Not feeding lay mash when chickens arent laying

ahappycamper

Hatching
May 6, 2019
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I have a friend that claims its unnecessary to feed chickens the laying food when they're not laying. I found this really questionable. Im assuming they chickens are using this time to build up energy so that when it does become spring, they will lay. Is it safe to say that if my friend keeps skimping on their feed during this time because its not the time of the year for them to be laying then when it comes spring time, they'll be poor producers?
 

Wyorp Rock

Enabler
Sep 20, 2015
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I have a friend that claims its unnecessary to feed chickens the laying food when they're not laying. I found this really questionable. Im assuming they chickens are using this time to build up energy so that when it does become spring, they will lay. Is it safe to say that if my friend keeps skimping on their feed during this time because its not the time of the year for them to be laying then when it comes spring time, they'll be poor producers?
What type of feed is your friend feeding when the hens are not in lay?
S/he may not be skimping on feed, but may be choosing a feed that is lower in calcium.
Technically layer feed is formulated for when a chicken is laying eggs.

A lot of folks feed layer feed year round regardless of gender and laying "status". Others feed all flock/flock raiser or other feed like grower which have less calcium. Oyster shell is provided free choice.

Speak with your friend for clarification of what they are doing - possibly there is a misunderstanding. IF they are feeding a nutritionally balanced poultry feed, then imho, there shouldn't be a problem.

Let's just take Purina Layena for example - if you look at the "feeding directions":

  1. Feed Purina® Layena® free-choice as the sole ration to laying chickens (including backyard egg producers, small to medium breeds and fancy and exotic breeds) after 18 weeks of age and throughout the laying cycle. https://www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed/products/detail/purina-layena-pellets
 

rosemarythyme

Free Ranging
Jul 3, 2016
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Your friend is correct as long as what they're feeding is still a proper chicken feed (i.e. not just scratch). The main difference between layer and other feeds (grower, starter, broiler, all flock) is simply calcium, and when chickens aren't laying, they don't need the excess calcium. So for long term health it may be better to not feed layer when it's not needed (during molt, during winter if they're not laying) and to instead feed grower or all flock which often also has more protein which can help them get through their molt. Many folks on here do not feed layer at all, favoring a higher protein feed or one that's safe for roosters and chicks as well, and simply supplement calcium on the side.
 

ChickenCanoe

Crossing the Road
Nov 23, 2010
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X2 to the last 2 posts.
Your friend understands that birds not laying eggs are not layers so shouldn't be fed layer feed.
Regardless of whether the birds are females or males, if they aren't currently laying eggs, they aren't layers. Hens are just female chickens until they start producing eggs - that is when they become layers and when laying ceases, they are no longer layers.
There is nothing special about layer feed that allows them to build up energy for the laying season that comes after winter solstice.
Layer feed has about 4 times the calcium of other feeds to replace that lost in the medullary bone to build egg shells. If they aren't building egg shells they don't need that.

There is such a thing as a pre-lay diet that has a bit more calcium but unless you have your birds in blackout housing and on a lighting program, you can't predict when laying will resume.

Layer feed also is usually a bit lower in protein than starter, grower or all flock feed.

Where are you located. I never see layer mash at feed stores. It is usually just smaller mills or mills owned by egg farms that make mash.
There are pellets, crumbles (pellets that have been run through a crumbler) and mash which is much more finely ground. Usually that is reserved for cage hens that have been debeaked.
The last post in the following thread has a picture of the difference between mash, crumbles and pellets.
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/layer-mash-vs-pellets.414962/page-2
 
Last edited:

Folly's place

Crossing the Road
Sep 13, 2011
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southern Michigan
Mash is the first 'grind' in the milling process for poultry feed. Small local mills usually don't have the machinery to make it all into pellets, so they sell mash only. Pellets can then be ground a bit into crumbles, the third type of feed available.
Feed sold as whole grains is also available, with the vitamin/ mineral mix added, and it's harder to ensure that every bird eats every bit of this type of diet, so some may become malnourished, eating the tastiest bits and leaving the rest.
Chicks can't manage pellets very well, so they get the crumbles instead.
Mary
 

Mosey2003

Crowing
Apr 13, 2016
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North-Central IL
I have a friend that claims its unnecessary to feed chickens the laying food when they're not laying. I found this really questionable. Im assuming they chickens are using this time to build up energy so that when it does become spring, they will lay. Is it safe to say that if my friend keeps skimping on their feed during this time because its not the time of the year for them to be laying then when it comes spring time, they'll be poor producers?
It depends on what your friend skimping on feed means. Does it mean he/she is feeding only scratch or corn? If so, that's not good for chickens at all.

Layer feed doesn't do anything to "build up their energy" so that they can lay more in the spring. The only difference between layer feed and maintenance feed (like an all flock, or grower, or chick feed) is that layer has a much higher calcium content. This is because if a hen is laying eggs, she pulls calcium to form the shells, and if she doesn't have enough, she'll pull it from her bones eventually.

On the flip side, for a bird that isn't laying eggs, having a very high calcium feed is not necessarily a good thing. It can be hard on their kidneys. Which is why many of us feed something like an all flock or grower or chick feed and leave oyster shell out free choice, so that they're only grabbing more calcium when they actually are using it.

Personally, I never feed layer. But, I feed actual chicken feed, not just scratch grains or corn.
 
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