When can I feed my chickens layer feed?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by LithiumPyrite, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. LithiumPyrite

    LithiumPyrite Out Of The Brooder

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    My Coop
    We have a RIR and a mystery chick that were born around Aug 8, 2012. Neither of them are laying yet but by stereotype the RIR should start laying around next month I think. Is it too soon to start feeding them layer feed? I've seen other people mention in the forums to just supplement regular feed with oyster shells instead. I know that oyster shells are a calcium supplement but do they also count as grit? Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. Lilslinkfarm

    Lilslinkfarm Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 18, 2012
    Jane, MO
    You shouldn't feed layer feed until ALL are laying, as a precautionary. If they start laying and you still have grower/finisher feed left over just keep feeding them that and supplement with the oyster shell. I have a mixed flock of different ages pretty much all the time so I never feed layer and just keep a bowl of oyster shell available at all times for the ones that are laying and I've never had a problem with egg shells not being hard enough. The little ones will peck and maybe ingest a few pieces but it's not enough to hurt them with too much calcium. You should still have grit available as well
     
  3. JerseyGiantfolk

    JerseyGiantfolk Overrun With Chickens

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    When they start laying, I gradually put layer feed into their baby food.
     
  4. debid

    debid Overrun With Chickens

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    Oyster shell is too soft to be effective as grit. They need access to tiny bits of rock if they are eating anything other than milled feed. And layer feed isn't anything magical to encourage laying. It's just chicken feed with calcium added. So, put the calcium on the side and all of the chickens get what they need. Once they're all laying, you can switch to layer. Or not.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  5. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Grit isn't related to layer feed. Layer feed is just feed with calcium and generally a slightly lower protein percentage. You don't ever have to switch to layer if you decide you don't want to. I personally never use it. But, if you want to I would wait until all of your hens are laying.

    Whether or not you switch you may need to get grit. If your birds are out free ranging and have access to lots of soil then they may not need it. But, if they are in a small yard or run most of the time they will quickly eat all the little rocks and will need to be supplied grit. Any feed store should sell it.
     
  6. WhiskiRanch

    WhiskiRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I also have a mixed flock of chickens of all ages. I have always fed them all purpose poultry crumbles or pellets and in the winter, toss some scratch around in their run every once in awhile. i also feed them most of my veggie scraps and tossed two pumpkin halves in there run. i live where its sandy so they dont even need grit. I haven't needed to supplement oyster shells but it also might be different depending on your climate. I live in the Pacific Northwest. Out of 6 hens and 3 pullets, i get on average 6-8 eggs per day and the quality of them is very high. when it gets warm outside and the bugs are out, i will cut their all purpose amount in half. They are really good about letting me know when the bugs start coming out in the spring or start dying off in the fall by either ignoring their food or hollering for some[​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2013
  7. LithiumPyrite

    LithiumPyrite Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 10, 2012
    Murray, Utah
    My Coop
    I ran out of regular feed just as they turned 6 months and it didn't make any sense for me to buy more when they only have giant bags and I only have two chickens. In good news, one of them is laying! Little round tan ping pong ball sized eggs. Not sure which but I suspect my RIR. I bought laying pellets (off the top of my head I think it was 17%) and they have been eating them for about 3 weeks. She started laying around 2 weeks ago. The shells are still quite thin. I have oyster shell and grit but I'm not sure if I should use them. They are stuck in their coop/run and have been all winter because of snow so they aren't getting anything free range right now. Any suggestions would be appreciated. The other isn't laying and since she is the one that adopted us (see my other thread) we have no real idea how old she is or when to expect her to start laying.

    Also, unrelated but they're run is full of mud and poop. Can I throw wood shavings down or does anyone have any suggestions on something inexpensive/free that we could throw down to absorb all the extra moisture as the snow starts to thaw?
     
  8. debid

    debid Overrun With Chickens

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    Being a new layer can cause thinner (and even absent) shells. Most likely, the shells will thicken in a week or two.

    I range mine often enough to skip offering grit but I keep shell available whether I'm feeding layer or all-flock. I have noticed that only the layers eat it and they eat much more shell when fed all-flock. I'd suggest putting out little cups of each and allowing them to choose what they need. It doesn't need to be a big deal -- just wash a couple of small cans well and nail them to the wall.

    As for the muck, I use leaves. Lots and lots of leaves. The chickens scratch and shred them so I pile on another bag as needed. They're free and easy to come by in the fall.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013

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