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#78117 - 04/11/08 10:41 AM scratch vs. laying feed?
M. Molaison Offline
Feather

Registered: 04/11/08
Posts: 20
Loc: Georgia
I am new to chickens. I have a shipment of chicks coming to me from Ideal Poultry in a few weeks. In learning how to care for my new pets, I have encountered 2 different opinions on feeding them once they're laying.

One says, you MUST feed laying mash or pellets as their primary food source or they won't lay eggs! Some have insisted that even giving them too much scratch or table scraps will decrease egg production.

The other says they feed the chickens table scraps, let them free range, feed scratch, whatever, and the hens lay just fine. (Some of the folks who've told me this also say they offer oyster shells for the calcium and that that's necessary if you don't give the laying mash).

So is it really necessary to feed the special laying food? Or will they do just as well on a wide variety of whatever, plus oyster shells? Will they really eat the oyster shells voluntraily in sufficient amount to give them the calcium they need? I'd prefer to feed them things that are less processed if I can...

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#78118 - 04/11/08 01:20 PM Re: scratch vs. laying feed?
J. Meyer Offline
Chicken

Registered: 01/17/08
Posts: 122
Loc: South Dakota
If they were mine, I'd offer the layer mash free choice, and give them scratch grains as treats. You will be rewarded with more eggs in the long run. Even if you free range them, you will still come out ahead.

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#78119 - 04/11/08 01:49 PM Re: scratch vs. laying feed?
P. Smith1340 Offline
Chicken

Registered: 02/28/08
Posts: 94
Loc: Oregon
The layer pellets or crumbles are supposed to have more calcium and vitamins, and are more geared towards a laying hens' needs. My girls have layer crumbles available in the coop, free range in the backyard, get occasional table scraps, and scratch as treats. They also have oyster shell available. I guess it's too early to tell if what mine eat effect how they lay as only 1 is old enough to lay. The one that does lays one egg every day, and they are delicious! In doing some research here on the Coop, I've found a few threads discussing the feed getting stale and losing it's nutritional value, or worse coming stale from the feedstore. I try to buy 25pound bags of feed, as I only have 3 hens and 2 little chicks, they don't go through food very fast. Yes they really do eat the oyster shells, and its amazing to crack open a homegrown egg versus a store bought egg. The shells on mine are almost twice as thick. Personally, I would have layer crumbles or pellets available to them, if they free range they then have the choice between feed and grass, bugs, etc. They'll eat what they need smile Good luck!

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#78120 - 04/11/08 06:05 PM Re: scratch vs. laying feed?
Foehn Offline
Administrator
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 1968
Loc: New Zealand
I have a friend who just feeds scratch and her freeranging hens lay ok. Her dual purpose hens are basically the same breeds as mine, (wyandottes) however in terms of size/robustness, her hens are slight and small, (I'd call them "weedy") whereas mine are great big girls, so balanced feed can make a difference to their overall health and stature as well. She had some problems with fertility too last year and I doubt they lay as well as mine do.

If your hens will eventually free range and the area has abundant insect life, then scratch and scraps will likely keep them happy, but if you want layers, you will need to feed them a balanced diet to make sure that calcium, carbohydrates and protein meet their needs.

However. :rolleyes: Before you get as far as laying, you will need to rear those chicks successfully, and their requirements are entirely different.

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#78121 - 04/12/08 06:22 AM Re: scratch vs. laying feed?
J. Meyer Offline
Chicken

Registered: 01/17/08
Posts: 122
Loc: South Dakota
As far as "stale" feed is concerned, I wouldn't worry about feed getting stale, as long as it is kept in a container that is sealed well enough to prevent condensation from fouling the feed. The biggest problem is when people (or the feed store) allow their feed to be stored in the paper sack that it came in. This allows condensation to eventually allow molds and bacteria to multiply. The vitamins also will degrade, and the birds will be shortchanged on them. I store my feed in watertight garbage cans. If I see a great buy, I buy many bags, and store it in the cans. I also try to keep mine in a place where the temp doesn't change much. Definitely out of the sun. Excessive heat is also bad for the vitamins. Our cool basement is ideal.

