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Which feed do I use!?!?

 
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Location: ridgefield, wa
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Hi there,

This is my first time with chickens. My chickens are coming of age to start laying, but its getting pretty cold up here in the PNW. Should I switch them to layer feed even though they haven't started laying yet? Will I even get eggs this year, or not until spring since its getting cold and dark? Thanks! I'm a newbie!

Chickens are approx 22 weeks, but the people at the feed store told us to just keep them on grower until they start laying, however, is this true even if they don't lay until spring due to weather?

Thanks so much!

Angela

 
pollinator
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Location: Denmark 57N
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It's going to depend on the breed, we found that production breeds lay throughout the winter (I'm 57N) at around 3 a week without lighting, but old breeds stop around October and don't start again until march. SO if you have a production chicken I would expect eggs from them this year, they don't need layer feed until they start laying, just make sure they have plenty of grit and oyster shell (or other calcium supplement) available all the time. If you want to increase the number of eggs you get in the winter you can add a standard light-bulb on a timer to the coop, set it to come on early in the morning and so that they get around 14-15 hours of light a day.
 
Angela Giacalone
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Location: ridgefield, wa
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Skandi Rogers wrote:It's going to depend on the breed, we found that production breeds lay throughout the winter (I'm 57N) at around 3 a week without lighting, but old breeds stop around October and don't start again until march. SO if you have a production chicken I would expect eggs from them this year, they don't need layer feed until they start laying, just make sure they have plenty of grit and oyster shell (or other calcium supplement) available all the time. If you want to increase the number of eggs you get in the winter you can add a standard light-bulb on a timer to the coop, set it to come on early in the morning and so that they get around 14-15 hours of light a day.



Thanks! Yeah, they are production hens, not heritage breeds. Ameraucana is what a few of them were listed as, but I'm pretty sure they're Easter Eggers, and the other 3 are Production Blue. I do have one rooster. Will he be okay with the layer feed when I switch them? It'd be really difficult to give him something different....

Thanks so much!
 
Angela Giacalone
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Location: ridgefield, wa
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One more question though! If they don't end up laying over the winter, though from what you're saying it sounds like they might, do I just keep them on grower all winter? Thanks!
 
Skandi Rogers
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Yes keep them on the grower feed if they are not laying, layer pellets have a lot of calcium in them which can cause issues if they are not using it. As for him, he'll have to manage on the same as the hens, there's really not going to be any way to give him separate. My roos have always had the same feed as the hens.
 
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They will lay even if you are feeding them grower feed.  But as someone stated above, once they start laying they'll need that extra calcium or you'll get weak/thin shells.  If you want for them to take what they need, put a small container of oyster shell in the coop/run somewhere.  If they want it, they'll eat it.  

Once they start laying, switch over to layer feed.
 
gardener
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Another good source of calcium is crushed egg shells. I agree the time to switch food is when they start laying. Sounds like that will be soon!
 
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Depending on the breed you have, some commence laying earlier – but is obviously dependent on temperature, daylight length, etc.

So, I’d recommend to commence feeding them laying pellets now – if it’s cold, add some hot water to make a mash and mix in any vegetable peelings, they will virtually inhale this mixture because making eggs, feathers, and keeping body temperature regulated takes a lot of energy.

As Marco and Mike advised, keep a container of shell grit freely available, otherwise the egg shells will be thin and, more importantly, it can strip their metabolism of calcium = weak bones = VERY serious as birds already have ‘aerated’ bone structures, so they can’t afford low calcium levels.

 
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Do you allow your chickens outside to range for food? They can get calcium & grit that way as well without needing extra supplement. I don't normally give supplements until there is a problem. It is common for a new layer hen for her first few eggs to be small, deformed or even soft shelled eggs (called fart eggs) as her system adapts.

Since I am more of a naturalist, I don't provide light to force my birds to lay when nature says it's time to take a break. I think it's better for the birds overall health, but that's my opinion and others may vary.

The extra protein in the grower feed also helps them to get thru the stress of winter and any feather loss from molting. Come spring, change to layer feed......unless you have any chicks. Baby chicks can't handle the calcium in layer feed. Roosters do just fine. I have found that if I feed higher protein feed in spring/summer (peak laying season), the eggs can develop protein or blood spots from too much protein their bodies are trying to shed. It won't hurt you if you eat them, but they don't look as appetizing. Late summer/fall (molting season) and winter doesn't have that problem, because their bodies need the protein.

But if you don't want to have to change up the feed every 6 months....once your hens start laying you can keep them on layer all year round, even if they don't lay as frequently.


BTW.....I live in the Puget Sound area, so we're almost like neighbors
 
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