Little confused about feed

farmkat55

Chirping
May 1, 2016
92
15
91
South Dakota
I have 4 hens and 1 rooster. (Lost two hens from illness last year and 1 rooster is in the freezer due to his aggressiveness.) My remaining 5 were 2 yrs old in April. They are my first chickens. We got them as days old chicks and when they started laying, they started getting layer feed. I thought I came here and asked what to do since Mr Cogburn lives with his girls 24/7 and wasn't sure about the right food for them. Thought it was determined that I could use the layer and they also have a container of oyster shell plus another one with grit in the coop. I know my hens eat the OS readily and I've never seen Cogburn eat the oyster shell OR the grit. Their shells are strong, only got a soft shell egg once. Cogburn seems healthy all this time...have I been doing this wrong with the layer feed? Not sure how to feed them separate....they are very bonded. They free range in the yard every day and get fruit and veggie treats.
 

TooCheep

Crowing
Feb 23, 2019
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Your instincts are correct. Since you have a mixed flock, you are better off with a flock feed which doesn't have the extra calcium. Cogburn shouldn't have the extra calcium for producing egg shells and will be much more prone to developing problems such as gout on that feed. If you know anything about gout, you'll know that isn't a condition you'd wish on anyone you care about.

I'd recommend switching your feed and continue offering calcium/grit on the side and everyone will do fine.
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
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Your instincts are correct. Since you have a mixed flock, you are better off with a flock feed which doesn't have the extra calcium. Cogburn shouldn't have the extra calcium for producing egg shells and will be much more prone to developing problems such as gout on that feed. If you know anything about gout, you'll know that isn't a condition you'd wish on anyone you care about.

I'd recommend switching your feed and continue offering calcium/grit on the side and everyone will do fine.
I would switch to All Flock or Flock Raiser and keep the OS and grit.
The excess calcium WILL eventually cause kidney damage.
 

EggSighted4Life

Crossing the Road
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Apr 9, 2016
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Cogburn seems healthy all this time...have I been doing this wrong with the layer feed?
Hi there. :frow

I agree with the posters who say "flock raiser", "grower", or "all flock" type feed is the best over all choice... for many reasons.

Number one being that "layer" has the minimal amount of protein to keep a light bodied hen in laying condition (usually 16%). Noting it isn't just the protein but the amino acids they contain. Feeding a higher protein feed gives more wiggle room for folks who feed out low nutrient treats like scratch or corn.

While I agree with Shamo Hybrid that the problem is fear mongered and exaggerated by many... and a lot of chicken folks are major over thinkers :oops: :he it is important you make your own choice. Many roosters will live out their days long and happy without gout or *possible* kidney failure even though they eat NOTHING but layer, not even free range. I saw an 8 year old roo on here with exactly that lifestyle. It is genetics that are the main cause of the issue often coupled with mismanagement (excess treats) and those who are genetically predisposed somehow may be more likely to face these terrible conditions.

For me... aside from having roosters... I have hens that molt or go broody and sometimes juveniles (none need the added calcium of layer). Since switching to "flock raiser", several years ago (OS on the side, grit is naturally from the ground)... I have noticed my birds go into less hard molts and recover more quickly because their bodies are equipped with more nutrients... feathers are made from 90% protein and it's amino acids.

The thing is... I have invested major time, energy, and funds into my flock to get where I am... I refuse to feed my boys the excess calcium as the loss (if it happened) would outweigh ANY savings from feeding more affordable *seeming* layer. BUT protein is pricey, OS is cheap... really you get what you pay for IMO.

Yes, gout can be caused by excess protein as well... again, a healthy kidney will be fine and a recent study I saw showed for protein to be the cause gout would take about 70% protein in chickens.

