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Providing extra calcium

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by nick lansford, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. nick lansford

    nick lansford Out Of The Brooder

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    I have 16 week old chickens. I've looked up when to add extra calcium but couldn't find anything. Do you know anything about when to add it?
     
  2. Michael Apple

    Michael Apple Overrun With Chickens

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    In another two weeks start introducing a layer feed. You'll find when they start laying, the eggs will have a good quality shell. You can give a half a handful of crushed oyster shell when you mix up a couple pounds of feed for them in the morning. They will ingest what they need.
     
  3. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    You can put oyster shell out now, they will take it as their bodies need it. A separate dish works best. I have a sour cream container nailed to the wall in one coop and a cat feeder for the larger coop. Cat feeders work great for storing it. They can get to it easily and you don't have to fill it as often.
     
  4. nick lansford

    nick lansford Out Of The Brooder

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    @Happy Chooks I heard that egg shells can work for calcium also. Would that work or just buy oyster shells
     
  5. Back2Roots

    Back2Roots Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think the general consensus is that young birds should be fed a starter ration until they reach point of lay, about sixteen to eighteen weeks of age. At that point they will do better on a lower protein ration, and their systems can handle the calcium.
    Short answer is that hens need more calcium once they start laying or when they are molting or if they are mature hens. If your hens get commercial feed they won’t need extra calcium until they start laying. At that point you give calcium to your hens, free-choice, as part of their diet. Lots of folks provide crushed oyster shell in a separate dispenser as a calcium supplement. Some crush their eggshells and give those back to the hens.
     
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  6. LeslieDJoyce

    LeslieDJoyce Overrun With Chickens

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    I've been reading a book on Feeding Poultry written by GF Heuser ages ago. Heuser was an educator who specialized in poultry science. The book compiles information from various experiments conducted up to the point of writing. As you an imagine, the question of calcium comes up a lot in the book, and the best results are usually found with offering calcium supplements "free choice" a couple of weeks before birds might start to lay. Then continuing to offer it "free choice" thereafter.

    Here is a link to that book, which is available to read for free online. http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924003011545;view=1up;seq=15 (the book has also been reprinted and is available through Amazon).

    A more recent study I read suggests the calcium appetite for the bird increases at the point in the egg-formation cycle where the shell is being added to the egg. This time is generally in the afternoons ... It is most efficient if the calcium supplement particles are a particular size and if birds can pick up the calcium the need at that time. Here is a link to that information (it is also a great explanation of the egg formation process, and describes what causes different irregularities in egg shells):

    http://www.nutrecocanada.com/docs/s...-formation-and-eggshell-quality-in-layers.pdf

    Yes, egg shells can be used as a calcium supplement, but it will take more eggshells than the hens will lay. Personally, I use oyster shell which I offer in a designated hopper. Also, I do keep the shells from the eggs we use in this household in a big metal bowl. When that bowl is full, I bake it for a few minutes, then I crush the shells to a size similar to the oyster shell, then I put the egg shells in the oyster shell hopper so the birds can eat it if they want to. It always disappears.
     
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  7. nick lansford

    nick lansford Out Of The Brooder

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    @[@]Back2Roots[/@] where do y'all get y'all's oyster shells? Do you have to buy oysters first or does the grocery store sell oyster shells
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Nick your feed store should sell bags of crushed oyster shell. I get mine from Tractor Supply.

    I can give links to studies that show it can be harmful to provide extra calcium to young chicks. Here are a couple, one starting at hatch and one at 5 weeks.

    Avian Gout
    http://en.engormix.com/MA-poultry-i.../avian-gout-causes-treatment-t1246/165-p0.htm

    British Study – Calcium and Protein
    http://www.2ndchance.info/goutGuoHighProtein+Ca.pdf

    What I cannot find is a study that shows when it is safe to start feeding extra calcium. You can get all kinds of opinions but actual studies are hard for me to come by. I did find a study, I think Imp posted the link, where they looked at preloading commercial laying pullets with extra calcium at age 16 weeks to see if that helped in the egg formation. The results were inconclusive. That was commercial layers where they control when the pullets start to lay by manipulating the lights. It did not address what the results on the pullets’ internal organs were, which is the concern with extra calcium. I don’t know when two weeks before they start to lay is with mine. I’ve had some start at 16 weeks and some start at 9 months.

    I practically always have immature chicks in with my flock so I don’t feed Layer. I generally feed Grower and offer oyster shell on the side for those that need it. When I have very young chicks I feed them all Starter. When I free ranged mine I’d toss egg shells on the compost pile. I did not bake them or crush them. Sometimes they’d eat them but usually not. My egg shells were always in good shape so they were getting enough calcium.

    Like Leslie said, they need more calcium than just their egg shells. A lot of the calcium they eat does not get digested but passes on out the other end as poop. That’s another reason poop is so good for compost. It provides the calcium most plants need.

    I only skimmed a few sections Leslie, but that is an interesting book. It seems to be pointed at the commercial industry where their fed consumption is tightly controlled. That makes sense. They are going to pay for those studies. You can gain a whole lot of information from that, but a lot of us don’t monitor or control their feed intake that tightly. A lot of us let them forage or provide “treats” so we really don’t have that tight of control over it. Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy reading these things and I get most of the stuff I think I know from these studies, but I always try to read them based on what is being studied and how so I can try to relate that to my actual conditions. I learned something I did not know just from my brief skimming. I appreciate that.
     
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  9. LeslieDJoyce

    LeslieDJoyce Overrun With Chickens

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    Yes, it is harder to find "studies" of how to feed backyard chickens for optimal health and performance, and one is often having to broaden the reading or extrapolate. This is likely due to the fact that everyone's back yard is so extremely different from other back yards. But also because modern poultry science is very much about accounting instead of health.

    Nevertheless there does seem to be a consensus regarding offering calcium free choice in a dedicated feeder ... birds of all ages have proven to be excellent at regulating their requirements for calcium. Birds on forage with excellent mineral content or getting plenty of calcium from their rations simply don't eat the calcium supplement. Even in confinement, some birds don't eat enough of the ration to meet their calcium needs so benefit from a calcium supplement.

    One interesting tidbit from the Feeding Poultry book that seems to me to be better than current "advice" is that induvidual laying hens develop their appetite/need for calcium before reaching POL.

    What I like about the Feeding Poultry book is that it was written at a transitional time in poultry science, and it pulls so wonderfully from the entire body of knowledge of keeping poultry up to that point in time. Yes, feeding chickens has become very controlled and industrialized on a huge scale, but the book also considers less controlled environments and smaller flocks. I'm finding it easier to extrapolate useful info from that book than from others.
     
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  10. LeslieDJoyce

    LeslieDJoyce Overrun With Chickens

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    In short, I feel more comfortable feeding an all purpose poultry ration and offering the calcium on the side. I have a mixed flock of both genders and all ages of birds.
     

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