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Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by jsparkman4461, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. jsparkman4461

    jsparkman4461 New Egg

    Mar 5, 2016
    Chesterfield Virginia
    Hello byc members. I am new to the forum and new to raising hens. I have laying hens and I am currently feeding them Laying a crumbles. Some of my friends are telling me that I should not feed them this regularly because it will make them over produce eggs and lose production after about a year. Is this true? Everything I read online Hen nutritional needs suggest that Lina is the perfect food for them. I also give them table scraps and greens corn and some green occasionally along with mealworms for snacks. I want egg production but I do not want to shorten the overall ability of my hands to lay eggs, and that's what my friends are saying the lady and I will do. Thoughts?
  2. Tabasco Jack

    Tabasco Jack Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 20, 2013
    Draketown, GA
    Long story short - your friends are misinformed.

    Short story long - As long as the dietary needs of a hen are being met, that hen will lay eggs daily or almost daily with no ill effect. They don't reach maturity until about 6 months old, give or take a little based on breed. For layers, they are productive for about 2 years. Their productivity will decrease, but the ability to lay eggs will continue for years. The productivity will decrease no matter what you feed them. It's just their age.

    Chickens can subsist on forage only, but they will not lay many eggs and they will be very lean. You can feed only scratch grains or you can feed an all-flock mix. But if you want healthy birds that lay wonderful eggs, then stick with the Layer feed.
    1 person likes this.
  3. RattleCan

    RattleCan Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 25, 2014
    Maryland, USA
    I fully agree with Tabasco Jack. Layer pellets and crumbles contain all of the nutrition a laying hen needs in order to stay healthy, although other items like treats and regular access to oyster shell and grit are needed to maintain good health as well. A hen is only truly productive for 2ish years depending on the breed, and the type of food you offer won't change that productivity, it will just help them to take full advantage of it. After those first couple of years, their productivity will start to decrease and little can be done about this as they continue to age. That said, they can still lay eggs for years (I've heard some people claim that their hens have laid decently into 6-7 years of age), they just won't lay an egg a day everyday like they used to.

    There is a way, I believe, to "wear out" your chicken sooner though, but it's not because of food. Chickens naturally stop laying late fall into winter and don't usually start laying again until weather starts to warm up. This is usually also the time of year that they molt their feathers, and the protein and calcium that they were using to form eggs is now being used to grow new feathers as they drop the old ones. The main thing that causes them to enter this phase at this time of the year is the shortening of the days-- less daylight causes them to stop laying and start molting, while more daylight causes them to go back to laying. Some people will try to skip this natural process by introducing light bulbs on timers into the coops and runs so that the chickens can't recognize the shortening of the days, so they continue to lay straight through the winter. This puts extra stress on their bodies as they never truly get a chance to recover from both the stresses of egg laying and molting. I believe this sort of forcing them to lay nonstop throughout the year can shorten their overall livelong productivity, and possible make them stop laying at a younger age than a chicken that is allowed to take a break.

    But really, food shouldn't have anything to do with their egg laying aside from providing them with nutrition. They'll use the calcium and protein to make eggs most of the year, than they'll use it in the winter to help them through the molting process.
  4. RonP

    RonP Chillin' With My Peeps

    Could you share your source of information.

    My sources and studies say this is simply not true.

  5. RattleCan

    RattleCan Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 25, 2014
    Maryland, USA
    I don't have sources, nor do I claim to know all. I merely stated something I believe to be a possibility, the OP can do with that as they want. As for the sources you linked, I did read through all of them and I appreciate you linking them. I am not an advanced chicken keeper myself so I do not have a lot of experience on the specific topic, so I love the opportunity to learn and be proven wrong. I actually really enjoy it. I do however, like to think my understanding of biology has some value. If nature does something, it's typically for a reason. There are almost always workarounds, but that doesn't always mean they're flawless.

    For your sources, only the first one from The Chicken Chick even addresses long term affects of unnatural lighting on hens. I enjoy Dr. Petrik's information on that page, it does have a lot of substance to it and the blind chicken experiment sounds totally neat, aside from creating genetically blind chickens of course. But aside from that, there's still not much substantial proof whether it does or does not effect lifespan or egg laying, just a claim that there is not enough evidence to suggest it does. He does, however, address what was kind of my overall point-- it is vital to at some time (he says every 12-18 months) give the chicken a chance to stop laying and molt as it is physically beneficial to her health. And for the lifetime supply of eggs in the ovaries comment, that doesn't really prove anything either. I'm under the impression most female animals, if not all, are born with all of the eggs they will ever have in their life, humans included. That doesn't mean they'll use them all-- he even says the hen will stop laying of old age before using them all. The question is whether or not old age comes sooner to a bird that has essentially put more effort into producing more eggs, or nearly nonstop eggs, during her lifetime. I'm not trying to deny his claims, I'm just saying there isn't much proof in that article that things are one way or another, just someone's word. Peer reviewed studies on this topic would be awesome to see.

    As for the other two sources, neither really seems to address long term affects of unnatural lighting on hens, at least, not that I could find and I read them pretty thoroughly. They mostly describe how to use the best lights, the best methods, and the best timings to maximize the number of eggs you get out of your chicken. The second source does address the benefits of a slow introduction into egg laying for young pullets as it helps physiological development of the bird and can possibly make them less prone to prolapse, but that's the only connection to health that I found in either of them. So while full of great information if you do want to get more eggs out of your birds (actually the Lewis et al. study mentioned in the UCONN source is totally interesting-- exposing pullets to an increase in light between the ages of 9-12 weeks will have more of an effect on their overall sensitivity to photoperiod changes than if they were only exposed after 18 weeks), they really don't do much to prove my above point one way or the other.

    EDIT-- And just to reaffirm this for the OP, because I did not intend for this thread to discuss lighting, feed still won't affect laying, it will just make it easier on the hens when they do lay.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
  6. RonP

    RonP Chillin' With My Peeps

    I mostly agree.

    As far as nature..., domesticated chickens are far from being anything nature created on its own.

    Man has bred them for specific purposes.

    I do use artificial lighting base on my research, was only wondering if I missed something. [​IMG]
  7. RattleCan

    RattleCan Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 25, 2014
    Maryland, USA
    Oh, I'm very much aware they're far from they're natural ancestors. They really are fascinating, especially once you start getting into the genetics that cause all the different colors and combs and other traits. I believe we're all a little too in love with our birds, and that's why we're here!

    I have absolutely no issues whatsoever with the idea of artificial lighting, as like I said, I really don't have any substantial proof one way or the other. It certainly is the best method to get the most eggs out a bird, and I believe the fresh eggs are what most backyard chicken keepers are in this for. I was simply offering a new topic of research to the OP, to each their own [​IMG]
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
  8. Cindy in PA

    Cindy in PA Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 8, 2008
    Fleetwood, PA
    I've used lighting for 23 years & my hens have never failed to molt and take a rest in spite of this.

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