small flock of mixed age birds: will layer feed harm my younger birds?


In the Brooder
8 Years
Jun 9, 2011
I have 5 hens, two of which are about 3 months old and the other three are about 6-7 months and will be laying soon (I'm not sure of exact ages). I've heard mixed opinions on this matter, so I'm throwing it out to BYC for review. Is it okay to start introducing a layer feed into the coop, or will it harm the younger ones? They're all still on chick grower right now. I was thinking of putting out two separate troughs of food out, but I doubt that they will differentiate. The breeder suggested putting out crushed eggshell but didn't seem to think that the layer would have any negative effects. Others have told me to just go ahead with the layer and that it won't harm the younger birds. Still others have said that the added calcium isn't good for the young birds. Anybody have any advice? Thanks!
There haved been plenty of studies that show young chicks and extra calcium do not get along together. The studies that I have seen start with feeding day old chicks the Layer, not waiting until they are 3 months old to start. I don't know what damage would occur if you start with 3 month olds. I personally do not feed them Layer until after they start to lay. Some people do and say they don't see any problems. Of course, if a one year old hen drops dead for no apparent reason, nobody would relate that to kidney damage from eating Layer a year before and the damaged kidneys finally failing.

You are right. It does absolutely no good to try to feed them separately. Mine always eat what I don't want them to eat.

The way I get around this problem, I offer oyster shell on the side. The ones that need the calcium for the egg shells eat it and the others pretty much leave it alone. The young ones may experiment a little, but they should not eat enough to cause a problem. The crushed egg shells should work much the same as the oyster shells.
So is the chick grower going to continue to be okay for all birds until I feel comfortable that they're all laying as long as I give free choice oyster shell/eggshell?
I'd say better safe than sorry. I feed Purina Flock Raiser (for mixed flock) and have a can nailed to the inside of the coop (out of the weather) in which I put the oyster shell, free choice. The hens seem to know when to eat it. The can is high enough that the babies can't get to it easily. The young pullets might check it out, but like Ridgerunner said, pretty much leave it alone until laying. I also have a separate can with grit in it. They seldom eat any of this. Must get enough outside.
It would probably be better with the chick grower anyway since it has a higher protein which they would still need.
Yes. I personally feed 16% Grower with oyster shell on the side when I can get the Grower. Grower and Layer have about the same protein percent. Some people use 20% Flock Raiser or something else, which also works. I don't like to feed the real high protein stuff meant for game birds and not chickens, but you have several choices in feeds that will work for chickens. The only real rule is to not feed the young ones Layer because of the higher calcium.
I agree. Our pullets and hens are all on grower feed as you really can't separate feed unless a group is penned. With free ranging the shells from hens eggs are still thick so haven't had to offer free choice calcium.

One of the effects of added calcium to young birds is the setting of pelvis too early which leads to poor production and smaller eggs.

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