How terrible is it if my chicks eat some of the hens' layer rations?

Heathercp

Songster
12 Years
Jul 23, 2008
109
4
144
Chapel Hill, NC
I see from other posts that layer rations have too much calcium for chicks. It's supposedly not good for their bone growth, and there may be other reasons I didn't read about yet.

My problem is that I've got a mixed flock of hens and four chicks that I think are about 6 weeks old. I've got starter/grower for the babies, but I'm having trouble getting the older ones to use their feeder when it's not on the ground. Now the babies are also eating the layer rations. Everybody is free ranging together for most of the day, and I'm hopeful that once the ladies get the hang of their new feeder I'll be able to hang it back up again.

Is it going to really hurt the chicks to eat some layer rations?
 

Kittymomma

Songster
10 Years
Sep 9, 2009
3,873
31
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Olympia, WA
You don't want them doing it all the time, but once in awhile is no big deal. I switched my whole flock over to 22% gamebird for that very reason. I free range too and it's just too much hassle trying to keep all the feed seperate and everybody out of each others feed. The 22% gamebird has enough protien for the youngsters, doesn't hurt the older birds (good for feathering etc. anyhow) and I just put oyster shell out free choice for the hens so they can meet their calcium needs. The youngsters never do more the peck half heartedly at the oyster shell (curisoity mostly) so it doesn't hurt them to keep it out and available.
 
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ranchhand

Rest in Peace 1956-2011
11 Years
Aug 25, 2008
13,295
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Probably better to let them all eat the starter grower and make sure the hens have access to oyster shell for calcium.
 

digitS'

Crowing
13 Years
Dec 12, 2007
2,120
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286
ID/WA border
Eating some of the hens' layer rations probably isn't very dangerous for the chicks but this question comes up again and again on BYC.

Here's what DeKalb veterinarians say about specific incidents when chicks have been put on layer rations too early: ""Mortality was double that of normal for the entire life of the flock." ". . . urolithiasis mortality occurs immediately and can be very high, up to 1% per week."

Notice that they did not say that all of the birds died immediately, or something like that.

Laying hens producing an egg each day have an enormous need for calcium. Their feed is formulated to meet that need.

An immature chick, has no need for all that calcium and if they are eating enough to make an eggshell each and every day -- their urinary system must excrete that calcium. If they cannot rid their bodies of that excess calcium, deposits build up internally. That's bad news.

Steve
 

RM44

Songster
10 Years
Jul 15, 2009
401
7
123
Woodstock, Georgia
I doubt you've done much harm at this point, but stop giving the babies calcium enriched food immediately. It's not worth the risk. I had one almost 3 months old by the time she died from eating layer rations. She was eating layer food, along with my older group for about 2-3 weeks in total. I didn't know any better and thought it would be okay. I didn't realize it when she chirped all night that she was sick. Her legs and feet became swollen from the uric acid buildup as her kidneys shut down and she died of visceral gout.
 

Heathercp

Songster
12 Years
Jul 23, 2008
109
4
144
Chapel Hill, NC
Yikes! Guess I'll go change out the feeder right now. I sure don't want to lose the chicks.

UPDATE: I replaced the layer rations with grower/starter and I'll make sure my oyster shell dish is never empty. Is there anything else I should do to ensure the health of the older birds? As I mentioned before, they do free range most of the day and they're eating lots and lots of bugs and worms. I've also given them other foods: a chicken carcass one day, carrot tops and radish leaves another, leftover oatmeal, fish and banana. The older ones didn't seem to be eating any of the layer rations at all. That's why I took the feeder down and put it on the ground. They ate from it then, but just for little bit and then the went off to find their own food. It seems like they're either sleeping or they're out foraging.
 
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