the main feeder, I can at least continue with the oyster shell offering, and perhaps add something to it to make it more tempting to them. I'm thinking maybe 1 tsp of cod liver oil poured over 1/2 lb of oyster shell and then toss it to get a coating on everything. Maybe the smell would intrigue them enough to try it and realize it helps them out. That would get them the calcium as well as the D3 to help absorb it and maybe start the habit of taking it regularly, then I could offer it up without the fish oil.

    I also asked my wife to scramble up a dozen eggs, bake and grind up the shells, then mix it back together and throw about 1/3 of it out in a pan for the big girls. I know in the past they've devoured scrambled eggs with ground up shells mixed in. Not sure how much calcium they absorb from that, but it's better than what they're getting now.

    Does anyone have experience with how long it might take for their systems to balance back out?
     
  6. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    I wanted to add that bugs, even those with exoskeletons, contain very little calcium.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2016
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    I wouldn't separate them, rather modify the feeding. Flock Raiser for everyone, and plain oyster shell on the side. The goal is NOT to make the oyster shell taste better, so birds overeat it! Adding calories to the oyster shell isn't a good idea. Egg shells crumbled up aren't as good as the larger pieces of that oyster shell, either. Mary
     
  8. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    I agree with you Mary but in the OP's first post she said she was already giving OS in a separate container. I just think it will take some time since stores are depleted.
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I had trouble getting a new batch of pullets to eat the oyster shell in the separate container....so I sprinkled a bit on their feed for a few days, did the trick.
     
  10. ksguy

    ksguy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well what do you know. I got home from work last night and the oyster shell was noticeably consumed. I filled the dispenser to be level with the top, and there were definite impressions where it had been taken. None spilled on the ground beneath it, either, so unless they spit it out somewhere else (which I've never seen), they took some. They didn't get to free range yesterday, so they couldn't get to their favorite sand pile for grit. I'm hoping that once their bodies realize that the oyster shell is providing a necessary mineral that instinct takes over and they take it as they need it.

    I did get to thinking, I had a broody a couple weeks back. I stuck her in the broody buster for 3 days, and she was just let out of there on Father's day, last Sunday. It was one of my buffs, and since I can't tell them apart, it very well may have been her that laid the shell-less egg on the driveway. I've read that their eggs might be a little wonky for a bit after coming out of their "spell".

    Do I need to worry about getting some supplemental D3 in them so they can more efficiently absorb the calcium? If so, what's the best way to do that?
     

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