More Newbie questions about feeding layers

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by SweetTea, Sep 7, 2010.

  1. SweetTea

    SweetTea New Egg

    Sep 7, 2010
    I've been lurking about the forum for a while but can't quite figure out answers to my questions. So, I thought I'd just ask.

    I've 5 hens. They are a "mixed bag" so I'm not positive what breeds they are. They are coming up on 20 weeks of ages. They free-range in the back yard, and have a fenced off area which houses a coop and laying boxes. The backyard is pretty large (sorry I don't know the exact dimensions), there are some trees, some open grassy area, some bushes, pretty typical -- no poisonous ornamentals!

    My goal with these hens are for them to be happy and healthy first, and egg layers second. In other words, I don't require heaps of eggs, what they give is enough.

    My questions are:

    I've been told by the co-op fella that my hens won't start laying eggs until around 36 weeks of age, but from reading around here, I get the impression that my hens may be about ready to lay!

    (1) What is the average age when chickens begin laying?

    At them moment, I have them on some feed (the chick feed actualy b/c the co-op fella said it was okay to keep them on that till the 50-lb bag is gone) and I supplement their diet with fresh veggies & fruits and the occasional well-loved wax-worm treat. I've read all sorts of different opinions in regards to hen diet.

    (2) Must you feed hens layer pellets?

    This isn't related to food or watering, but...

    I've not had any trouble with them getting over the fence, but they are roosting in the lower limbs of the tree that hangs over their pen rather than their nice coop (cheeky hens). It hasn't been a problem.

    (3) Is it recommended to clip their wings?

    (4) Will they lay throughout autumn and winter without extra light?

    Thanks in advance for the help! Cheers
  2. carrlr

    carrlr Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 31, 2010
    Southern Illinois
    1. Most will start laying between 20-25 weeks. With some a little earlier/later. If the chick feed is medicated, you should not eat eggs they lay while eating that feed. I recommend at least two weeks off that feed before consuming their eggs.

    2. You don't have to feed them layer pellets or feed, but it does help to insure there getting proper nutrition and strong eggs. I know folks who just free range.

    3. If you clip their wings you only have to do one wing. I've used it to keep them inside a five foot, not covered, run.

    4. Depends on the breed, some will lay duing cold months, and some will not. Maybe you can post pictures of your 5 hens and someone on here will help you with their breeds.
  3. swimmer

    swimmer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 17, 2010
    As for the wings, clip one side if needed. So, if you think they might fly over a fence into the neighbors yard or into the street, then I would clip one wing.
    As for the extra light. I haven't yet put a light in the hen house, and need to soon. Mine aren't laying yet either, but set a timer for a light to come on a few hours before dawn. Everyone has different ideas on that. Some say in the morning have a light come on, some have one on at night and turn off. If your going to be going out at night to do any chores in the hen house, then a light in the evenings would work
    . Or both. 15 hours is what some say. But growing up, we never lit our hen houses and still got some eggs. Even in the cold WI winters.
    Sounds like yours should start laying pretty soon. But might depend on the breed. Just have their nest boxes ready and they'll do the rest.
    Not too sure about the feed. I would just finish off what you have. Maybe start mixing with layer feed so it's not a shock to their tummies.
    Congrats on your new girls. Enjoy!
  4. dsqard

    dsqard Crazy "L" Farms

    Jun 11, 2010
    York PA

    To answer some of your questions, at what age they will lay will depend on what breed they are. Some breeds will lay earlier and some later and of course individual birds of a given breed will differ. The things you should look for is wattles and combs growing larger, faces getting redder, if they start to squat when you approach and if they start singing the egg song. I can't really describe what that sounds like since none of mine are laying yet.

    From what I have read you can leave them on grower until they start laying. At that time you should put them on layer food since it will have calcium in it for shell development. Many people offer freee choice on oyster shell to supplement the calcium as well.

    As far as clipping their wings, that is a personal choice and if you do a search on it, you will find threads on how to do it. If there is a way to keep them from roosting in the tree, I would try to find it. They probably are not safe there from predators at night. Clipping the wings is easy and is not permanent BTW.

    Again, if they will lay through the winter will depend on the breed. I have wyandottes and have heard that they are likely to lay in winter (not sure if you have to use lights for that or not) and Ameraucanas that I have heard usually do not lay through winter.

    Hope this helps! [​IMG]
  5. PunkinPeep

    PunkinPeep Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 31, 2009
    SouthEast Texas
    Hi Sweet Tea! Welcome to BYC!

    My chickens have always started to lay near 20 weeks. I have heard of some specific breeding lines waiting much longer, but if you got them from a hatchery, i would guess that 20 weeks is more likely. There are some signs to let you know that eggs are coming soon.

