Mash + Scratch: Titrating you?


12 Years
Sep 30, 2007
Jacksonville, ORegon
I'd like your feedback. I've been reading about the feeding of laying hens. At least 15% protein is desirable to maximize egg production. 16% is common. However, many people like to also feed their hens scratch, which is low in protein, though high in energy. Further, during Winter months, hens require more energy, and so sometimes people like to alter their scratch with higher energy grains (corn, wheat, milo), as compared to lower energy grains (barley, oats). The converse is true during summer months, when lower energy grains are favored. My first question is, do any of you consciously opt for a combo Layer Mash + Scratch feeding regimen, where you have a high protein mash/ration (such as a meat chicken 21% ration) plus scratch?

My second question is this: our local/regional (Southern Oregon) feed mill, produces an organic poultry crumble 17% "all-purpose" feed. Is this suitable as a grower and layer feed? Will it be just as good as a layer feed since it is over 15%? I'm thinking it may be a good overall feed to use with some scratch when my chicks are around 20 weeks old.

Finally...why is laying ration only 16% protein? I'd think you'd want to keep the percentage of protein high while producing eggs??? Anyone know?

I'd appreciate your opinions.

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I only feed scratch in the coldest of winter. When I do feed lots of scratch, I buy the 20% layer supplement. It also helps with their moult.

As for the all purpose crumble, just make sure they have free choice oystershell.
The difference between 15-16% shouldn't make any difference in egg production. It's the calcium content of the "all purpose" I would be most concerned with. Compare it with the calcium in a layer ration and see if they compare or not.

As far as mixing, I only mix during the stage after starter and before layer. During this stage (2nd to 5th or 6th month) you don't want the birds to get too large, so a "pullet developer" is ideal. However, I've only ever found a developer ration once and most stores don't stock it (because they don't know what it is).
I don't know if this the right thing to do, but I mix in two scoops full of 3 grain stratch with there mash all year long and somtimes grower pellets. During the winter I give them some bonus stratch.
Mine get their layer feed and my own mix of scratch. During the winter that is 1/2 and 1/2 cracked corn and Black oil sunflower seeds. After this mix is gone I will probably change out the cracked corn for oats or barley. They get their layer free choice and their scratch is feed 1 cup morning and night for 13.
Starting with the 3rd question
: Protein is just about the most expensive part of a feed. Excess protein is unnecessary, expensive, and may even be taxing to the bird's kidneys. It is a good thing if the hen's ration provides the necessary nutrients for the bird's maintenance and egg production without much excess of anything.

The 2nd question is, as Greyfields says, more a matter of nutrients other than protein - most importantly, the calcium laying hens require for their egg shells. The Manitoba agriculture agency gives advice on feeding whole grain + 25% to 40% protein supplement + a calcium source in a 3-choice feed regimen. You should know that the supplement is specially formulated to compensate not only for the whole grain protein deficiencies but for vitamin deficiencies, as well. Nevertheless, Sillkiechicken's technique of increasing the protein level of her hens feed when providing scratch for a short time each year probably provides much of what is needed especially if vitamins are coming from some other source - like all those healthful garden vegetables you've saved in your freezer or some avian vitamin supplements.

Finally, have I tried mixing high protein feed plus scratch? Not really. I got in so much trouble many years ago using too much wheat that I avoid scratch for the hens altogether. They get left-overs from the kitchen but I really try to give them healthful servings with plenty of meat and vegetables. During the Summer they get some garden veggies but I try not to over-do that either since something vitamin-packed like leafy greens would provide neither enough protein nor enough calories for a hen.


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