Proper feeding for non-free range laying hens

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Shan30, Oct 11, 2012.

  1. Shan30

    Shan30 Chillin' With My Peeps

    612
    59
    138
    Sep 17, 2012
    Vancouver island
    We have 30 laying hens, most are about 2 years old. Mainly production rhode islands, all rescues/hand me downs :).

    Unfortunately where we live we cannot free range. The run is about 6000sq.ft. With some trees and underbrush.

    Due to the fact that they do not free range, we supplement their diet of 18% layer pellets with fruit & veggies daily. Each weekend they get about 10 eggs which we throw in a blender, shells on, and scramble for them for Saturday breakfast. Haha spoiled I know.

    While these guys do look better than when we got them, many of them could definitely have fuller feathering and all except the 3 6month olds have relatively pale legs and faces.

    We also get 10-15 eggs a day just for reference.

    I'm wondering if there is anything I can do or need to stop doing to make our girls perk up a bit. Maybe im overcompensating for them not being free range?

    I'm considering giving 10 to a friend to give everyone more room if that will make a difference.
     
  2. mickey328

    mickey328 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,380
    81
    168
    May 4, 2012
    Northern Colorado
    I think they likely have adequate space in the run. How do you feed? Is the food always available or do you just feed at certain times? I'm an advocate of free feeding. Most laying chickens won't over eat and some aren't as quick at the food as others and end up not getting enough. Do they have available grit? I supplement with a lot of dark leafy greens (well, all kinds of greens, actually) and quite a bit of protein. They need protein for egg production and also for maintaining their body health during the colder times. Ours get yogurt, whatever cheese we have that's a bit too far gone for our tastes (not moldy but...hard or sort of crunchy) and any and all meat scraps we have if they're not too salty or fatty. They jump on meat like it's going out of business! Giving them cooked egg with the shell is great! We only have 6 so we don't get quite enough eggs to do that, but make up for it with other stuff :)
     
  3. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,242
    208
    208
    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    If they are not free ranging you want to make sure that you are providing grit (unless you think they can get what they need in the run)

    If you have all laying hens and no rooster or non laying hens then layer feed is good and should provide pretty balanced nutrition. It sounds like you are giving them healthy snacks. Make sure they do not get so many snacks that they aren't also eating their feed.

    Might want to check them really well for any lice or mites. Those little buggers can have a big impact on feathers and overall health.

    I have always thought that leg color was a breed characteristic not effected by health unless it is a scaly mite issue. But, I have not done any research on it so it is possible I am incorrect. I know comb color is a great indicator of health.

    And, with any laying issues I would always double check for any hidden nests because sometimes the hens get tricky.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2012
  4. Shan30

    Shan30 Chillin' With My Peeps

    612
    59
    138
    Sep 17, 2012
    Vancouver island
    The layer pellet is always full, however, we do not provide grit or oyster shell.

    I might sound a little silly on this one but can I buy grit at the feed store?

    Also thought about the parasites and throwing some wood ash in their favorite dusting spots but as it's very rainy here in the fall I'm worried about it getting wet.

    I have heard that it can become caustic when wet...?

    We use softwood shavings (stallion bedding) in the coop and nesting boxes but do not deep litter.

    I'll inspect the girls a little closer when I get home and see if I find any creepy crawlies.

    On the hiding eggs, we actually thought we had lost a hen (big mama lol) only to discover her three days later. She had gone broody and had hidden herself with 27 unfertilized eggs she must have stolen from the others. Found her soaking wet huddled under a bush in the middle of the night when I heard something move in the brush and investigated. Silly bird! :) I think I have figured out all possible hiding spots at this point though.
     
  5. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,242
    208
    208
    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Silly thing! Sometimes they make very odd choices.

    I do not have any experience with wood ash so I am not sure. I use food grade DE in my dust baths and bedding and I believe it still works when wet as long as it is not washing away. It is not toxic.

    You should be able to buy grit at any feed store. Mine sells it in 1 and 5 lb bags. It looks like little grey rocks. If you just say grit they should know what you are talking about. If you are feeding layer you do not need oyster as the feed already has calcium in it. (it won't hurt if you want to put it out just in case) If you want the chickens to regulate the calcium themselves you can get a grower/flock raiser feed and have oyster on the side. Either is fine for laying birds.
     
  6. mickey328

    mickey328 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,380
    81
    168
    May 4, 2012
    Northern Colorado
    Yes, we get our grit at the feed store. We keep it in a can attached to the coop leg...they'll take what they need. They have amazing instincts about that. We do the same with oyster shell.

    Actually your broody may have laid them all herself. When they get that way, they keep laying and when they're satisfied they have enough, they start sitting on them.
     
  7. Shan30

    Shan30 Chillin' With My Peeps

    612
    59
    138
    Sep 17, 2012
    Vancouver island
    Wow I'm super impressed if Big Mama did all that!

    I'll be stopping at Buckerfields on my way home for some grit and closely inspecting the girls when I get there.

    Thanks for the wisdom!
     
  8. KeilFamilyFarm

    KeilFamilyFarm Out Of The Brooder

    we suppliment calf manna, ferment our feed which is 50 % dry cob and 50% flock raiser and apple cider vinegar to their water [​IMG]
     
  9. barkinghills

    barkinghills Chillin' With My Peeps

    143
    12
    91
    Dec 17, 2011
    Storrey's Guide to Raising Chickens talks all about the pale leg color--basically hens who are laying lose the yellow pigment from their bodies when they are laying regularly. The book talks about how certain areas of the body bleach earlier in the laying season, then other parts bleach later. It is used as a way to tell how well hens are laying, so it may be that your girls are doing just fine. They sound like they are well-fed.

    I can't remember all the exact details, but I checked the book out from the library so perhaps you can find a copy there if you want to read more.

    Good luck,

    Gayle
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2012
  10. chickencoop789

    chickencoop789 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,629
    37
    153
    Jul 1, 2012
    New Jersey
    More run space will help. Some trees and brush in the run is fun to peck at and hide under. Some roosts in the run and mabe a sandbox to bathe in would make them a bit more happier. I would try something other than pineshavings in the nest boxes. They might like something like timothy hay in there instead. A very clean coop will make them very happy. Some live bugs is a great treat for them.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by