New pullets and old flock; what food to put out and how soon to integrate?

SweetSilver

Songster
7 Years
Mar 19, 2012
555
18
123
A stone's throw from the Chehalis River
My new batch of pullets is about 8 weeks old, give or take a week (feed store chicks, some were 1 week, some 2 weeks at purchase). We have them penned in a nice corner of the coop, now they are permanently out of the brooder. Most days they get put into our mobile greenhouse/chicken tractor. They are, obviously, getting too heavy to move back and forth (tractor is not secure for nighttime lockup) and I would like to integrate them as soon as they are big enough (12 weeks would be nice-- 16 at the outside, hopefully).

OK, onto my question: what's the earliest that they can have layer feed?

I imagine that it's not going to hurt the current laying flock to have higher protein for a week (their layer feed is 16%) so what's the earliest that the new pullets can have the extra calcium in their diet? Lower protein?

The old flock is a mixed flock for 4-H showing, so only one sweet, ditzy, large cochin, the rest smaller breeds, and the new pullets are all large laying breeds, so no big, inherent social concerns. We have a bantam ee rooster, large for a bantam, quite small relative to a standard--he still fumbles when attempting to mate with our standard cochin, it's quite comical.

Anyway, a lot of tangents for one basic question. I've tried doing searches, but none have answered my basic question, and as is typical, the threads get OT quickly!
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I don't mind OT, as long as my question gets answered.

Thanks in advance!
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,250
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Southeast Louisiana
What’s the earliest they can have Layer feed?

I don’t know how soon they can have Layer feed and it not hurt them. I’ve seen studies that show if they start Layer feed at hatch or at 5 weeks and that is all they eat it can hurt them, but I have not seen any studies looking at the other side of the equation like you are asking about.

A lot of the studies are more about the hybrids specifically bred as commercial laying hens, not our backyard flocks, so that probably affects it too.

It’s not about the percent of calcium in the feed. It’s about how much total calcium they eat in a day and how many days in a row they eat that much. If they forage for a lot of their food what’s in the little bit of feed you give them isn’t as important.

I don’t know that there is a cookbook answer to your question. Too many variables. What I suggest is wait until most are laying, then switch. Until then just feed them all Grower or whatever you want to feed them and offer oyster shell on the side. The ones that need it for the shells should eat it and the ones that don’t need it shouldn’t eat enough to harm themselves.

Editted to add:

I didn’t notice your other question, when can the pullets have the lower protein. I switch from Starter to Grower (lower protein) somewhere between 4 to 8 weeks, whenever that bag of feed runs out. I don’t know what you are feeding them now, but most brands of feed bags have a graph or chart on it that shows when they recommend switching from one to the other.
 
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SweetSilver

Songster
7 Years
Mar 19, 2012
555
18
123
A stone's throw from the Chehalis River
It’s not about the percent of calcium in the feed. It’s about how much total calcium they eat in a day and how many days in a row they eat that much. If they forage for a lot of their food what’s in the little bit of feed you give them isn’t as important.

I don’t know that there is a cookbook answer to your question. Too many variables. What I suggest is wait until most are laying, then switch. Until then just feed them all Grower or whatever you want to feed them and offer oyster shell on the side. The ones that need it for the shells should eat it and the ones that don’t need it shouldn’t eat enough to harm themselves.
This is probably the best solution, and when our original flock hatched out chicks, I was able to successfully give them all the grower feed--all except one chicken, who got amazingly fat! I suppose I am better equipped to segregate a hen if that happens this time around, though it is still not ideal. It is mightily expensive to continually add infrastructure, like quarantine and broody pens and brooder/chick run, etc. and that is what holds us back from waiting to integrate the new flock until they start laying. What we have now is good enough, but not ideal-- yet.
 

TheCrazyClucker

Songster
7 Years
Nov 30, 2012
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When our pullets go out with the big girls (which is when they are about 7 or 8 weeks) we give them all layer feed. Have been doing that for 5 years and never saw a problem with it.
 