    Possible signs include:

    The egg song - "bawk bawk bawk baGAWK!" Pullets often start practicing this song a couple of weeks before they actually lay an egg.
    Squatting - Your pullets might start squatting on the ground near you. You'll notice the difference because they become much easier to pick up and examine.
    Red comb - As they near the time, their comb and wattles will develop into a dark blood red color. If you still have little pink combs, then it's probably not quite time yet.

    You don't have to feed laying pellets. I feed my girls flock raiser, but my flock consisted of all adult hens, i would give them layer food. I use the flock raiser because i can feed it to all ages of chickens. The layer food is simply going to have the nutrition your girls need to be healthy as they begin to lay. Layer pellets don't force them to lay more. The feed simply provides them the nutrition they need to healthfully do what they do naturally.

    If you want your chickens to roost inside (and i would), you can lock them in the coop for about a week to teach them where "home" is. Then they will naturally go back in the coop at night.

    I'm going to leave the other two questions to someone else.

    Welcome to BYC!
  6. Yay Chicks!

    Yay Chicks! Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 15, 2010
    Forest Grove, OR
    Mine began to lay around 20 to 21 weeks intermittently. A couple weeks prior to that I began mixing layer feed into their medicated chick feed. They were totally on layer feed by the time they began laying. I began offering oyster shell at the time of laying as well. Pullets vary quite a bit on the age they begin laying. They do need calcium in their diet to produce a good shell on the egg.
    As for clipping wings, there is a great video on YouTube that shows you how to do it if you get to that point.
  7. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    [​IMG] I don't clip wings because I WANT them to be able to get away, if they can, should they need to fly. Mine roost in trees during the day but go back to the coop(s) at night to roost. That's because I locked them in the coop(s) when I first put them outside, for at least a week.

    I feed the equivalent of Flock Raiser, a grower/finisher feed, and supplement free choice with oyster shell. I, too, have birds of different ages in my flock, plus two ducks. I keep crushed oyster shell in an empty tuna tin nailed to the wall of one coop, and I toss out more in one special spot in the yard for everybody who needs it.

    Mine are all hatchery birds (so far - I've got some from breeders but they're still in a brooder at this point) and started to lay between 19 and 26 weeks. Lots of different breeds in my flock.

    They may slow down during winter due to decreased natural light. I also consider eggs to be a bonus, so I don't mind if they stop laying during the winter. I have some customers who buy eggs from me, and if the hens don't lay enough, I just won't sell as much. Not a big deal with me. The extra "income" just goes toward fripperies anyway. [​IMG]
  8. SweetTea

    SweetTea New Egg

    Sep 7, 2010
    Thank you so much for the information and the lovely welcoming!

    My hens are going to sing a song? I can't wait! I'm so enjoying these chickens.

    I've some pictures if anyone wants to aid in the identifying process. They are a mixed assortment of layers (from Meyer Hatchery by the way) and can be any from: Golden Buff, Black Star, Black Australorp, Buff Orpington, White Rock, Barred Rock, Partridge, Rhode Island Red, Delaware, Golden Laced Wyandotte, Buckeye, Black Jersey Giant, Spleckled Sussex, Cuckoo Maran, Welsummer, Dominique or Silver Laced Wyandotte.

    As adults:
    Front Row :: Left to Right :: Bebe, Daisy, Ginger
    Back Row :: Left to Right :: Penny, Lola

    The two red ones look similar but aren't. Lola is taller and slimmer than all the others, which are more buxom.

    Adult Lola

    Bebe & Penny as chicks looked identical (this is baby Penny).

    Baby Daisy

    Baby Ginger

    Baby Lola - she had a defined brown stripe from her head all the way down her back.

    I know egg colour would be helpful, but I don't know that yet (^_^)
  9. PunkinPeep

    PunkinPeep Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 31, 2009
    SouthEast Texas
    Penny and Bebe look to be Barred Rocks. Daisy, probably a white rock. Ginger and Lola look to me like Rhode Island Reds. But i believe that Buckeyes are similar. Also Welsummers are a little smaller than RIR but more brown. If no one here can tell you for sure, you might take some more detailed pictures of Lola and post them on the "what breed/gender is this" section. I think all these are brown egg layers, if i am not mistaken. If Lola is a Welsummer (i really don't know), she will lay very dark, chocolate-colored eggs. That would be neato. [​IMG]

    After googling some welsummer baby pictures, i'm going to go in with a slightly stronger welsummer vote for Lola. Is she more brown?
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2010
  10. SweetTea

    SweetTea New Egg

    Sep 7, 2010
    Quote:I'll try and get some better pictures of her colouring, it's rather cloudy today so they didn't come off very well. She is very coppery in the head and neck area. The top part of her back is dark brown with blackish flecks and her underside is almost a soft grey. She is really cheeky too! When I look at a catalog she seems to be shaped like a leghorn. Tall and skinny. But yes, more brown on the body than copper.

    Ginger is just all over gingery.

    It would be really a treat to get some dark chocolate eggs!

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