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Switching from grower to layer feed

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Pine Roost, Oct 22, 2012.

  1. Pine Roost

    Pine Roost Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have nine 13-14 week old RIRs. Can I switch them to layer feed at this age? Thanks.
     
  2. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would not. Some people like to start early but I always wait until the hens have all started laying until switching. They do not need the calcium until they are actually laying and too much calcium is not good for them. Add some oyster shell on the side and stick with grower until they are all laying is what I would do.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2012
  3. Spangled

    Spangled Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Um ... you could, but I will agree with ChickensRDinos.

    There is a Calcium:phosphorus ratio (not to mention magnesium and Vit D3 in that equation) that a growing bird needs and it's different from the layer ratio because of eggshell formation. If non-laying pullets are fed an abundance of calcium, then they could develop a phosphorus deficiency, not to mention kidney issues because they just can't easily get rid of the excess calcium because they aren't making eggs. The extra calcium strains the system a bit. Those teenage weeks (as a chicken matures and develops her egg-laying apparatus) are really important because they lay the foundation for a hen's reproductive health and production.

    Since the earliest most RIRs are going to lay is 17 weeks, and that would be a rare bird, there's no need to start feeding layer prior to first egg in the backyard setting. I might do it differently if I were running a production chicken farm and needed the first eggs to be perfect to sell and I was going to get rid of my layers at 16 months and start over again. But since I am looking at keeping these chickens for "years" instead of months, I want to have the healthiest chickens I can within reason. I think (guess) that taking things a little more slowly/naturally might be a better way to get a healthier chicken.

    When the first layer gives an egg and it's around 21 weeks, then I feel okay about putting out layer feed for all to eat.

    Keshavarz (1987) did a study where he found it was okay to give 3.5% calcium (standard layer amount) at 14 weeks and claimed everything went well with eggs and kidneys.

    Leeson and a few others in 86-87 reported that starting with 3.5% calcium at 19 weeks was great timing also for the eggs and the kidneys.

    In 1982, Classen and Scott demonstrated that chickens will eat the proper amount of calcium necessary if they are allowed access to nutrients they need (but I didn't see which nutrients they meant, but am guessing it's calcium).

    Did you see in Damerow's book on page 57 of the 1995 edition (Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens) where she has a diagram of a feeding station for salt, oyster shell, grit, and phosphorus. Yeah, free choice phosphorus ... who does that? I guess it used to be the done thing. And for all I know it's a great idea. But it shows that some chicken keepers understand the calcium:phosphorus ration issue.

    Most chickens are amazingly adaptable, so your chickens may do fine if you start them now on layer feed. You've got the study above (Keshavarz, 1987) to back you up. I do wonder, though, if he was using those souped up White Leghorns (Dekalbs[ or ISAs) that all begin laying really early at 18-19 weeks.

    We all manage and care for a chickens differently. Go with your gut.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I have not seen those studies, mainly these that start at hatch and 5 weeks with Layer. Both these clearly show starting too early are bad.

    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

    I think you make an excellent point that we really don't know the conditions or breeds of the birds studied in some of these. Although a lot of the studies are perforned by university students getting advanced degrees, they are generally paid for by commercial interests. We can learn valuable lessons from these studies but all conditions don't always apply to us or the way we manage our birds.

    Something else to consider too. In these studies what the chicks eat is carefuly controlled. Our chicks often forage or we feed thingfs other that just regular chicken feed. The important thing is not the percentage of calcium in part of what they eat. It is the total amount of calcium consumed in a day. And what happens in just one day is not enormousoy important. It's what happens consistently.

    After all this, I agree there is no reason to start them on extra calcium early. While it may not hurt them, it won't help them.


    Since the earliest most RIRs are going to lay is 17 weeks, and that would be a rare bird, there's no need to start feeding layer prior to first egg in the backyard setting. I might do it differently if I were running a production chicken farm and needed the first eggs to be perfect to sell and I was going to get rid of my layers at 16 months and start over again. But since I am looking at keeping these chickens for "years" instead of months, I want to have the healthiest chickens I can within reason. I think (guess) that taking things a little more slowly/naturally might be a better way to get a healthier chicken.

    Since they want the first egg to be sellable, they control when the pullets start laying by manipulating the light. That also helps them be more efficient wihth the feeding routine. They delay those highly productive commercial hybrid chickens form laying a bit so that more of the first eggs are Grage A large type eggs. They really have it down to a science. And I certainly agree with you. I think a slower maturing chicken is more likely to be a healthy chicken.

    Even with the relatively short laying life in the commercial operations, they want their chickens healthy since a healthy chicken is more efficient and productive. I think that's another reason they delay laying a bit. Give those pullets time for their internal organs to mature. Same thing as breeding cattle. You want the heifer old enough to live through her first birth so she will have a long and healthy reproductive life. Don't start her too early.
     
  5. Pine Roost

    Pine Roost Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks. Yea, sounds like I will wait until I see the first egg to start on the layer...however I have 3 bantams that are eating the "flock feed" or whatever its called, and have had no problems at all with soft eggs. . I have had oyster shell available for a week or so now though, but even before that the bantam eggs were fine.

    I appreciate yalls input.
     

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