They're Eating More Than They Produce! Help!!!

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Joe Jordan, Oct 14, 2012.

  1. Joe Jordan

    Joe Jordan Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have six layers in the hen house right now. They are kept company by a crested polish who refuses to lay, and two Salmon Favrolee(?) roosters. The trouble is that they are eating us out of the game entirely. With the cost of a 50 lbs bag of layer crumbles around $15.50, it is difficult to make the money back on their eggs before we have to buy another bag. At present the girls are giving us 6 eggs a day most days and as little as four eggs about once a week, so they are very good layers. My question is, what can I do to increase productivity in relation to consumption. Am I over-feeding? We allow free-ranging at least 4 days a week, all day long. What are you doing that I am not? What is your experience?
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    Well, 6 hens can't lay more than 6 eggs a day. With shortening daylength, that production level will most likely drop. Logic says get rid of the roosters and the Polish. That in and of itself will cut food utilization by more than a third - figuring that the roosters eat more than a hen would.
     
  3. Joe Jordan

    Joe Jordan Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Right, production can't be increased. A magician you are! [​IMG]

    No, getting rid of part of our family is not in our game plan. We try not to discriminate based upon sex. The roosters have their job as does the crested polish. Someone needs to be there to protect against predators during free ranging (roosters) and someone also has to be at the bottom of the pecking order (crested polish) in order for the others to continue to lay the lower cholesterol eggs we have come to appreciate.

    I wasn't sure if I might be feeding them too much? Does anyone ration their feed? Or, do I just have some hungry birds at the moment. They might be adding a layer fat for the winter? Ponderances of an addict, I guess.
     
  4. mickey328

    mickey328 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The shorter days trigger their biology to eat more because winter is generally a "lean time" for them, when they need to use more of their resources to maintain their own bodies...so you'll see them eating more and producing less. You can add light to about 14 hours/day to keep production up, but that's about all....it's just the nature of...well...Nature. We free feed...keep the feeders full so they have access to it whenever and how much they want. I have noticed that on days when we give them lots of other stuff, they eat less feed. All the weeds I pull from the yard go in the run, any cheese that's a bit old (though I cut the mold off) goes to them, yogurt, cooked beans...all great protein supplements. I have comfrey and clover for them and they love that. Any eggs that are cracked or broken are scrambled and fed back to them. They also get all meat trimmings we have...that's their absolute favorite thing. Most things that would otherwise be composted go to them first. If they don't eat it, we just clean it up and put it on the compost pile. During the summer, I've found that we were able to reduce their feed intake by as much as 25%. It won't be as much during the winter, of course, because we won't be able to get to the weeds, comfrey and clover but every little bit helps.

    Home grown eggs aren't cheaper...they're just better, LOL
     
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  5. Joe Jordan

    Joe Jordan Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG] Thank you for your response!
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Since you are free-ranging, you do have the option of supplying a diet that is not nutritionally complete and allow foraging to make difference. With a small number of birds consider backing off on whatever layer diet is used and supply in its stead a multigrain scratch. Watch for declines in egg production or major changes in ranging behavoir.


    Also 4 days per week of free-range maybe difficult for birds to adjust too. As temperatures drop the birds will consume more for maintenance and at some point that will cut into intake that would otherwise be directed towards egg production.
     
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  7. Tivona

    Tivona Chillin' With My Peeps

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    One other thing to check is make sure that the birds are actually eating all of that food. Mice and rats can sneak in and eat a bunch without being obvious. Out in the country they come in from the fields/woods so even if you keep it clean some will eventually show up. Here I have neighbors with horse, cattle, and hay fields. We get rid of some mice or rats and eventually some more show up. Just the way it is here. Store all feed in rodent safe containers and bring in any left over food at night if you don't already. Leave out a few traps at night where the birds can't get to. At least you can have an idea if that is part of the issue that way.
     
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  8. Joe Jordan

    Joe Jordan Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks, centrarchid and Tivona! Very good advice from both of you.
     
  9. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Unfortunately I think if you want to maximize your profit you really have to start thinking of chickens as a business and not as members of your family. Otherwise I think they you have to just think of them as a hobby that, if done thoughtfully, might come close to paying for itself. I agree with the above post and playing around a little with their nutrition and lighting.

    Also, you could look into the pricing of your food and the amount of waste. Crumbles vs pellets vs mash - which lasts longer for you and which has the least waste and dust. The above post about mice and wild birds is also a good thing to look into. Consider a treadle if this seems to be a problem. Also check the pricing of layer vs grower with calcium on the side. Keep good records. Farming mealworms is cheap and easy and a great source of protein and you can sprout your own fodder if you need more healthy greens.

    Overall though I think you are actually getting a good laying rate for the season.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2012
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Joe Jordan,


    Your flock size is well below where economy of scale kicks in and you breed selection is not one I would have when pushing for egg production. On such small scale which I do admit is fun, to make so feed cost are greatly reduced, I would be raising something else also to be consumed like a feeder calf, couple sheep or goats that are fed grain sparingly and few enough in number not to decimate forage in the pasture. The chickens can glean the manure and the grazers make so more forage is available for birds. The birds then need not be fed directly. If birds are fed directly and available forage is limited, then feed cost will be continue to be high.

    I have always enjoyed trying to understand what and how much forage my land produces for consumption by birds to promote good growth. I can not support 50 birds per acre without supplemental feeding. More like less than 5 and not all acres the same.
     
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