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#78122 - 04/12/08 02:47 PM Re: scratch vs. laying feed?
Freds Fine Fowl Offline
Chicken

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 149
Loc: Pennsylvania
Regarding prepared feeds, from commercial mills... the tags are marked as "Complete Ration"... this means, the grains, no matter the form.. mash, crumbles or pellets, are formulated with all necessary trace elements and vitamins appropriate to the age and stage of development of your birds.

So, it's prepared for birds off range.

Scratch grains are nutritionally inferior to these commercially prepared "complete" diets.

Free range offers an unimaginable variety of food resources and of course, it's fresh when things are growing. Depending on where you live, your birds may end up confined due to weather extremes.. this is when the complete rations really do their job.

You may feed rations from the table, left overs and so on, but never give inedible foods to them, those you would not eat yourself.

Observe chickens eating, you'll notice they snatch up this and that, even rocks, at times dropping it and moving on, or swallowing it. They have wonderful taste buds and can sample the mineral content of what they nibble on. So, if they need calcium? They would know the taste of the oyster shell as containing what they indeed are in need of. If they are lacking nutrients, they will grow, mature and even lay. BUT, will do so at greater cost to their system and the results will be sub-par. Also, birds on poor or incomplete diets, can expect to suffer greater mortality and disease.

Good luck to you.

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#78123 - 04/12/08 05:20 PM Re: scratch vs. laying feed?
P. Smith1340 Offline
Chicken

Registered: 02/28/08
Posts: 94
Loc: Oregon
Jhm thats a good idea, one that I didn't think of. I have my feed in sacks, but it's inside the house as I don't have a shed or anywhere to store it outside. One of those plastic roughtote bins would probably work pretty well too eh? How about heat? If the feed is kept in a plastic container, and gets hot, will it condensate at all?

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#78124 - 04/13/08 08:01 PM Re: scratch vs. laying feed?
J. Meyer Offline
Chicken

Registered: 01/17/08
Posts: 122
Loc: South Dakota
If the roughtote container is put into the sun, it will likely get very hot inside. This would not be good for the feed, since the vitamins are much more stable at lower temperatures. As to condensation, changes in temperature are never good. The worst condensation occurs when warm/hot air encounters a cold surface. Much like a car windshield gets condensation on it in the early morning. The air begins to warm, and it encounters a cold windshield, and presto, a foggy windshield. A fairly cool basement is ideal, if it is not too humid.

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#78125 - 04/13/08 10:10 PM Re: scratch vs. laying feed?
P. Smith1340 Offline
Chicken

Registered: 02/28/08
Posts: 94
Loc: Oregon
Thats kind of what I figured. I guess I'll keep the feed in the house.

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#78126 - 04/14/08 05:56 AM Re: scratch vs. laying feed?
M. Molaison Offline
Feather

Registered: 04/11/08
Posts: 20
Loc: Georgia
Thanks for the info.

Foehn- I realize as chicks they need a different diet laugh I am getting a bit ahead of myself, aren't I?

The feed store where I buy my horse feed carries chicken feed as well- the chick feed is the "medicated" kind (any opinions on that?) and I can get it in 5 lb or 50 lb bags... since I'm only going to have 9 chicks, I was planning on buying the 5-lb size. I really have no idea how fast 9 chicks will consume 5 lbs of feed...

The brand name is Manna Pro- which I would like to know also if any of you have opinions about, because (IMO) the horse feeds made by this company aren't worth hauling to the dump! However I did notice that the manna pro chick feed contains no rendered animal by-products- whereas the non-medicated feed available at Tractor Supply (Dumor?) does contain non-specific rendered animal protiens...

Any thoughts?

Melissa

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