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Ready to Lay???

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Arwenelfmaiden, Sep 16, 2015.

  1. Arwenelfmaiden

    Arwenelfmaiden Out Of The Brooder

    Hello everybody!

    Okay, I've got my six hens I wrote about in NO LOVE. They are all 19 weeks old today! I've got a Chicken Calendar I have been recording on to keep me up to date on my "Girls". They are all pretty happy and healthy. I have started them on Layer Feed mixed with the proper amount of Oyster Shells, mixed in well, this week.

    I have seen a little different behavior on a few of them like the squatting and the singing-my Skunkie Treats (Silver Laced Wyandotte) I think is singing as she goes on and on, all the time. She hardly has any combs/wattles but what she has is a very bright red.

    My Buff Orpington 'Clover' is big, has red and big everything on her face. Nothing new.

    My EE (Scarlet) is her regular on-my-own, troublemaking self, some showing on her comb. Scarlet & Skunkie have about the same in the face area & they are my smallest of all the hens.

    My Elvira, Mistress of the Coop Black Copper Maran is huge but has little on her face. What she has is dark. She is my 'loner' in the family. ALWAYS off on her own.

    Cookie, my Cuckoo Maran, is big and I have seen her squatting in certain places but only little on the face and it is dark.

    And then there is Chick Pea, my Barred Rock. Aggressive as all get out and the boss. She has a lot of Red on her face. Nothing unusual about her except that she thinks highly of herself! LOL!!!

    Those are my 'Girls'.

    So, my question is should I open up their nesting boxes, at this time? I have a wooden Egg that the Nutrena person at the store I buy all the Chicken supplies from, gave me. Should I put the liners I bought for the two laying boxes in my Coop and place the egg in one of the nests??? I also have a light in their Coop which I turn on when the sun goes down. Not a heat lamp, yet.
    I apologize for the silly questions, but I am a newbie and all my information comes from here and some current books. There are so many different opinions and information that I find myself HERE, asking the PROS!!!

    I look very much forward to hearing from anyone……. these pictures are a month old.

    Thank you, fellow Cluckers!!!
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  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Several things.
    They don't need a light unless you want to add it for a few hours to stimulate lay. However, it shouldn't be on all night. They need a dark period each night, 8 hours or so.
    Definitely open the nest boxes. You don't want them to get in the habit of laying elsewhere.
    Put the liners in or any other type of bedding. What are the liners like?
    Definitely put the fake egg in the nest.
    The barred rock looks to be the closest to point of lay.
    The others' combs are still quite small.
    Pick the birds up and if at POL, their cloacas should be large and moist and there should be at least 3 finger width between the pelvic bones.
    As for food, who told you what the 'Proper Amount of Oyster Shells' was and how much was that.
    Oyster shell should be in a separate container and never mixed with feed. Your birds don't look mature enough for layer feed. The layer feed is already 4% calcium and mixing oyster shell with it will give them WAAY too much calcium. They need to be able to choose if they feel the need to consume more.
    This time of year, with shortening day length (the primary control of sexual maturity), one never knows how long it will be before onset of lay.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. Arwenelfmaiden

    Arwenelfmaiden Out Of The Brooder

    Several things.
    They don't need a light unless you want to add it for a few hours to stimulate lay. However, it shouldn't be on all night. They need a dark period each night, 8 hours or so.
    Definitely open the nest boxes. You don't want them to get in the habit of laying elsewhere.
    Put the liners in or any other type of bedding. What are the liners like?
    Definitely put the fake egg in the nest.
    The barred rock looks to be the closest to point of lay.
    The others' combs are still quite small.
    Pick the birds up and if at POL, their cloacas should be large and moist and there should be at least 3 finger width between the pelvic bones.
    As for food, who told you what the 'Proper Amount of Oyster Shells' was and how much was that.
    Oyster shell should be in a separate container and never mixed with feed. Your birds don't look mature enough for layer feed. The layer feed is already 4% calcium and mixing oyster shell with it will give them WAAY too much calcium. They need to be able to choose if they feel the need to consume more.
    This time of year, with shortening day length (the primary control of sexual maturity), one never knows how long it will be before onset of lay.

