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Calcium and roosters

 
steward
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I have 20 young chickens, soon to be about 10 hens, one rooster and some wonderful meat.  I just got my first egg today (yay!).  Soon I'm supposed to switch them over to layer feed with calcium in it.  As I understand it if you give chickens that aren't laying eggs calcium in their feed, they get over calciumed and it's bad for them.

So how do I feed a flock of 10 laying hens that need calcium and one rooster that doesn't?  

I'd like to mix my own feed some day but I live in the sticks and there isn't a good source for many of the feed stock materials.  At least the recipes from Justin Rhodes and Joel Salatin.  

I could buy grower feed and give the hens a free choice calcium source like oystershells.  But the only place I can get feed around here barely carries organic feed and is done carrying organic grower ration for the season.

I could drive an hour to pick up organic grower ration but I'd rather not if there's another way.

Or is this not really a problem and the rooster can handle it?

Thanks!
 
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Roosters can handle the calcium in layer feed. It's really baby chicks that can't process the extra calcium and will kill them via kidney failure. I've run out of broiler/grower feed at 12 weeks and switched to layer feed before, never had a problem. I'm guessing they're all the same age and you're culling roosters to keep one and keep all the hens right? And you got your first egg today so I'm guessing they're 20-24 weeks old? If I'm correct, absolutely switch to a layer ration and don't worry about Mr. Rooster, he'll be fine. If they're starting to lay eggs, you definitely want layer feed and also have oyster shell available free choice. If a laying chicken doesn't have enough calcium in their diet, the egg shells can be too weak and fragile and can possibly break internally, causing problems.
 
James Freyr
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forgot to mention: Don't keep feeding adult chickens grower feed. They don't need that high protein. It's best to step down from a 20-22% protein grower feed to a 16-17% layer feed. They'll get too fat and egg production will be all erratic.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks James!  Yes, they're all the same age (20 weeks as of yesterday).  I have one bag of grower feed left which will last them two more weeks when hopefully a few more will be laying.  I'll have to make up a calcium feeder now.  And train the ladies where to put the eggs.  That should be fun

Thanks!
 
James Freyr
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Cool. Sounds like you're well on your way. A tip for teaching them where to lay: I put ping pong balls in the nesting boxes to teach mine where to lay :)
 
pollinator
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Hi Mike,

Everything James has said is true, you don't have to worry about the rooster.  I would ask though if these chickens survive on the feed alone, or are they in a free range situation?
 
Mike Jay
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They are free range as well.  They have the feed in the coop any time they want and they are outside hunting and pecking for most of the day.  In the summer they're out most of the day, in the winter I'll have them in their own private greenhouse with a bunch of leaves and stuff to dig through and turn into compost.

Thanks James for the ping pong recommendation, we have ceramic eggs in the boxes now.  They aren't in plain view for their normal vantage points so maybe I'll have to show some hens the boxes and eggs so they get the idea.  I'm sure they'll figure it out.
 
pollinator
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You might also consider giving them a grower ration, then keeping out calcium (e.g. oyster shell) and scratch grains (even just corn) free choice, to allow each individual to balance intake.  Allowing the birds to free range covers a multitude of sins.
 
Mike Jay
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That was one of my options but the only feed source within an hour drive has stopped carrying organic grower ration for the season
 
Wes Hunter
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So you can get organic layer but not grower?

Have you tried asking if your feed store can bring in the grower (if you go that route)?  I'd think they're bringing the layer and grower from the same source, so if they're still bringing in layer surely they can throw a few bags of grower on the truck as a custom order.

There are plenty of things that my local feed/farm store doesn't carry.  But they source from multiple suppliers. When I put in a special order, they either just add that to their current order from that supplier (if they get orders regularly), or they'll put in an order once they get to a certain minimum (for suppliers they don't order from regularly).  Just because your feed store doesn't carry grower during the winter doesn't necessarily mean they can't or won't bring it in, if you ask.
 
Mike Jay
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I did ask them a couple weeks ago when they first ran out of grower.  They did bring in two bags for me.  But I don't want to have to call them every time to order more in for me.  I'm assuming they would but it is a bit of a loosely knit business so it would be a bit of a pain.  Knowing I can just do layer and the rooster will be fine is what I'll do.  Unless it's much more expensive or something...
 
Wes Hunter
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Mike Jay wrote:I did ask them a couple weeks ago when they first ran out of grower.  They did bring in two bags for me.  But I don't want to have to call them every time to order more in for me.  I'm assuming they would but it is a bit of a loosely knit business so it would be a bit of a pain.  Knowing I can just do layer and the rooster will be fine is what I'll do.  Unless it's much more expensive or something...



I don't know the particulars of your feed store, but I can't imagine it's any pain at all.  They're already putting in orders for the layer ration, so it should be nothing to just tack on a couple bags of something else from the same supplier.

That said, the layer should certainly be cheaper, since it's lower in protein and protein is the most expensive part of a ration (exclusive of minerals).  

But it can be a boon to do special orders through your local store.  I never even thought about this until a couple years ago.  I just figured that my local store carried what they carried, and that was that.  Then I just happened to ask about something, and they told me they didn't carry it but they could order it.  Made my life easier, to be sure.
 
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