Why is layer feed lower in protein?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by CAjerseychick, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. CAjerseychick

    CAjerseychick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 25, 2012
    Northern California!
    Quick query? Just wondering, after reading up on feed varieties, why laying hens should have a lower protein (16%) feed than the others? Isnt an egg mostly protein? Just wondering...
    I had mine on Flockraiser (20%) and am switching over to a multiuse poultry pellet (20%) with a back up bag of Gamebird crumbles (22%) -- Mine are young jersey giants (6 and 7 months old) and I was told to keep them on a higher protein feed as they are still growing.... Also I did not expect them to start laying in the middle of winter(!) which they did!.... (Eggs shells are nice and sturdy I just put out oyster shell last week though so no idea how they were getting their calcium before that)...
    Will it hurt the hens in anyway to be at the higher protein feed?
    Just wondering....
     
  2. HouseCat

    HouseCat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Generally, chickens need more protein while they are growing to build muscle and grow feathers. Layer feed has less protein because the hens need less protein to lay than they do to grow muscle and feathers.
    Also, most all-flock blends contain some calcium. As long as you supplement with oyster shell, they'll be happy. Even if a hen is fed a No-Calcium diet, she'll be able to lay eggs by pulling the needed calcium from her bones to form the eggs shell. Just expect after awhile that the hens bones will become very brittle as her bones are sapped of their calcium.
    I would think that the only downside to a higher protein diet (of 20-22%) may be that their droppings would have a stronger odor and that the feed is slightly more expensive..
     
  3. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    The industry feeds their commercial layers 14% to 16% so my theory is this. That's the research showing itself. The commercial folks fund all the research, for the most part. I'd consider this a minimal or maintenance diet. Nothing special. But, most of the homesteader's birds get some ranging time, or at least some supplemental feeds from the garden or scraps from the dinner table, whereas the commercial hen never likely does. I believe the homesteader's birds likely benefit from a slightly richer diet than the commercial hen.

    There's a limit to just how much protein a typical hen can actually use, however. Unless she is molting, a diet rich in 24-26% protein may, in fact, be tough on her system. I see our hens improve their feathering and egg quality when we feed animal protein and some fats in addition to their 17% layer mash. I personally have come to believe that for our birds, 17% is the bottom and 20% is the top. Just my own experience, that's all it is.

    Edited to add: OH, and the commercial hen is typically housed in a climate control environment too. Our birds are not.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2013
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  4. CAjerseychick

    CAjerseychick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 25, 2012
    Northern California!
    Thanx guys that is useful info and makes sense the way you explained it!
    PS I got back a few days ago to find all my feeders empty and guess what, you get even more eggs when you dont let your hens go hungry (sigh...)....It was only for a day or so that the feeders must have run out... and at least they are free ranging...
     

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