    Hope this helps.




    Hello ChickCanoe!

    Thank you for the quick response. Good to know about the weak light. I will not use it anymore. Is is alright to use the heating lamps during the cold weather? It snows here in Kansas and their Coop is inside of a nice small brick building which used to be a playhouse that was built in the 50's. I figure I would close up the fenced up windows and door to make it warmer in the cold months, supply heating lamps and a water warmer. So those are the plans for the cold coming. Is it okay to have those heating lamps on all the time in the winter???

    On the laying boxes, i purchased the squares of box Laying excelsior they have at the feed store. They fit perfectly into the 2 laying boxes as that Coop is a Chicken Hawk design. I have removed the box guard, put those in there and the one wooden egg.

    The Oyster Shell has instructions on the package. I have included a pic of the bag. Says to feed separately or to mix 1 Lb. to 20 Lbs. of Layer Feed. So that is where that came from. The feeder I have for them is a large steel hanging deal that you can put a lot of feed into so the Oyster Shell disappeared as I know the amount I put in is less than they said to.

    Here are some pics I took today to show you their growth level.

    Look forward to hearing back from you.

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  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Signs of onset of lay---I've found the pelvic points to be the most accurate.
    Squatting:
    If you touch their back they will hunker down on the ground, then shake their tail feathers when they get back up.
    This shows they are sexually mature and egg laying is close at hand.

    Combs and Wattles:
    Plump, shiny red - usually means laying.
    Shriveled, dryish looking and pale - usually means not laying.
    Tho I have found that the combs and wattles can look full and red one minute then pale back out the next due to exertion or excitement, can drive ya nuts when waiting for a pullet to lay!

    2 bony points(pelvic bones) on either side of vent:
    Less than 2 fingertip widths apart usually means not laying.
    More than 2 fingertip widths apart usually means laying



    Heating lamps cause more problems than they theoretically solve, and can be devastatingly dangerous.
    Very common misconception.

    Chickens are wearing down coats :D the breeds you have are all pretty cold hardy,
    as long as they are kept in a dry coop and out of any strong drafts they will be 'happy' and healthy.

    Ventilation is much more important.
    Removing the moist, ammonia laden air from respiration and defecation from the coop will reduce frostbite and is essential to their health.
    Good article linked in my signature on Ventilation...have a read there.

    Lots of info on winter here on BYC, click the link and check it out:
    Advanced search>titles only> winter heating
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Last edited: Sep 17, 2015
  6. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    @aart made some very good points




    your buff orpington looks to be very close to laying also. I had a BO that never did grow a big comb but started laying with the rest and laid well.



    I'll discuss the calcium thing and the winter thing.
    Thank you very much for posting the picture of the oyster shell label.
    I just called Orscheln's. (country lane is one of their store brands) I wanted to alert them of the misprint. Their nutrition buyer is supposed to call me back after lunch.
    A layer hen deposits 5-6 grams of calcium carbonate or 2.2 grams of free calcium in the egg shell. For those laying daily, they need more calcium than those not building shells daily.
    On average, a hen will eat 2.5 lbs. of feed per week (bird size, production and available forage notwithstanding). At 4 % calcium in layer feed that comes out to about 6.5 grams of limestone (calcium carbonate) consumed per day. The added limestone or other source of calcium carbonate is in powder form. Not all of that will be hitting the calcium absorption sites (or utilized) while the egg is in the shell gland. Some of it is expelled in feces. Large particle oyster shell has long been though to be retained in the upper digestive tract longer and therefor be better utilized at night when the egg is normally in the shell gland.
    If a bird doesn't have an egg in the works, the excess calcium first replenishes any lost in the medullary bone and the rest is processed by the kidneys. Excess can overwhelm, causing degeneration of some of the kidney segments. Some of that excess also gets deposited in other organs, tissues and joints.

    Calcium carbonate is 40% calcium.
    If my math is correct, and according to the directions, adding 1 pound of oyster shell (95% calcium carbonate) to 20 pounds of feed will increase the calcium carbonate in the feed by over 2%. If the feed is already 4%, then the result is 6+% calcium.

