Switching feeds & nest box questions

DonyaQuick

Songster
Jun 22, 2021
126
329
116
Upstate NY (Otsego county), USA
Seems I've only got one laying so far, Brownie (the one in the pic before), so am still keeping the feeds separate. The layer crumbles are disappearing a lot faster than the chick starter; not sure how much of that is just down to just Brownie vs the others switching. Brownie has made one a day for three days in a row so far! I thought Orpingtons were supposed to be less frequent than that.
 
Sep 30, 2021
361
862
181
Utah
So... I'm not fond of Layer (LOTS of reasons) and would suggest you transition to an all flock instead, with free choice oyster shell on the side. If there is a size concern, put on your eyes and smash the OS (gently) with a hammer, a brick, whatever. Doesn't take much.

Agree with @rosemarythyme , set up for two boxes now. I consider two to be the minimum for a backyard flock - and also all you will need till you hit around 10 birds or so.

Continue to monitor the poo situation. One of the things you rapidly learn as a chicken keeper ais that the two best indicators of your flock's health are behavioral changes and poo condition - and of the two, the poo is a more reliable measure.
Lots of reasons? Please do tell. I have used a soy-free organic pellet and never had problems but my current flock doesn't actually seem to like it
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,225
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626
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Lots of reasons? Please do tell. I have used a soy-free organic pellet and never had problems but my current flock doesn't actually seem to like it

copy/paste from another of my posts - I'm sort of tired tonight.


Layer Feed" has been scientifically formulated to meet the MINIMUM dietary needs of commercial hybrid laying breeds, under commercial management practice, during their commercially productive lifespan (about 18-20 months +/-, typically). It is a low protein (because protein is expensive), high calcium (to support prolific egg laying) formulation intended for RSL, BSL, and similar hybrid layers sharing the following characteristics:

1) Early Onset of Lay
2) Large eggs relative to body size
3) High Frequency of Lay

All that calcium comes at a cost, however. Excess calcium builds up in a chicken, contributing to kidney damage as well as damage to other organs, which is likely, but not guaranteed, to affect lifespan and quality of life. As with any situation where "the dosage is the poison", the length of time before the excess calcium intake is balanced by egg production, as well as the amount of calcium intake daily have an effect, as does variations within individual chickens. Its like smoking - no individual cigarette is guaranteed to give you cancer, but its a statistical certainty that the more you smoke, and the longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop a cancer attributed to your smoking.

Excess calcium is bad for ALL birds. It is worst for Roosters, who never develop a way to excrete extra calcium - they never lay eggs, their kidneys become increasingly damaged with time. They can also develop gout, intestinal problems, lesions, renal failure, etc. Its also bad for pullets before start of lay - and if your pullets are Dark Brahma, or another breed that goes six or seven months before start of lay (rather than the 4-5 months for commercial breeders like Golden Comets) that a long time for calcium to accumulate. If your hens don't drop eggs almost every day (most don't), again, calcium will begin to accumulate, at risk to long term health.

The flip side, is a shortage of protein. Protein is expensive, which is why the bare minimum appears in Layer feed. But protein is very important for the development of new birds, particularly the first 12-18 weeks. Protein assists weight gain, muscle and feather development (which is why many - myself included - recommend higher protein feeds during molting even for those raising nothing but laying age commercial egg producers who plan to keep their hens thru their first molt - factory layers become dog food, etc around that point, often as not). Birds which don't get enough protein will try and eat more, increasing their calcium uptake... Certain breeds need a lot of protein, either due to large body size, heavy feathering (winter hardy breeds), or an "excess" of attractive, but not necessarily practical, feathering.

Unlike calcium, "too much" protein is not a danger to your birds (unless you have ducks, then protein over 24% is associated with higher incidence of "Angel Wing"). Indeed, it generally benefits them in better overall form/body condition, increased early weight gain, and lessened duration and apparent severity of molting. So it really comes down to expense. Typically, the cost of an all flock or flock raiser blend is $1.50 to $2 more than a similar layer feed from the same product line and manufacturer per 40# or 50# bag. Free choice oyster shell, so that your active layers can get as much as they feel they need, but not more, will likely add $7-10 a year for you, given your flock size. One small bag.
 
