Please advise... I think I've messed up feeding my chickens


In the Brooder
Aug 12, 2016
Columbus, Indiana
A little background on my flock, since this is my first post. I have two 4-year old hens I adopted - a buff orpington and an ameraucana. (I'm guessing anyway. She lays blue-green eggs.) Then I got 7 more chicks in May that are about 12 weeks old - another buff orpinton, 3 black australorps, and 3 Rhode Island reds. Everyone has integrated flawlessly into one happy flock.

They have free range of my fenced-in backyard and seem to get the majority of their food from foraging. It takes a couple days for the food I put out to need refilled, and I think the neighborhood bird population helps out a lot. They get scratch every day too, oyster shell, and a sprinkle of meal worms or a melon rind every few days for a treat.

Before the chicks came, the old hens laid like champs. I got a blue egg every day and a brown egg every 2 out of 3 days. BUT, when I moved the new birds outside, the older birds started eating all of their medicated starter food, and the chicks had to eat the layer food that was left over. I didn't want medicated eggs, and I didn't want my chicks to be getting too much or too little of whatever nutrients was in the layer food. I read that you could feed the whole flock grower food so long as the big birds still had their oyster shell. So, there were 3 kinds of food at Rural King: chick starter, layer food, and meat bird food. I incorrectly assumed by the process of elimination that meat bird food had to be "grower food." So now, no one is medicated, but egg laying has tapered off to nothing. There hasn't been an egg in the box for over a week. Everyone seems happy and healthy, and neither of the older birds have an egg stuck in the chute. They're just not laying.

I don't mind not getting my measly 2 eggs a day. I'll be able to put everyone on layer food in another month or so. But, is it okay to keep feeding them the meat bird food? Are the new birds developing ok on it? Will the older birds be able to go back to laying?

Thank you!
Welcome to BYC.

Short term I don't think the meat bird formula will hurt them. It's usually higher in protein, but should be balanced nutrition.

That said a change in feed could have caused a decrease in eggs.

The medicated chick starter wouldn't necessarily hurt your laying hens either. The medication (in US) is usually Amprol which is a coccidiostat that helps to inhibit the growth of cocci so chickens can build resistance. Amprol or Corid can be given to chickens at any age for cocci treatment and there is no egg withdrawal - it is not an antibiotic.

I do like using an All Flock or Flock raiser formula feed (20% protein), I provide oyster shell free choice and my girls lay nice hard shelled eggs. This last time someone came in the feed store and bought the whole pallet of feed, so I had to get layer pellets - my flock HATES them, I have had to coax, beg and plead to get them to eat and my egg production is a bit off now - so changes in feed can affect production. For me I wish I had bought unmedicated chick starter to substitute instead of pellets - this would have been more palatable for my flock I'm sure.

Sorry to ramble. I think you are ok, but try to settle on one type of feed. If you think you will be adding young ones to your flock frequently then go with an All Flock feed, this way chicks and adults can eat the same feed. Otherwise you can use layer pellets for your girls if that is your preference.

Just my thoughts.
Thank you! I'll probably stick with the meat bird food until the younger hens are at the 16 week mark. If it's not hurting them, switching them to another food for 4 weeks only to switch it again to layer food would probably do more harm than good, right?

Mine don't like the pellets either. When I adopted the older birds, they came with half a bag of the pellets, so I just stuck with those thinking they were used to them. I think that's why the chicks' food was so appealing.
Chickens are funny critters. If you give them a particular food or treat in the same container in the same spot for weeks, then put the same food or treat in a different spot they'll act like they've been given a special gift from Heaven and go ballistic - act like they're starving and they've never tasted anything as good as this new delight they've found! They'll do the same thing with water - plenty of clean, fresh water in their coop or run, but when you let them out and they find a dirty puddle they'll drink like they're totally dehydrated. Go figger - silly chickens!!!

Like @Wyorp Rock I simply feed All Flock or Flock Maintenance to every chicken out there - chicks, roosters, layers...saves me time and trouble and they get everything they need. The All Flock I feed is a little higher in protein (but not having the bag in front of me I can't give percentages) and the girls get their calcium from oyster shell and older eggs I feed back. Just about anything can put hens off laying - they may be preparing to molt, they may be a little thrown off by new faces in their territory or it may be the hotter weather. Some just take a break from time to time. I know some people have told me that changing foods can also do that, but frankly I've never noticed that. Maybe my goofy girls just don't know that's supposed to happen.
Of course, I went to All Flock last year when I got that year's batch of chicks, so I haven't changed foods in quite awhile, either, so it could just be my old memory playing tricks on me!

I think, depending on how much of the other foods you have left in the bag, I'd cover all bases and just mix them with All Flock and feed the mixture. It's a gradual change, (just in case of that memory thing of mine being off) and nobody would be getting too much of a "good thing" at one time. Then switch to All Flock. You aren't going to be able to keep them out of each other's food dishes anyway. Silly chickens!

And Welcome to the flock!!
Thank you for reassuring me that this is normal and not something I've caused. I was mainly worried because I actually adopted 3 chickens - another Rhode Island red - and she never laid a single egg the whole time she was here. The person I got them from told me she'd never laid eggs at all, but she died after a few months. :( At least while she was here, she was happy, roaming around a big, open, grassy, bug-filled yard instead of the place she had been in. But anyway, when the other two stopped laying, that's why I panicked.

I forgot to mention this, and it's probably relevant, but leading up to the eggs stopping altogether, my orpington lay 3 TINY eggs, and I found another busted in the box with a rubbery, thin shell.

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