When do I switch feeds?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by jlholm, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. jlholm

    jlholm Out Of The Brooder

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    This is my first time raising chickens and I'm very confused about when to switch feeds and what to switch to. I've read and been given lots of differing advice and wanted to see what everyone here thought. My girls are just now 17 weeks. I've been told to switch to layer feed when they turn 18 weeks whether they've started laying or not, to wait until they start laying, and to not switch to layer feed at all...to use a higher protein feed such as feather fixer or all flock and offer oyster shell with it. I've also been told that when I do switch to mix it in with their current feed to start with. HELP!
     
  2. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    There are no hard and fast "rules" to changing feed. You can do any of the options. If it were me, I'd use up the bag you are working on and when you have about 5# left, start adding the layer.
     
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  3. jlholm

    jlholm Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks! I've been told I worry too much! lol!
     
  4. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Overrun With Chickens

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    I agree
     
  5. jlholm

    jlholm Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you! I tend to worry too much about doing everything "right" and afraid to do something "wrong!
     
  6. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Actually you don't worry too much. Switching to layer is a critical timing issue.
    Especially this time of year, I wouldn't switch to layer unless all your birds are laying.
    They tell you to start at 18 weeks because in the commercial layer industry, they do that. But in that industry they are on strict lighting programs which cause all the birds to start laying within a couple weeks of each other. If you don't plan on illuminating your coop to provide 14 hours of light, it wouldn't be prudent to start layer till your birds are actively laying.
    Layer feed is 4 % calcium. That is a huge percentage of total intake for any single mineral. Excess calcium has to be processed and expelled by the kidneys and for a bird not producing egg shells, that volume can overwhelm.
    I know people will tell you they do it all the time with no problems but when they lose a bird inexplicably, they don't suspect nutrition nor do a necropsy so they don't know it had renal failure or gout.
    Laying commences when daylength increases above 10-11 hours with birds about 20 weeks or so. This time of year you can't predict when the birds will start to lay.
    The best course is as others have told you. Continue to feed a finisher or grower feed and be prepared to offer oyster shell free choice when you get the first egg. When most of your girls are laying you can switch to layer.
    In the broiler breeder industry, they don't switch till 5% of the birds are laying and they're on a lighting program where 90% will be laying within a couple weeks.
     
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  7. jlholm

    jlholm Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you! That makes total sense. I am not providing extra lighting at this time (not sure if I want to at all) and wondered if because they are coming to that age in the dead of winter here in Western NY if they would even start laying at all before spring.
     
  8. WhiteLeghorn2

    WhiteLeghorn2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG] First of all, welcome to BYC! This is a great site to learn about chickens from other keepers.

    So to answer your question: Yes, it is true that you should switch them at 18 weeks to layer feed. However, they don't have to have the layer feed at exactly 18 weeks. I'd just go ahead and finish feeding the food you have (It will not hurt them to eat grower feed past 18 weeks) and then once you run out, go ahead and buy the layer feed. What are you feeding them now? I'd assume you're using non medicated grower food? If you are using the *medicated* grower food, do not eat any of the eggs until 5 days after you have stopped feeding them the medicated food. The medication could be in the egg, so it's best to not take any chances. If the grower feed isn't medicated, it's fine to eat the eggs. The only reason you would generally feed an adult hen layer feed is because it has calcium to help them form the egg shell. Some keepers have fed their flock off of table scraps, and they've survived lol. So to make my point clear, you don't need to worry about giving them layer food at exactly 18 weeks. BTW You should also keep oyster shell (Or regular grit from a feed store) in a separate feeder at all times in the coop. They will eat this and it goes into their gizzard and helps them digest their food. I hope this helps! If you have any other questions, I'd be more than happy to help you. God bless!

    BuffOrpLover22
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2013
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  9. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Just to be clear about a couple things. Grit and oyster shell are 2 different things. Both are to be offered separately from the feed.
    All ages of birds need insoluble grit to aid in grinding up their food.
    Oyster shell is soluble and breaks down quickly in the acidic environment of a chicken's gut. Oyster shell is a superior source of calcium because of it's large particle size. Only laying hens need oyster shell.

    I still wouldn't feed layer feed until the birds start laying. You don't know when a pullet will start laying especially this time of year. If a pullet turns 18 weeks in say November and doesn't start laying till days get longer in March and you started feeding layer in November, that's 5 months of excessive calcium they can't avoid.
     
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  10. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Agree with the above. Layer feed is essentially just chicken feed with calcium added to help form egg shells. It is food for laying birds, it does not help or cause them to start laying. It don't see any reason to ever feed before your birds start laying.

    If you want around 18 or 20 weeks you can put out a bowl of oyster shell. This is a calcium source. The nice thing about doing this is that, when provided separately they will only eat as needed. If some of your birds start laying they will have that calcium they need but your non laying birds are not getting too much. A lot of people with mixed age flocks or people with roosters feed their birds this way their whole lives.

    Once you have a flock of all layers you can switch to a layer or keep going with a grower plus oyster.

    Grit is something separate. It is just little rocks used in the gizzard to break down food. If your birds are outside on dirt they will find it themselves.

    Reading about feeding can feel confusing. People tend to feel strongly about how they feed their birds but there are lots of ways to go about it. Layer is not the only good option for adult feed, just a common one. The two key things to follow are Never give layer to very young birds and don't give medicated starter to layer birds. Grower and flock raiser or all flock are meant for all age groups without calcium mixed in and can be used instead of layer depending on your goals and flock make up.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2013
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