Sep 30, 2021
361
862
181
Utah
copy/paste from another of my posts - I'm sort of tired tonight.


Layer Feed" has been scientifically formulated to meet the MINIMUM dietary needs of commercial hybrid laying breeds, under commercial management practice, during their commercially productive lifespan (about 18-20 months +/-, typically). It is a low protein (because protein is expensive), high calcium (to support prolific egg laying) formulation intended for RSL, BSL, and similar hybrid layers sharing the following characteristics:

1) Early Onset of Lay
2) Large eggs relative to body size
3) High Frequency of Lay

All that calcium comes at a cost, however. Excess calcium builds up in a chicken, contributing to kidney damage as well as damage to other organs, which is likely, but not guaranteed, to affect lifespan and quality of life. As with any situation where "the dosage is the poison", the length of time before the excess calcium intake is balanced by egg production, as well as the amount of calcium intake daily have an effect, as does variations within individual chickens. Its like smoking - no individual cigarette is guaranteed to give you cancer, but its a statistical certainty that the more you smoke, and the longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop a cancer attributed to your smoking.

Excess calcium is bad for ALL birds. It is worst for Roosters, who never develop a way to excrete extra calcium - they never lay eggs, their kidneys become increasingly damaged with time. They can also develop gout, intestinal problems, lesions, renal failure, etc. Its also bad for pullets before start of lay - and if your pullets are Dark Brahma, or another breed that goes six or seven months before start of lay (rather than the 4-5 months for commercial breeders like Golden Comets) that a long time for calcium to accumulate. If your hens don't drop eggs almost every day (most don't), again, calcium will begin to accumulate, at risk to long term health.

The flip side, is a shortage of protein. Protein is expensive, which is why the bare minimum appears in Layer feed. But protein is very important for the development of new birds, particularly the first 12-18 weeks. Protein assists weight gain, muscle and feather development (which is why many - myself included - recommend higher protein feeds during molting even for those raising nothing but laying age commercial egg producers who plan to keep their hens thru their first molt - factory layers become dog food, etc around that point, often as not). Birds which don't get enough protein will try and eat more, increasing their calcium uptake... Certain breeds need a lot of protein, either due to large body size, heavy feathering (winter hardy breeds), or an "excess" of attractive, but not necessarily practical, feathering.

Unlike calcium, "too much" protein is not a danger to your birds (unless you have ducks, then protein over 24% is associated with higher incidence of "Angel Wing"). Indeed, it generally benefits them in better overall form/body condition, increased early weight gain, and lessened duration and apparent severity of molting. So it really comes down to expense. Typically, the cost of an all flock or flock raiser blend is $1.50 to $2 more than a similar layer feed from the same product line and manufacturer per 40# or 50# bag. Free choice oyster shell, so that your active layers can get as much as they feel they need, but not more, will likely add $7-10 a year for you, given your flock size. One small bag.
Very interesting! I will have to do some research since I'm almost done with this last bag-thank you! Glad you did the smarter not harder thing and c&p'd since I didn't feel like doing any leg work either haha
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,225
15,777
626
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
...and follow up post.

first: Disclosure - I don't put any particular value on "Organic". Or non-GMO. Some do, I don't happen to be one of them. So you are aware that I lack a positive bias in that direction.

second: Why, if I may inquire, soy-free? Our birds - all animals - need a complete protein to thrive. You can't get a complete protein from any plant source, you have to mix ingredients high in some amino acids but low in others with other ingredients whose amino acid profiless compensate for areas where the prior ingredients where inadequate. Soy is both relatively high protein for a green growing thing, and probably the closest to a "complete" protein - particularly good for methionine and lysine, two of the most critical amino acids in a growing chicken's diet.

So important, in fact, that "Organic" feeds are allowed to include a small amount of synthetic Methionine, because plant sources of it are so rare. Check the ingredients on your feed bag, you will likely find "L-Methionine". That's the synthetic. Now look at the nutrition label - if it discloses amino acids (it doesn't have to), it likely lists only Methionine and Lysine. Most of the Organic feeds I've looked at have Methionine levels around 0.3, and Lysine at 0.6%.