There is no need to feed Cogburn separate from the ladies... either determine that you are fine with layer and know there is a POSSIBILITY of side effects. Or switch to flock raiser, grower, even starter with OS on the side IF you feel more comfortable... knowing that ALL are going to die sooner or later regardless of what we do. I don't drink plain water EVER for more than 5 years now. Some folks ONLY drink water.. we will all meet our fate. My cousin who NEVER smoked or got exposed to second hand smoke got lung cancer in his 30's... they joys of living in an agriculture area when younger... my family has seen stomach, liver, pancrea, lung, breast, and prostate cancer... just to name a few. :duc So I AM sure that environmental factors do play a role in longevity... but also relative to genetics. :(

Seeing that your tag line says you have BO... them are heavy bodied, heavy feathered, dual purpose birds... and will do BEST on not less than 18% protein. They (as a breed) are prone to fatty liver hemorrhagic disease and excess treats like corn and scratch are high energy but low nutrient and even meal worms are very high in fat. Use any of those things VERY sparingly at not more than 10% of their total daily intake... and a personal treat not mixed in with feed but associated with you. ;)

Calories come from ONLY 3 sources... fat, protein, and carbs which includes fiber... I choose to get my energy from more protein over more carbs or fat in my feed as I feel like it gives me the best nutrient profile bang for my buck. Carbs and protein contain the same amount of over all energy... the lower the protein in your feed, very likely the higher the carbs. See, over thinking EVERY thing! :rolleyes:

Sometimes I even use 28-30% protein game bird or turkey starter for my whole flock... Especially if I have a bunch of little's or molting birds.

The easiest, most affordable, readily available, with recent mill date feed for me year round is the Purina flock raiser... and I can recommend it.

What is the difference between the AF and the FR?
All flock (AF), flock raiser (FR), starter, grower... different companies call their formulations whatever they want to. Looking at labels for key nutrients (protein and calcium) and selecting the one with the ingredients list you like is key. NEVER trust the word they call it... I can't believe one brand (Manna Pro) makes a "starter" (even an organic one) with ONLY 18% protein. :mad: Is 2-4% that big of difference??? I say yes, at crucial times it really is. :confused:

Here is a link to common abbreviations used on BYC...
https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/byc-index-of-abbreviations-acronyms.63285/

I can see it doesn't include either AF or FR though. Maybe someone will contact the article writer and ask them to be included. :pop

Please note that often feeds that are meant as an all flock includes other species that often have higher nutrient (not the same as energy) requirements than chickens... like ducks, turkey, and such... ie amino acids and sometimes things that aren't listed (as they aren't required by law to be printed) on the guaranteed analysis tag such as niacin. But making sure to not use for species before the listed age, as it doesn't meet their need before that.

Sorry so long and ultimately saying do what makes YOU comfortable. But hopefully there is enough information here (and in other posts) to help you make a truly informed decision. Don't beat yourself up if you do decide to switch. You can't change the past. We all do our best until we find something better. Then we switch it up. Chicken keeping has been an ever growing and learning process. And even 10 years + in I still make discoveries, learn new things, and change my mind or perspective! Heck for that matter my flock has been ever changing thus far. :wee
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
Premium Feather Member
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Nov 18, 2007
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Some people say layer feed is bad for roosters..... even as far as to say it kills them! I disagree though, I just think chicken people over-exaggerate and worry too much a lot of the times.
I agree. I feed my males the same as the females. I only change feed for breeding season and when the birds are molting then I give them some higher protein feed since their feathers are mostly protein like fingernails otherwise they all eat the layer feed. I have had no problems.
 

farmkat55

Chirping
May 1, 2016
92
15
91
South Dakota
Thanks so much for all the information!! Just to double-check...I need a food that is higher than 18% protein, right? Again, how high is too high or is there such a thing? It's time to get more feed anyway, so I think I will switch! I knew they needed more protein while molting so I have a different feed...maybe it's for the babies, can't recall right now. I had been very guilty of giving too many mealworms as I thought it was a good source of protein, even though I think I heard it was too fatty. So, they mostly eat their own feed now with some fruit and veggies along with free-ranging. I just know bugs are good for them! LOL! But...I sure hate to think that my other two hens might have died due to me not feeding them right :(
I've had animals all my life and worked in a vet's office so I know the value in feeding right and thought I'd researched enough. Guess I have been lucky with Cogburn and also always having good eggs from the girls. So glad I posted this question, Cogburn is special to me as he is the sweetest, gentleman rooster ever. He puts his girls first and will not even eat from my hand if any of them want to eat first. He waits there till they are all scratching around. Again, thank so much for the help everyone!
 

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