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,250
20,015
907
Southeast Louisiana
Avian Gout
http://en.engormix.com/MA-poultry-i.../avian-gout-causes-treatment-t1246/165-p0.htm

British Study – Calcium and Protein
http://www.2ndchance.info/goutGuoHighProtein+Ca.pdf

There is a difference in can and will. These studies are based on not only how many die, but they cut chicks open to see the damage done to their internal organs.

Have you ever had a chicken die a year later for absolutely no reason? Maybe a damaged internal organ finally gave out. You’d never think that was because of the Layer.

If they mostly forage instead of eating nothing but Layer, maybe they didn’t eat enough to hurt themselves.

The studies show that feeding Layer to the growing chicks can and often does damage to them. You can do as you wish but I’m taking what I consider a reasonable precaution and not feed young chicks Layer. It doesn’t cost any more and it’s not really any harder. What possible logical reason is there to not take a reasonable precaution? Help me understand. What do you gain?
 
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TheCrazyClucker

Songster
7 Years
Nov 30, 2012
6,389
51
228
Ridgerunner, we've never had a chicken die from something wrong with their internal organs. All the pullets go to the grower pen when they are 5 weeks old for 2 weeks where they eat GROWER FEED. Then when they are 8 weeks old, they go out with the big girls and free range with them. And anyways, you do it your way, I do it my way, that we have been doing for 5 years and never had a problem with it.
 

SweetSilver

Songster
7 Years
Mar 19, 2012
555
18
123
A stone's throw from the Chehalis River
There must be middle ground. Our chickens are not free-range, but they have a large run that is incorporated into the fenced-off garden, where they massive amounts of compost and debris and when the season is right, garden leftovers. So, lots of bugs, not as much greenery as I would like, but it's there.

That's why I was wondering about 15-16 weeks, if laying is typical at 18-22 weeks. For layer breeds, growth is slowing considerably, but I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about what is happening internally in pullets at 15-17 weeks. I would have no trouble feeding the whole flock grower, except that I've had that one fat hen that I could not segregate with our old setup. I like the idea of having the calcium on the side, that would be ideal. Even though I will probably give up the dream of integrating them at 12 weeks, I still wonder if I can't fudge the feed-- grower for 2 weeks, followed by layer for the rest. Is there such a thing as 18% grower? Then supplement the calcium? Our sumatras didn't start laying until they were fully 1 year old (oh...don't ask how I ended up with those--luckily these pullets are your standard Large Layer breeds!)

I'm happy to hear the arguments for both sides-- I have had enough experience with unexplained deaths (that are not tied to feed that I know of) and would like to avoid it if I can--but keeping the pullets cooped up in the corner (especially as they get bigger!), or moving them back and forth until 16 weeks just seems like a pain-- oh! to have 3 more sections in the garden area, plus 4 or 5 more doors, a secondary coop and a few thousand yards of 5' chicken wire and a husband who loves building (but I got a gardener--I suppose it's a good trade-off! I've been ordered to do all the work for the ducks we are planning on in May-June!)
 
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,250
20,015
907
Southeast Louisiana
Of course there is no set answer to this. We all keep them and manage them in different ways. There is usually no one set answer to any question on chickens that covers everyone. When you read this stuff you need to try to understand if the response applies to your situation. That’s why I tried to explain some thought and reason behind my answer in my first post.

As I said, if they forage for a lot of their food what’s in the little bit of feed you give them isn’t as important. Studies have shown if all they eat is Layer and they start on nothing but Layer at hatch or at 5 weeks, they can be and usually are harmed. There are some conditions with all this stuff.

This is the internet. I don’t know how you manage your chickens or how much of their feed they get from forage. I don’t know who else might read this or what conditions they keep their chickens in. There can be some big differences in someone who keeps a few chickens in a small coop and run in an urban backyard and provides all their feed to someone who lives where they can free range their chickens so they find most of their own food. I’m not going to blindly say that something won’t be a problem when I don’t know enough about your situation and I know that under certain conditions it can be dangerous. I try to keep my responses on the safe side for everyone which means they are over-cautious for some people.
 

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