On the other hand, target levels of those amino acids are (based on age and breed) often provided at figures more like 0.5% and 0.8-1.1%, respectively.
 
Sep 30, 2021
361
862
181
Utah
...and follow up post.

first: Disclosure - I don't put any particular value on "Organic". Or non-GMO. Some do, I don't happen to be one of them. So you are aware that I lack a positive bias in that direction.

second: Why, if I may inquire, soy-free? Our birds - all animals - need a complete protein to thrive. You can't get a complete protein from any plant source, you have to mix ingredients high in some amino acids but low in others with other ingredients whose amino acid profiless compensate for areas where the prior ingredients where inadequate. Soy is both relatively high protein for a green growing thing, and probably the closest to a "complete" protein - particularly good for methionine and lysine, two of the most critical amino acids in a growing chicken's diet.

So important, in fact, that "Organic" feeds are allowed to include a small amount of synthetic Methionine, because plant sources of it are so rare. Check the ingredients on your feed bag, you will likely find "L-Methionine". That's the synthetic. Now look at the nutrition label - if it discloses amino acids (it doesn't have to), it likely lists only Methionine and Lysine. Most of the Organic feeds I've looked at have Methionine levels around 0.3, and Lysine at 0.6%.

On the other hand, target levels of those amino acids are (based on age and breed) often provided at figures more like 0.5% and 0.8-1.1%, respectively.
I am not biased either way about organic food either that just happens to be the soy-free my feed store carries. Soy-free is not for my chickens but because I personally avoid soy for health reasons. I don't think everyone should but in my case I have a chronic health issue that doesn't need any encouragement so at my house we avoid it in general. I don't, however, plan on making my chickens avoid it if the alternative is an early grave.
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,225
15,777
626
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
I am not biased either way about organic food either that just happens to be the soy-free my feed store carries. Soy-free is not for my chickens but because I personally avoid soy for health reasons. I don't think everyone should but in my case I have a chronic health issue that doesn't need any encouragement so at my house we avoid it in general. I don't, however, plan on making my chickens avoid it if the alternative is an early grave.

and that's why I'm not completely against soy-free in feed. There's a host of conflicting research on whether high soy diets contribute to, or aggravate existing, medical conditions - and nearly as many studies (most Gov't, rather than Industry, funded) also reaching conflicting results about what soy components make their way into eggs or are elevated in the flesh of chickens.

In the absence of reliable data, I can't claim my opinion, formed based on my understanding (at least some) of the (published) research should in any way inform your personal risk assessment.

and i HATE admitting ignorance, but here, that's the wiser course.
 
Sep 30, 2021
361
862
181
Utah
and that's why I'm not completely against soy-free in feed. There's a host of conflicting research on whether high soy diets contribute to, or aggravate existing, medical conditions - and nearly as many studies (most Gov't, rather than Industry, funded) also reaching conflicting results about what soy components make their way into eggs or are elevated in the flesh of chickens.

In the absence of reliable data, I can't claim my opinion, formed based on my understanding (at least some) of the (published) research should in any way inform your personal risk assessment.

and i HATE admitting ignorance, but here, that's the wiser course.
I think the world would be a better place if more people admitted ignorance...We all have to make our own risk assemements haha.
I'm very glad you raised the topic so I could devote a little more time to decided whether my chickens (and I) are getting the best thing for all of us. Thanks so much!
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
8,695
19,079
726
USA
Seems I've only got one laying so far, Brownie ...Brownie has made one a day for three days in a row so far! I thought Orpingtons were supposed to be less frequent than that.

That sounds fairly normal to me.

Some chickens start by laying really well and later slow down, some start slowly and speed up later, some are consistent all the time, and some lay in clumps between stretches of broodiness.

The chicken breeds that are known as really good layers might lay almost every day all year.

But the breeds that are known as less-good layers do not seem to space their eggs evenly. They lay more heavily in the spring and summer, and less in the winter. Or they lay well for a bit, then stop to go broody. Someone can add up all the eggs in a year and divide it out to eggs-per-week, which makes people think a hen will lay at a consistent rate all year long, but she almost never does.
 

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