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Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by CoopDeViIIe, Feb 15, 2013.
Is there any difference or benefit over the other?
By keeping the calcium separate with a grower/flock raiser/starter/game bird feed the birds get to regulate their own calcium needs. If they do not need as much they can eat less, and more they eat more. A layer feed has the calcium mixed in and is about right for a bird that is laying all the time but if a bird is not laying because they are molting, broody, low light/weather, young, a breed that doesn't lay as often or a rooster, or whatever it happens to be then they are getting much more calcium than they need and do not have the option to eat less. Over time too much calcium can have negative health effects.
Depends on what birds you're feeding. The primary differences are protein % and calcium %.
Chicks need higher protein (18% minimum) for growing bodies and very little calcium (no more than 1%)
Layers are fully grown so need less protein (usually 16 or 17%) but need to replace calcium so the feed should be around 4 %.
The exception for layers is recovering from molting they can use more protein. Excess protein needs to be processed by the liver.
Mixed flocks i.e. chicks and layers should get grower with oyster shell on the side.
I'm mainly wondering about feeding them chick grower for the life of the bird. Is there any benefit to switching to layer feed over grower with shells? I understand the difference in protein, but I really don't see a problem with 20% protein. I'm just curious if there is an underlying reason they need to be on layer feed other than the protein, ie if the layer feed has nutrients the grower doesn't.
Yes, too much protein is undue stress on the liver over the life of the bird.
Laying hens need layer feed as mentioned due to high calcium. If you supply it via free choice oyster shells then they don't need layer feed. I use it simply because it's easy and is offered in pellet form which results in less waste. Though each year we grow out more chicks so come late spring/summer when the layer feed is empty the layers go back to grower crumbles with oyster on the side as it's just easier to have one feed for all. Late fall and they are all on layer feed again here.
I personally never use a layer feed. I generally use an 18% or 20% grower with oyster shell on the side. I have seen a number of people on the forums that do the same and feed anywhere from 18-24% protein.
Too much of anything can be bad and a balance is important. Also consider any other snacks you are giving them as part of their overall balance of nutrition but based on the reading I have done there is nothing wrong with a 20% protein and some prefer that. I would be more concerned about too much calcium depending on your flock.
If you look at the analysis on the tag the only significant difference is the calcium. There are minor differences in a few of the other things but I don’t see them as significant. If you look at the analysis for different major brands of Layer, you’ll probably find even more differences. And some mills or even individual chicken owners make their own feed which can be even more different and the chickens do fine.
If you feed them treats, especially green treats, or let them forage, you’ve lost it is as far as micromanaging their feed anyway. Those minor differences in the feed really become insignificant.
Like many others, when I have growing chicks in the flock, which for me is most of the time, I feed Grower with oyster shell on the side. Even when I feed Layer, I offer oyster shell on the side. They just don’t eat it if they are eating Layer.
I think a whole lot of people worry way too much about feeding chickens. For backyard chicken owners, it’s not an exact science. Chickens can do well on a pretty wide range of food.
With commercial operations it is an exact science. They are extremely careful to make feeding as precise as they can so they can manage profit margins. But they don’t feed treats and I don’t know of any of them that feed 20% protein.