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Yellow yolk...HELP!

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by mel080908, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. mel080908

    mel080908 Hatching

    Nov 11, 2016
    We got our chickens Spring 2015. When they first started laying their yolks were a beautiful deep orange. I was making my own feed for them which consisted of:
    • 19 cups split peas
    • 14 cups hard red wheat
    • 12 cups barley
    • 10 cups millet
    • 8 cups oats
    • 1/2 cup kelp
    • 1/2 cup garlic powder

    It started getting pretttty spending so I switch to a local made organic layer crumble which consisted of the below. I feed them all our left over food scraps which consists of tons of veggies and fruits and more...

    Guaranteed Analysis
    Crude Protein 16.00%
    Lysine 0.64%
    Methionine 0.43%
    Crude Fat 3.00%
    Crude Fiber 4.00%
    Calcium (minimum) 3.50%
    Calcium (maximum) 4.50%
    Phosphorus 0.75%
    Vitamin A 4500 IU/lb
    Vitamin E 16 IU/lb

    Organic Ground Corn, Organic Ground Grains, Organic Plant Protein Products,
    Organic Millrun, Monocalcium Phosphate, Vitamin Premix (Copper Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Cobalt Carbonate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Niacin, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, Choline Chloride, Pyridoxine, MSBC (Vitamin K), Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E Supplement, Trace Mineralized Salt.

    I let them free range every single day in our backyard. The only time they are cooped up is at night. It has gotten colder where I live and I have noticed they choose to hang out on my back porch or near their coop instead of ranging more these days because of the rain and snow. But, their yolk has now progressed to a bright yellow. My store bought cage free eggs are a deeper orange than my own chickens, which just baffles me. I have heard that the yellow yolks can indicate a poor diet which worries me. So, if anyone could give me some advice on if I am doing something wrong or tips to get them back to where they were it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks a ton! :)

  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Yolk color is NOT an indicator of the nutritional quality of the diet.
    The yellow comes from carotenoids in the diet. Chickens don't assimilate carotene so it ends up in the yolk. The more carotene, the darker the yolks. If, you're in the northern hemisphere, they aren't getting as much succulent new greens as in warmer months. Hence, light yolks.

    I'm certainly glad you switched to a complete feed rather than that mix of grains and seeds you were feeding.
    As much as you thought it was better, it was deficient in several nutrients. Chickens, being omnivores, need a wide array of amino acids and some of which weren't in the feed you had mixed yourself.
    Most commercial feed is vegetable based as well as yours was but they add synthetic lysine and methionine to make up what is missing.
    They also do a complete analysis to make sure there are adequate amounts of all the vitamins, minerals, fats, protein. Someone mixing their own doesn't have a lab where they can analyze so they don't know what they're getting and in what ratios.
    And as you discovered, you can't mix your own feed as cheaply as buying a complete feed.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
    2 people like this.
  3. FoodFreedomNow

    FoodFreedomNow Songster

    @ChickenCanoe beat me to it, but since I composed this already, I'm going to post it. [​IMG]

    I have pastured (free range) chickens, and their yolk color varies during the year. The color of the yolk is influenced by the pigment in the food they eat, so if there are lots of plants with high levels of carotenoids that they can eat, their yolks will be darker. You'll probably notice that the yolks are most orange-y when the forage available to your chickens is at its peak (like in summer). Here's a thread discussing it: https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/463619/how-do-you-get-that-deep-yellow-orange-yolk.

    There are ways to try to deepen the hue of the eggs through feed; for example, here's a thread on feeding shrimp shells: https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/399985/shrimp-is-chicken-feed.

    I agree that the deep orange yolks are striking and can help differentiate them from other eggs, but it's really just aesthetics and not indicative of nutritional value.
  4. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO

    I had meant to mention that some of the yolk color derived from the commercial feed comes from yellow corn. In much of Africa, the corn used in feed is white corn. The result is yolks that are almost white. Still no indication of nutrition.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
  5. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Free Ranging Premium Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    Great info above in posts. In winter, my chickens love to get chopped kale in small amounts, since too much of anything can be a bad thing. That seems to help with color.
  6. FoodFreedomNow

    FoodFreedomNow Songster

    Anecdotally, I think alfalfa can help darken the yolk color...I have pastured rabbits and they're moved at least daily. They often spill their feed (it's an 18% protein alfalfa-based pellet) and the chickens go and scratch in the areas where the rabbits have been to get the spilled pellets. A few months ago, I moved the rabbits to pasture outside of the chickens' range and noticed that the yolks became more yellow - some bright yellow - even with the same forage available to them. The rabbits are now back on pasture where the chickens can follow, and the egg yolks have gradually become darker, even with the same feed and treats.
  7. rebrascora

    rebrascora Crowing

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    Here in the UK we have an outbreak of bird flu and our poultry are on lockdown as a result. It is quite shocking how pale my egg yolks are now, compared to when they free ranged in my grass paddocks and garden. I almost feel embarrassed to give them to people, they look so anaemic! It is clear that they are not getting the nutrients from the grass that make the yolks orange and with so many chickens it is not feasible for me to buy greens for them, although I have a little spinach from the garden that one pen is treated to.

    I'm sure your yolks will colour up in the spring again.

  8. kadavis08

    kadavis08 Chirping

    Sep 21, 2016
    mel080908-I'm curious about the peas. They have so much nutrition packed into them but my girls WILL NOT eat them, whether yellow or green. They are dirt cheap so I kept hoping they'd catch on, but nada, so I stopped buying them. I like the idea of whole grain food so I have that available to mine all the time (BOSS, red wheat berries, millet, and oat groats) but they have commercial feed available all the time as well in their coop. I only have two chickens so feeding this way doesn't cost much and the grains are cheap at my local co-op. Mine also free range during the day, with open access to their coop, and are up at night. Mine are 6 months old, so I only have one layer right now. She laid a brown egg, strong shell, over the weekend (hallelujah) and the yolk was a medium orange. I thought it was interesting considering her diet. They get table scraps occasionally...and last night, for example, they got cooked carrots and sweet potatoes (no, I have no idea why I made a monochromatic meal).
  9. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    My Coop
    I've been giving my girls carrot greens and fall/winter veggies like leftover kale, broccoli leaves. Anything I yank from the garden that's edible, I'll let them strip off the leaves first. My feed store also sells dried kelp meal which supposedly has the same effect... I haven't needed it so haven't tried it.

    As others have noted the appeal of an orangey yolk is purely aesthetic. I love the look of it as well. I'm thinking for spring, of planting carrots all around the run perimeter, so the girls can nibble off some of the greens, though the local rabbits would probably put a stop to that real fast.
  10. Howard E

    Howard E Songster

    Feb 18, 2016
    This from Purina about their layer feed:


    Note they include a marigold extract to produce bright yellow yolks. I also recall something about that also turning their beaks and legs a brighter shade of yellow/orange. I feed mine Purina and while it helps. the eggs were a brighter orange before winter set in and they were grazing on the lush green stuff.

    Option B is not to feed your peas and seeds, etc, but to sprout them. Green fodder in the dead of winter (or if they are kept in a run or coop barren of green). They will gobble it down.

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