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Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by clarissanders, Feb 18, 2013.
Is it possible to over feed your chickens?
i was wondering the same thing
No, as long as you put food in a trough and make it optional to them, I do not believe it is possible to overfeed them!
If you are raising a meat specific breed you need to be very careful with their diet and how much they eat. Otherwise most chickens do a pretty good job at regulating their own food intake and won't over eat.
If you are raising some for meat, why do they need a special diet? I plan on keeping all my females and one rooster. They rest of the boys that come along i'll want to keep for meat. I'm new to this and want to take good care of all of them. I didn't know when i started raising chickens that would absolutely love it. They are so much fun.
It's not if you plan on raising a bird for meat, it is if you buy a meat-specific breed. You can raise any bird for meat and a lot of people raise dual-purpose birds for eggs and meat. These birds grow like normal chickens and do not need a special diet.
However, there are a few hybridized breeds, like the Cornish X for example, that have been created specifically as modern commercial meat birds. They have huge, over sized breasts and grow extremely fast -- fast enough to be processed at 8 weeks. If they are allowed to live for awhile they grow too big to stand and function. They are usually on very specific, controlled diets.
These birds are the exception but as the OP did on mention what type of birds she was raising I thought it worth mentioning. If you are interested in a fast-growing meat specific breed I would highly recommend the meat birds section of the forum, Some great, smart folks over there with lots of experience.
There are a lot of different kinds of chickens. Some have been developed by selective breeding to lay a whole lot of Grade A large eggs for the commercial egg industry. These are kind of small and real good at converting what they eat to eggs, not body weight. In the commercial setting, what they eat is carefully controlled to get the most efficient pounds of feed to Grade A large egg ratio.
Some have been developed to grow real fast and be really good at converting what they eat to meat without a lot of waste. These meat birds have been developed by selective breeding to grow so fast that they can outgrow their skeleton’s ability to support them or their heart’s ability to pump enough blood. Some grow so fast their feathers can’t even keep up and they have bald spots. If you get some of these, you might need to restrict how much they eat just to keep them alive.
Then you have all the chickens we normally have, anywhere from those cute sometimes tiny decorative chickens to the dual purpose breeds which are pretty good for eggs and OK for meat. I suspect that is what you have. These chickens generally won’t overeat.
There are several different kinds of chicken feed. Layer has extra calcium for the egg shells and should only fed to grown chickens. That excess calcium can damage growing chicks.
There are a lot of other chicken feeds; Starter, Grower, Finisher, Developer, Flock Raiser, Combined Starter/Grower and some things called something else. The significant difference in these is the percent protein. Basically any of these can be fed to any chicken of any age. If they are laying just offer oyster shell on the side for those that need the extra calcium for egg production. Just like the names for these can vary depending in who makes it the percent protein can vary a bit. Starter is usually around 20% to 24%, Grower maybe 16%, Finisher and Developer maybe 15%, Layer 16% to 18%, and Flock Raiser or the combined Starter/Grower maybe 20%.
The reason there are so many different percent proteins in these feeds is that they are best for specific times in their life. A general progression in chicks that will be a laying flock is to start them off with a fairly high percent protein to get them off to a good start in life, then after 4 to 8 weeks cut the percent protein back as they mature. It’s not that the higher protein level hurts them, just that they don’t need it. They need to grow but their body also needs to mature. Last time I checked there was a $2 difference in the price of a bag of Starter/Grower and Grower/Developer.
When raising dual purpose breeds for meat you are not worried about them growing too fast so there is no need to give them extra time to mature. You normally feed them a higher percent protein to get them to butcher size faster. The faster they reach butcher age the more tender the meat.
A lot of people feed the 20% Flock Raiser to a pure laying flock with oyster shell on the side. This does not hurt the chickens and is just personal preference. The basic purpose of the Flock Raiser is for a flock where some are going to be layers and some are going to be for meat. It’s a compromise.
I’m doing a lot like you are talking about except I eat a lot of my pullets too. Not all pullets become members of my laying/breeding flock. Mine forage for some of their feed so I’m not as concerned about getting them to butcher weight as fast plus I like the extra flavor in an older bird. We’ve all got different conditions and different goals. I generally start them off with a 20% Starter/Grower. Whenever that bag runs out after 4 weeks, I switch to a 15% Developer. I often have mixed age chicks in my flock so I seldom feed Layer. I just stay with the 15% Developer and offer oyster shell on the side. Since mine forage for some of their food I don’t have precise control over everything they eat anyway. The quality of forage is good enough that they manage well.
Some people really get hung up on how they are feeding their chickens. In my opinion for a lot of people that concern is way over the top. Relax and enjoy your chickens. Some people have legitimate concerns about this stuff. We all have different conditions and goal. But for most of us, there is such a wide range of things that work it’s not worth getting all stressed about it.
As for your specific original question about them overeating. Don’t sweat it. As long as you stay somewhere reasonable in what you are feeding them, it’s not a concern at all. If you feed an extremely high percent protein feed, yeah, you could have a problem. But I’m talking about a really high percent protein, not what we normally feed.
I have an older white female that has bald spots. When we first got her she had been harassed by several roosters for a long period of time. I separated her from the males, because she wouldn't eat or drink. I nursed her back to health, but i think i am over doing it now. I noticed that she is huge compared to the other girls. She recently started having trouble jumping up on the porch to get back in the coop. She also moves very slow and i noticed that she leans over on her side sometimes. What should i do? I don't want her to die, because i haven't been taking care of her right. Should i try to upload a picture to be sure that this is what i'm dealing with? Thank you to everyone who has so kindly taken the time to answer my questions.
Your older bird may be at the end of her lifespan..... Sorry. Our old birds will move to the bottom of the "pecking order" and be picked-on as well as develop bald spots. When they move around real slow and follow you around then it will not be long before they go to poultry heaven. If you have the ability, isolate her so that she can eat and drink without being picked on.