Protein protein protein.. oops

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Brigabart, Dec 29, 2015.

  1. Brigabart

    Brigabart Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 27, 2015
    So... I've gotten my flock off kilter. I have twenty-five 30 week old pullets. I took them off chick feed and put them on Nutrena laying pellets at 19 weeks. The first egg was laid at 23 weeks. All has been fine (getting 9-15 eggs/day), but a few weeks ago I noticed that my two favorelles and an EE had lost their beards. Then I noticed there were no feathers anywhere (my flock is not free range - tons of hawks/foxes/coyotes). And I noticed a few birds sampling the feathers of their buddies. Talked to a knowledgeable chicken person who thought it was probably low protein. (they didn't molt - too young this year).

    I was giving them:
    16 percent protein Nutrena laying feed (with 1/2 cup DE, 1/2 cup brewers yeast/garlic, 1 cup BOSS, 1 cup oats, 1 cup kelp per 50lb bag)
    They also got 1-2 cabbages a day, plus 1-2 cups of scratch per day (whole oats, BOSS, whole barley, meal worms)
    Occasional pumpkins/butternut/broccoli - maybe 2x/week
    free choice oyster shell

    I'm thinking that the cabbage/veggies/scratch lowered the protein content too much?

    So... per suggestions, I changed them to 1/2 layer feed, 1/2 chick feed, plus 3 cups fish meal per 50lbs feed. 1/2 cabbage per day. 1 cup scratch per day in the evening, meal worms and cat food for snacks.

    I removed the two favorelles since it looked like they might get eaten :) They've always been on the bottom anyway, and are presently happier than I've ever seen them in a dog crate in my art studio. Hopefully they'll be in their own little coop next week.

    At one week on this diet, the EE is still getting plucked a bit, thought I coated her with Bluekote. I gave them a hambone tonight and they took it down to nothing in about 10 minutes. Saw a feather come off someone today - four chickens attacked it - gone immediately. So, I'm thinking I've not got them back to normal yet.

    Any and all suggestions welcome.
    1. How much is too much protein? I haven't seen any layer food over 17 percent around here.
    2. Should they be on something other than layer feed - can I do that or will it affect laying? Is the only difference in layer feed the amount of calcium?
    3. Or would it be better to stick with 17 percent layer feed and add fish meal? If so, how much fish meal?

    thanks everyone!
  2. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Honestly, layer feed is a bit too low in protein, especially if you are mixing things into the feed and giving them veggies and other treats every day. Feed should not be mixed with extras like BOSS, oats, and such. Those are treats, not feed.
    Feed is designed to be a complete diet, with all the nutrients required in perfect balance. Everything else is extra, and will lower the protein content of their overall intake.
    If you don't want to cut out all those goodies, then you may want to switch them to a grower or flock raiser type feed that will keep their protein intake up.
    It's nearly impossible to feed chickens too much protein.
    The difference between layer feed and other chicken feeds is the calcium content is much higher, and the protein level is much lower.
    Your best option would be to stop the treats and only offer feed, or switch to feed with higher protein content, reduce the amount of treats to no more than 10% of their total food intake, and supplement their calcium needs with crushed oyster shell.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015
  3. Brigabart

    Brigabart Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 27, 2015
    Thank you sooo much! That is all very helpful. So with the layer feed being low in protein, do you think it would be better to
    1. stick with layer only
    2. stick with layer, adding fish meal if there are more treats
    3. Switch to a feed with higher protein (but not layer), with oyster shell and fewer treats
  4. Brigabart

    Brigabart Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 27, 2015
    or 4. switch to grower or flock layer with just oyster shell no treats?
  5. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Any of those options are fine. The main thing to remember is that feed, by itself, is a nutritionally balanced and complete diet. You don't want to be giving them so many extras that the feed becomes the 'supplement', and the treats be the staple diet.
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I don't know the protein content of fish meal, so can't really speak to that.

    I do know I'm lazy and like to keep things simple. Since I have a multi-age and gender flock, I use one feed everyone can eat from hatch to harvest. Mine is from my local Grange, it's an all-in-one that's either 19 or 20 % protein, I forget. I've been told All flock is very similar. I offer my layers oyster shell and their own egg shells. I've done this for several years and it's worked well for me. I don't have to mix any feed, or feed separate feeds to different birds.

    My birds do get all our kitchen scraps. This can vary quite a bit depending on the time of year, etc. Most of the time I give them some corn or scratch in the evenings, but that's not 100%. Some days I forget, or am busy. Sometimes I empty a bag and don't buy another for a few weeks.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Yep, keep it simple.

    I like to feed a 'flock raiser' 20% protein crumble to all ages and genders, as non-layers(chicks, males and molting birds) do not need the extra calcium that is in layer feed and chicks and molters can use the extra protein. Makes life much simpler to store and distribute one type of chow that everyone can eat.

    The higher protein crumble also offsets the 8% protein scratch grains and other kitchen/garden scraps I like to offer. I adjust the amounts of other feeds to get the protein levels desired with varying situations.

    Calcium should be available at all times for the layers, I use oyster shell mixed with rinsed, dried, crushed chicken egg shells in a separate container.

    Animal protein (mealworms, a little cheese - beware the salt content, meat scraps) is provided during molting and if I see any feather eating.
  8. Macis Papa

    Macis Papa Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 28, 2015
    Central Iowa
    One of my 30 week americana's also is missing her beard, had me puzzled until I noticed her constantly sticking her head through the chicken wire dividing 2 of the runs. I think she has rubbed her beard off? Also at 30 weeks they are still growing, 16% protein may not be enough. I feed an 18% all flock or a 20% grower with a little scratch and oyster shell in a separate feeder. They free range most days. I notice the occasional feather eating but still have plenty in the runs, coops, yard and house (which my wife quickly points out to me)

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