How much harm did I cause by feeding layer pellets to my young pullets?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by adeleroy8, Dec 23, 2014.

  1. adeleroy8

    adeleroy8 Chirping

    Mar 17, 2014
    Waxhaw, NC
    I was told by the farmer where I got my chickens that I could feed them all layer pellets. I did not realize until reading the post on the subject that I may have harmed my girls. What signs would I look for? Most of them are laying now but I fed the layer pellets starting at 2 months old...or so that was what age I was told they were. They also free range. How much harm did I cause?
  2. Robbot

    Robbot In the Brooder

    Dec 1, 2014
  3. rainbowrooster

    rainbowrooster Songster

    Nov 26, 2011
    No harm. Not the recommended way to do it but if they are doing what chickens do you are OK. If the extra calcium would truly harm them then think about what would happen to all of the roosters that eat layer feed too.
  4. The free range may have helped in that they did not derive their entire intake from the pellets. As for damage, it would be internal and you'll never know, short of close inspection of their insides.

    The over dose of calcium in layer feed is potentially harmful to any non-laying bird, including males. Layer is only recommended for actively laying birds, in most cases, that would be printed right on the package. "For Laying Birds".

    The results of excess calcium is gout and renal tract, including kidney build up and damage. The 5% calcium in Layer formulas can be expelled by a laying female in the form of an egg shell. A non laying bird, either a juvenile or males of any age, has no capacity to expel that high level of calcium.

    In short, you'll never know what, if any, damage may have been done to your pullets. You live, you learn, you move on.
    2 people like this.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    It’s not how much calcium is in one bite, it’s how much total calcium they eat all day, plus how many days in a row they eat it. Like Fred said, if they were free ranging and foraging for some of their own food, it may not have been that bad.

    It affects different chickens differently too. Some can handle it better than others.
  6. pdirt

    pdirt Songster

    May 11, 2013
    Eastern WA
    So sorry to hear the farmer gave you some bum advice.

    x2 what Fred's Hens and Ridgerunner said. You won't know if or how much damage was done (if any) without a necropsy, so if one of your hens dies in the next 12 months, you might look into that. I wouldn't worry about it much now, since there is nothing you can do to undo what is done.

    Assuming that some damage has been done, one possibility is to select a layer feed on the low end of calcium. I've seen layer feeds as low as 3% and some as high as 5% in terms of calcium content. Should your hens not need all 5% of the calcium, they won't have any choice in the matter, since it is already mixed into the feed. And if they need more than 3% (if you can find that kind of layer feed), you can supplement with crushed oyster shell on the side. Perhaps in hens without compromised kidneys the potentially extra 2% calcium won't affect them much, but it might make a difference for your birds. Note that I am not a chicken nutritionist, just a regular chicken guy and perhaps someone will correct me here if I am off-track.

    Or if you ever intend to have a mixed-ages flock or a rooster, you could solve all the issues by never feeding a layer feed. Feed a grower, starter or "all-flock" feed and provide crushed oyster shells on the side. Laying hens will eat the shells if they need them and those birds not laying will leave them mostly alone.
    2 people like this.
  7. adeleroy8

    adeleroy8 Chirping

    Mar 17, 2014
    Waxhaw, NC
    Thank you for all the advice. Will move to a "MIXFlock" feed and add the egg shell and oyster shell. I hate that I relied on the advise of someone who should have known better since they had been raising chickens for years....but that was my bad. Will know better for future birds. I'm hoping that their free range diet offset some of the possible damage. Merry Christmas.
    2 people like this.
  8. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Just to chime in with my experience doing the wrong thing with feeding layer feed too early.

    It appears to have done no harm when I fed my six-week old Brahma pullets layer feed back when I was beginning my flock with two adult adopted hens and continued to feed it until they began to lay, and afterward. The pullets grew up and led normal lives, laying eggs as they should and being beautiful and sweet, as Brahmas are. One is still alive and was laying up until last summer, but is otherwise happy and healthy at seven years.

    So put it out of your mind. You didn't hurt your pullets, and there shouldn't be any ill effects from the layer feed.

    This is one of the reasons why I dispensed with layer feed all together a few years back and now feed flock raiser with oyster shell on the side. It's just much easier when you have many different ages and stages of chickens. Besides, they prefer the taste of flock raiser over layer feed, hands down. Layer feed is over-rated, in my opinion.
  9. DaveOmak

    DaveOmak Songster

    May 18, 2013
    Omak, Washington
    My Coop
    I think the word "may" be fed.... notes a small amount of concern and sort of a disclaimer.... on pic to enlarge....
  10. CrazyTalk

    CrazyTalk Songster

    Jun 10, 2014
    What type of birds are they, and what are your goals? (pets, meat, 2 years of eggs and then soup, etc?)

    High calcium intake on developing birds is really rough on the kidneys - feeding layer ration to 12 week old pullets/cockerels does way more damage than feeding layer ration to roosters. Layer rations are also very low in protein, and developing birds can really use protein, so you may have stunted them a bit, which isn't a big deal if you're not eating them.

    Like I said, depends on your goals - if they're leghorns and you intended to let em lay for 2 years and then replace, you probably won't notice much. If they're birds you intend to keep for their whole natural lives, they'll probably be a bit shorter.

    EDIT: Any layer ration that has 5% calcium is junk - that's way too much for ANY bird.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2015
    1 person likes this.

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