So, how plump should these little cluckers be?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Squeaky, Sep 20, 2008.

  1. Squeaky

    Squeaky I squeak, therefore I am

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    I've got these pullets who are about 15 weeks old (RIR and EE). While picking them up and handling them, I felt their keelbones and these birds aren't very plump. I mentally compared them to the Cornish game hens or fryers I've gotten from the store in the past, and it seems to me there isn't much muscle on the birds and no fat at all.

    Their legs are well muscled because they run around a lot, and they've feathered out well except one who was plucking herself a bit (the feathers are re-growing). They're bright-eyed, sociable, and they eat a lot.

    I feed them as much as they want of green leafy things, weeds, fruit (but not every day), seeds, corn, bread leftovers (but not every day), and pumpkin leaves that are crawling with bugs. They eat both the bugs and the leaves. Also they've eaten every ant in both hills that used to be in their run. Once in a while they get yogurt or other expired dairy.

    I've never seen their crops completely empty, and they eat until they're no longer interested in the food then come back periodically to graze, yet when I arrive at the pen they all re-enact Scarlett O'Hara's starvation scene from "Gone With The Wind".

    Are my chickens getting enough to eat or are they just being little drama queens? Are they supposed to be this skinny (that is, mostly feathers and not plump like grocery store chickens)?
     
  2. StPaulieGirls

    StPaulieGirls Out Of The Brooder

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    Sounds like you're providing a diverse diet! You didn't mention feed, though. Are you offering a layer feed? If you want good egg production and healthy layers for the long term, you'll probably want to offer a layer blend and something like oystershell for calcium. Our girls don't go through it as much in the summer as in the winter because they're enjoying green and crawly things like yours are.

    The meat birds that are produced for grocery market consumers have been selected and bred so that they have huge breast muscles in proportion to the rest of their body, so a laying or dual-purpose bird will probably not heft like a fryer hen in plastic wrap.

    Our EEs have always been slender, so I know what you mean when you describe feeling their little bony bodies.

    Hope that's helpful.
     
  3. hippichick

    hippichick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 13, 2008
    Branch, La
    So is there anything you can feed to help put weight on your chickens? I also find mine are not as "plump" as they should be. They are free range, and I feed layer pellets and game bird blend. All they can eat, and I think they are thin. I started feeding a high protein supplement about 2 weeks ago that the lady at the feed store recommended. But I haven't noticed a difference yet. I hate feeling that breastbone, especially knowing how much money I am spending on feed. It's not cheap.....

    Paula
     
  4. Squeaky

    Squeaky I squeak, therefore I am

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    Jul 5, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
    Quote:Nope, not even a beakful. I told them they can't have layer feed or oyster shell until they're of legal age (17 weeks). Since they're just 15 they're all trying to chirp in a low register while looking around for fake IDs.

    I'm reluctant to give them grown-up hen food too early because I'm told it hurts their little kidneys if they start with the extra calcium too soon. If I'm wrong about that, would it make sense to switch them over earlier?

    Thanks for the heads up on the breed difference betwen my birds and the Dolly Partons in the grocery store. Maybe my birds don't have chicken bulimia after all and I shouldn't worry.

    Thanks!
     
  5. Year of the Rooster

    Year of the Rooster Sebright Savvy

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    Quote:Nope, not even a beakful. I told them they can't have layer feed or oyster shell until they're of legal age (17 weeks). Since they're just 15 they're all trying to chirp in a low register while looking around for fake IDs.

    I'm reluctant to give them grown-up hen food too early because I'm told it hurts their little kidneys if they start with the extra calcium too soon. If I'm wrong about that, would it make sense to switch them over earlier?

    Thanks for the heads up on the breed difference betwen my birds and the Dolly Partons in the grocery store. Maybe my birds don't have chicken bulimia after all and I shouldn't worry.

    Thanks!

    You do know there is feed for younger birds right? Its called Chick Starter or Chick Grower. If there was only Layer Feed then there probably wouldn't be as many healthy chicks today.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2008
  6. cyrixlord

    cyrixlord Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 25, 2008
    Monroe, wa
    My lorps are 5 months old and they are able to eat feed in their coops and i provide a plate out in the yard where they graze. I also throw cracked corn out when I go outside. they have free reign of the back yard and go into their coops when they want. Interestingly enough they go to their coops during the middle of the day to lay eggs then pop back out for more grazing. they've been on the layer feed for prolly 2 months.
     
  7. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    My girls are RIR crosses and growing rapidly. They're 17 weeks and have begun laying but are still growing at breakneck speed. Since you are feeding freely, I suspect you're seeing a stage and that once they are ready for layer feed (mine are on it now) you'll eventually see plumping. When mine went on layer feed at 16 weeks 3 days, there was some liquidly manure for a few days then they returned to normal. You're right about the extra calcium being hard on the kidneys so they need to requre the extra calcium. You may also get some practice eggs, thin and sandpapery as they settle to lay- this is normal![​IMG]

    Three of my girls are plumping now, the rest will catch up!
     
  8. WestKnollAmy

    WestKnollAmy The Crazy Chicken Lady Premium Member

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    I think they are just long and lanky teenagers at 15-17 wks old.
    I have a few EE roos that we plan on putting in the freezer and though they eat a high fat diet with added grower/developer pellets, they are still too thin to slaughter as of yet.
    Even the Jersey Giant roos, who are very large, haven't much meat on their breast. These guys get tons of bugs and scratch as well as oats and wheat with their pellets and cornbread, grits and whatnot but they aren't as fat as I would like so we are still growing them out.
    Cornish just develop differently and much faster.
    Don't worry, before long they will be too plump when you pick them up and you'll be wondering how to get them slender again to keep them healthy!
     
  9. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

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    My Coop
    Quote:I agree.
     
  10. MrGreenJeans

    MrGreenJeans Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 10, 2008
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    Out of curiosity Nadine, how old are your EE roos ?
    I've got one in the 14-15 week range who's started crowing (no-no for us city folk - but he was a great pullet while it lasted [​IMG] )

    I like to be able to keep him long enough to butcher, but if that time is too far off I may need to offer him up to someone with a farm - probably only a matter of time before the neighbors get fed up.
     

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