Hens eating sand and losing weight

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by melinda653, Dec 20, 2013.

  1. melinda653

    melinda653 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My two hens have had a long battle with diseases. After several months of medications, not eating, and losing weight, it seemed like they were on the road to recovery. A few months ago I built them a new coop and put sand down for flooring. Over the past week I have noticed their weight has dropped. Then I cleaned out the coop a couple days ago and noticed voluminous poos. With gloved hands, I inspected the poo and it was mostly sand. I have also noticed that they are not eating as much of their regular food as they previously did. They have granite grit and crushed oyster shell grit available all the time. I am worried because they are still underweight and are now eating sand. Not sure if this is pertinent, but they are also going through a molt; one worse than the other. The one with the really bad molt seems to be losing the most weight. I give them tons of protein during the molt. I really think they are just eating sand instead of food. How do I stop this without having to remove all of the sand from their coop? Another note, I have been working later than usual and they haven't been able to get outside as much as before and I wonder if that is why they have been eating sand. Any clues as to why my Ladies are mental sand-eaters?
     
  2. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    I wonder if a lot of it is boredom if they can't go outside and forage like usual. Chickens naturally like to scratch and peck and inside all they are finding is sand, so that is what they are eating. How big is the coop, can you just cover the sand with something for now? Do you know what the protein level is for the combination of foods you are feeding? Could you do something something like a bale of hay and some scratch to give them something to do besides the sand?
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Would you be up for a little science experiment? Actually it's not experimental at all. Have you heard of fermented feed? It's an easy, terrific way to get your girls to start eating again, absorbing far more of the nutrients in their feed and gain weight, and grow those feathers back in record time.

    All you need to do is get a plastic bucket, fill it half full of the crumbles or pellets you normally feed, and fill with warm water so it's about an inch above the level of the feed. Stir in a glug of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, and it's on its way to fermenting. Stir the mash every day, adding water and enough new crumbles to keep it the consistency of oatmeal. You might wish to add some BOSS and a hand full of scratch grain for texture.

    It should be ready to feed by the start of the third day. For more information and to get any questions answered, look for Beekissed's thread on this forum on fermenting feed.

    I would be very surprised if this doesn't solve your problem.
     
  4. JesNflock

    JesNflock Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here's the link to the FF thread
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/644300/fermenting-feed-for-meat-birds
     
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    In addition to what you are feeding them, offer them some whole corn, black oil sunflower seed, and some sort of greens like spinach. You will be looking at feeding behavior and gross appearance of feces.
     
  6. foreverlearning

    foreverlearning Chillin' With My Peeps

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    A flock block will reduce boredom and give them some of those seeds as well.
     
  7. melinda653

    melinda653 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I actually haven't been giving them as much scratch lately as I was getting home so late and they were already in bed. I have two weeks off work, so they will be getting out more. When I go back, I will be back to my regular schedule and they will get out more.

    I tried to make two different types of fermented feed; one with the apple cider vinegar and one with buttermilk. Both got moldy and nasty. Apparently I am not doing it right. It would be nice if I could get it right because I have heard wonderful things about it. I need to start sprouting sunflower seeds again. I haven't had a chance to do that in a while.

    I have a large back of pine shavings which sits in their nesting box. Would that work to put on the floor?
     
  8. foreverlearning

    foreverlearning Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mold? If you stir it once a day there won't be mold. Are you talking about a white bubbly film on top? If so that means it is fermented and you just stir it in. You will have that film and a slight after smell of vomit for a deep fermentation.

    I only know about acv FF, I have never tried the buttermilk.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Something here is greater than fermentation will fix. What kind of feed and how much per day?
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013
  10. melinda653

    melinda653 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The feed is a whole issue in itself. My fermented feed actually molded; like greenish/blue nasty stuff. It had the film but nasty mold too. I have been battling some nasty diseases since May of this year. I lost one of my chickens to it. They were on heavy meds which made them lose their appetites so I came up with all sorts of stuff to feed them. Currently they get a "mash" I make from layer crumbles mixed with unsalted sunflower seeds, turmeric powder (I read that puts on weight), crushed egg shells, and plain strained greek yogurt. Then I add in corn kernels, cut up hard boiled eggs, dried meal worms, and dried crickets. Then every morning I take some of the "mash" and stir the whole thing together with buttermilk. The reason for the buttermilk is because when they wouldn't eat anything an old farmer at the feed store told me to soak bread in milk and see if that would work. It did. The buttermilk has active cultures in it so I figured it was better then plain milk. I then mixed the aforementioned mash ingredients with the bread, then slowly fazed out the bread entirely. They usually eat this all up, but lately they have switched to sand. I also give them baby bird food powder mixed with water in the evening to help put on weight. I would really like to make a good fermented feed that doesn't turn green and fuzzy.
    After reading the posts, I realize that I haven't given them as much scratch lately and I haven't done the sprouted sunflower seeds in a while. Work was too crazy. But I will be able to do those things now. I also noticed lately that the ladies have been digging holes in the corners of the coop. They didn't used to. I think they do it when they figure it is going out time and nobody has let them out. They are going to dig their way out! I really like having sand in the coop because it makes clean up easy. How do I make those crazy girls stop?
     

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