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    As for winter, chickens die from heat and bad air. They do not die from cold.
    There is no need for heat or closing up the coop. As aart said, ventilation is key. I'm at about the same latitude as you and have nearly as cold of temperatures. Every new building I build has bigger windows and they stay open all winter. Big openings on both the east and west walls with the breeze blowing right through. 30+ breeds and never lost a bird to cold.
    Supplying heat via a heat lamp or other source is expensive and negates any financial advantage to owning chickens. All of your breeds were developed in climates that get cold long before there was any means to heat the hen houses.
    Orpingtons were developed in England in the 1800s.
    Marans, France at least 200 years ago.
    Rocks, New England around Massachusetts nearly 200 years ago.
    Wyandottes, New York state around 1870.
    EEs get some of their genes from Araucanas that have been living with Indians in Chile for perhaps 500 years or more. Yeah, Chile gets cold too.
    Additionally, if one keeps the coop warm, the chickens have to go out into a brisk wind in the morning and they aren't prepared to do so because they haven't been acclimated. If a power outage occurs, which often happens in winter, the chickens accustomed to a cozy coop will be ill prepared and stressed.
    You sleep in a warm house in your PJs and before you go outside in winter you put on heavy clothes and a winter coat and possibly long johns. Chickens go to bed wearing those things. Let them acclimate, give them fresh air and they'll be much healthier.
     
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  7. Arwenelfmaiden

    Arwenelfmaiden Out Of The Brooder

    Okay I read thoroughly your message. I took out that feed I mixed with the Shell. The girls had not gotten to it yet in the feeder. Refilled it with just Layer Feed.
    What do I do with the bag of Shells???

    The winter info is wonderful. I had literally, no idea. The brick house has a door with mesh window. There are 6 25x12 meshed windows along the tops of all 4 walls. And remember that inside the brick bldg there is a built 5 hen SkyHawk Coop which still gives the hens plenty of room in/out coop. Bldg is well roofed. I'll send pics of the area.

    My question on this: I leave all windows & door uncovered? Personally with one bldg inside another, might be stuffy already???

    Your thoughts on those questions would be great. So I guess those Heat Lamps are only good for chicks?

    One more ? If you don't mind: here in winter for days the sun won't shine. Do you provide any light in the coop?

    Thank you soooooooo much![​IMG]
     
  8. Arwenelfmaiden

    Arwenelfmaiden Out Of The Brooder

     
  9. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    OK, my math was off a bit but I was doing it off the top of my head. I had a lengthy discussion with someone I assume was a poultry nutritionist at the supplier of country lane brand feeds.
    We talked about the advice to mix the oyster shell with layer feed. I told him of my alarm at instructing people to mix any source of calcium with a feed that already contains 4% calcium.
    Oyster shell is 95% calcium carbonate, as I said. Calcium carbonate in OS, I believed to be 40% free calcium. Their analysis has it at between 32 and 36% free calcium.
    But, adding oyster shell at a ratio of 1:20 will still make the resultant feed about 5.8% calcium which they didn't think was excessive. Upon further discussion, he admitted that was only an appropriate level for hens in production and really only for high producing birds that lay daily. He said it would not be appropriate for birds not yet producing, roosters, molters or even laying birds that weren't in high production.
    We discussed a change to their labeling to include wording warning people not to follow those directions if their entire flock were not high producing hens.

    Calcium carbonate is broken down in the digestive tract into calcium ions and carbon ions and travel through the bloodstream and then reformulated in the shell gland to produce calcium carbonate again to apply for the egg shell.

    As for what to do with the oyster shell, keep it and start putting it out in a separate container fairly soon. I use cage cups but they should be protected from rain as that tends to make the shells a bit mushy and the hens don't seem to want to eat them then.

    Yes, heat lamps are only for chicks the first few weeks.

    I would pay very close attention to ventilation. Without seeing it, I can't tell you what to do.
    Perhaps put a hygrometer in there and see what the humidity is compared to outdoors. If it is much higher, you need more fresh air.
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    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.

    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.
     

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