When to switch to layer? 18 weeks? 20 weeks?


13 Years
Mar 29, 2009
Coastal Southern California
I keep getting conflicting advice.

My girls will be 18 weeks this week. I read someplace (maybe here) that I should switch them to layer feed at 18 weeks, but the people at the feed store were emphatic about not doing it until 20 weeks.

I have 10 lbs of starter (unmedicated) left so should I just use that up and then switch over when it's done? Or will that keep them from laying?

And I don't start giving them oyster shell until we have eggs, right?
No, that will not keep the hens from laying. Go ahead and start them on laying feed if you want, but don't waste the starter that you already have. Use it up, or mix it in. You do not need oyster shells. The laying feed will have what you need.
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I agree with all of this, except the part about oyster shell. Yes, I can get eggs with shells without offering oyster shell, because the layer feed has some in it. However, the amount of calcium in the layer feed I use is only 3 or 4%, can't remember which.
To get really strong eggshells and know that my girls aren't sacrificing their own calcium needs to the shells, I offer OS. It's super cheap, like 20 cents a pound and good insurance.
and my feed store guy was insistent I put my 8 week olds on layer because "that's what the mill would tell you to do"...
I agree with gristar. Give oyster shell free choice. They won't eat it unless they need it. Sometimes my hens eat a lot and sometimes hardly any at all.

Most employees at feed stores sell feed but don't have animals of their own and they often are mis-informed. First question you should have for them is... do you have chickens? If not don't bank on their advice. This is not always the case.

Good Luck
Yeah, and remember, even if he does have chickens, he still might not have a clue about what he ought to be doing with them.
You will get conflicting advice, that's one of the perks of getting 'opinions'. I've heard to give it to them a few weeks before they should start laying (around 16 weeks or so), then I've also heard to give it once they have started laying. Personally, I don't give any of my birds layer feed, so I don't have to worry about it

ETA: You could always go by the directions on the bag. It should say when the manufacturer recommends switching their feed.
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I don't think there's a huge difference in starting at 16 weeks or 20. I'd get layer feed at 16 to 18 weeks and start mixing small amounts in with your remaining starter, and then increase the ratio of layer day to day until your remaining starter food has been used up and you're on full layer rations.

To some extent, the breed you have might change how early you start. Sex-links tend to start laying earlier, in the 18-22 week range, so start the layer earlier if that's what you have. Other breeds may go 26-30 weeks before coming into lay, so you can wait til 20+ to start the layer with them.

Edit: I always aim for getting them on layer before they start to lay, not waiting until after. That way, they're getting the nutrition they need as they are coming into lay.

Also ... if you are still using medicated feed, stop that well before they start laying. I only use medicated for the first few weeks, and others I know stop at eight weeks. You don't want them on medicated feed just before laying, if you want to be eating those first eggs.
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Here's a stupid question...
How does it hurt us to eat an egg from a chicken who was recently eating medicated chicken starter?

Does anyone know what small amounts of coccidiostat,or whatever by-product is left to go in the egg, actually might do to a human, other than be processed by our liver to no ill effect?
There's no such thing as a stupid question. We don't learn if we don't ask.

There are quite a few folks here on BYC that have eaten the first eggs from their pullets, while the pullets were still eating medicated starter. None of them have grown spurs or tailfeathers *yet*
I chose to opt. out of eating the first eggs from my pullets while they were still on the med. starter ONLY because I am highly allergic to many, many meds.

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