I feel like my flock isn't as healthy as they should be.. what am I doing wrong?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by FuzzyButtz, Nov 4, 2014.

  1. FuzzyButtz

    FuzzyButtz Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi all,

    I'm about 1.5 yrs into chicken keeping and I feel like my flock isn't as healthy as they should be.. is there something I missed or something i'm not implementing well enough into my routine? Here's some background info..

    • I have 13 birds, 2 are young roosters which i'm going to prep for butchering in the spring, which leaves me with 2 roosters in my flock for breeding and protection
    • I have Orpingtons, Jersey Giants, Easter Eggers and 1 White Leghorn (She's like the wanna-be matriach of the flock)
    • I de worm 2x per year with Piperzine, and de-louse at the same time as well as check for mites and treat if necessary
    • I free feed Layer Ration (Nature Wise Premium Layer Pellets)
    • There is always water, grit and baked egg shells available at all times
    • They get tonnes of scraps -- seriously, my Mother In Law spoils them rotten with vegi/fruit scraps
    • They have plenty of coop and run space, and free range 3-4x per week
    • They have light (mixture of artificial and natural) 18 hrs per day
    • They have a red heat lamp on 24/7 in the coop
    • Everyone gets along -- seriously, aside from 2 of the younger roosters occasionally sparring, no one picks on each other, even with 4 roosters among 9 pullets/hens
    • None have any physical problems as far as I can see - eyes and noses look good, feather condition looks good, etc

    So.. my concerns are this:

    • Out of 8 hens who are of 'laying age', I get 2-3 eggs per day (keep in mind, one is currently broody)
    • Most have really wet, runny and occasionally frothy poops
    • None are in 'excellent' weight for the amount of food they go through

    I am new to birds and I have never vaccinated, etc... Is that what i'm missing? I basically just have them for eggs and raise/sell a few chicks in the spring.

    I do have a smaller coop without heat/light that I was thinking of moving the young roosters to fatten them up (it acts as my quarentine pen when I bring home new birds, but it's currently empty), so this will give the hens and 2 roosters a little more room if they are feeling pressured
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
  2. iwiw60

    iwiw60 Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 27, 2014
    Central Oregon
    Quote: Having 4 roosters for only 7 hens (if I've done the math correctly) is WAY too many roos. You should have 1 rooster per 10 hens...I fear your girls may be getting "overworked"...which could attribute to the problem you're experiencing.
    Quote: Some hens don't care for pellets. Me personally, I feed Purina Layena Crumbles...my girls gobble it up. In addition to the grit you should offer a separate container of Oyster Shell ..
    Quote: There's most likely your problem and contributes to the real loose poop...they are getting tons of scraps. By eating lots of what should be considered a "daily treat" they are making those scraps the main part of their diet...not good. You should limit 'treats' somewhat. For 7 hens I would give them 3 ears of corn on the cob to peck at; maybe 2 cups worth of scratch grains, etc. Not all at once! This will turn their attention to what you really want them to consume and that's a high-protein laying feed.
    Quote: You need to remember that this is the time of year when it is natural for hens to slow down on egg production...shorter days, much colder temperatures, etc. I think if you correct their eating pattern you will see a slight increase in egg production. I'm not an advocate of using light to trick hens...this is the time of year they need a deserved rest so they'll be ready to rock-n-roll in the spring! [​IMG]

    I would say a definite YES to moving those roosters to their own area so your hens aren't driven into the ground with mating. I hope some of what I said makes sense, and I wish you all the best! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
    3 people like this.
  3. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

    Jan 27, 2007
    iwiw60 pretty much covered all the bases. After removing roos, you might consider addition of poultry vitamins to water for a week and augment diet with live/dried meal worms & some well crushed hard boiled eggs (then phase out over a week).

    Is the source of their water "softened" (can sometimes be a problem)?
    1 person likes this.
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Turn off the heat lamp. They don't need it.

    What breeds and ages are your hens? If you're 1.5 years into keeping birds, I'm guessing you've got birds that are 1.5 years old. That's when hens molt and usually quit laying for the winter, their body needs the break. Some folks use supplemental lighting to keep them laying throughout the winter.

    As for breeds, some breeds just aren't production birds. If you have ornamental or giant breeds, they just don't lay as well as production birds.

    I'd say remove the young roosters. Cut out the scraps for a week or so. Changing to crumbles is up to you. I would look into feeding a higher protein feed for a sack or two, especially if anyone is molting. Layer feed is the lowest percentge of protein among the feeds. Try grower, or an all-in-one, something with 18-20% protein and see if you like the looks of them better.

    Keep in mind condition also depends on breed. Production birds only weigh around 5-6lbs. I'd weigh them before deciding the're too thin.
  5. whittychick

    whittychick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 28, 2013
    Cape cod
    X2!! They could be molting and look down in weight. Mine all look creepy right now because of it! Too many Roos...and no hearing lamp! It's not nesasary! They are hearty birds and its still relativey warm. Just my opinion anyways! Good luck :)
  6. whittychick

    whittychick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 28, 2013
    Cape cod
    Yes yes and yesssss! This advice nailed it!
    1 person likes this.
  7. FuzzyButtz

    FuzzyButtz Chillin' With My Peeps

    Keep in mind where I live it's already around -10C (sorry, not sure what that is in Farenheit).

    As for the roosters - yes that's a very plausible reason, however 3 haven't really 'discovered' that they are roosters yet, one I just realized yesterday WAS a Rooster! 2 of them are around 4 months old. One is just starting to get a little aggressive with the hens, hence the move.

    As for average hen age, I did not start with chicks, and my birds are ranging from roughly 4 Months - 2.5 Yrs. Next time I go buy feed, I will see what my store has to offer. For the roosters who I wish to fatten up, would switching them to something like a Broiler food be a better choice?
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    The one more cockerel just maturing will make the other(s) more aggressive, it's about competition.
    Good that you have a separate enclosure and can remove all but the keeper roo from the hens/pullets.

    Ditto on the too many veggie treats, not enough protein and no need for heat.....check that your ventilation is adequate.
    I like to feed an 'all flock' 20% protein crumble to all ages and genders. Makes life much simpler to store and distribute one type of chow that everyone can eat and have calcium available at all times for the layers, oyster shell mixed with rinsed, dried, crushed chicken egg shells in a separate container.
    The higher protein crumble offsets the 8% protein scratch grains and other kitchen/garden scraps I like to offer.
  9. CrazyTalk

    CrazyTalk Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 10, 2014
    If you're going to feed lots of scraps, then typical commercial layer food isn't appropriate - it typically has 14-16% protein, which is about bare minimum when used exclusively, and not nearly enough when lots of vegetable scraps are introduced. I feed layer and cut in a bit of soy meal to get the protein up to 20% or so (my birds do a lot of ranging, and eat a lot of plant material)
  10. pdirt

    pdirt Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 11, 2013
    Eastern WA
    It got down to about -23 or -25C last winter where we live. Our coop is well ventilated, not insulated and we offer no heat. The birds huddled together to conserve heat and we only had very minor frost bite issues on a couple combs. This winter, I may experiment with massaging some combs when they go to roost for the night. One lady here on BYC in Alaska I read does have heaters installed in her coop that the thermostat is set for -29C. And yet I have heard from many others who have had flocks that sustained much much colder temps than that and did fine. Assuming you have cold hardy birds.

    But yes, the main thing is sounds like is the amount of treats/scraps you're offering is diluting the protein intake they get from their layer feed. Unless of course your treats are high protein like ground beef or mealworms.

    I'm a big fan of probiotics. Much of the immune system is in the intestinal tract and having a healthy microbial flora there is a good thing. Feeding fermented feed did firm up our birds' droppings, a common benefit. FF is the cheapest way to add probiotics to your birds' diet. You can also purchase probiotics to sprinkle on their food or put in their water. Some higher end feeds include probiotics already mixed in.

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