Do you give your chickens layer feed 24/7 or just a specific amount once or twice a day? I have been leaving the layer crumble for them 24/7. Am I feeding them too much?
A complete layer ration has all the vitamins/minerals and proper protein levels (16%), it will also include the grit they need if it is made buy a repeatable manufacturer. Most feed mills that sell their own blends usually don't have the corn and soy gluten added in amounts to maintain the protein levels and most of them put 1/2 the amount of vitamin/minerals that are required by federal law.
I use 1 qt of warm water to 2 qts layer ration to make a mash this amount will feed 8 large layers once. Always make it fresh and feed layers 2-3 times a day, the last feeding just before roosting time so they go to bed with a full crop. If you have mash left over after 30-45 minutes lower the mount given so the dishes are empty so as not to create a mold growth that will harm your birds. Any extra can be refrigerated for use at the next feeding.
By feeding mash you increase the amounts of nutrients that they will consumed and decrease the waste (the Notorious Fines). The food is hydrated and is more natural and during the winter when freezing water is a problem go 1 to 1 ratio (water/ration) and no water will be required. If you do this let the mixture set for about 15 minutes before serving. The 1/1 ration mix will need to be feed 3-4 time a day.
Keep an eye on their weights so they don't get too fat and stop laying. Be sure that the bullied hen(s) are able to get all they want to eat so they won't 'go light' (starve).
It may take a little more work this way but the benefits are many.
Have you considered adding live brewers yeast to fight off any stray mold? In rearing a number of insects Vinegar (which I would presume that the chickens would find distasteful) and brewers yeast are used to keep mold at bay, it could be an inexpensive way to reduce the amount of labor (especially midday labor when people are at work not at home) with out any negative effects on the birds. If I have missed something please let me know. H2O2 is also used in raising fungi, and the catylase in the birds would prevent any damage at low doses, but I could see that being an expensive pain in the neck, and useless if some source of catylase was present in the feed.
I feed them layer crumble, not mash, so it is dry. It's similar to pellets but not quite as big. I have never used the mash. I don't like the wet feed thing. We both work all day and don't have time for that. Their water is heated so is always thawed and available. They also get a little oyster grit occasionally and ground egg shells.
A few are really bullied and simply won't eat with the others so I have been just leaving the feed all the time for them to eat as needed. I would have to watch them closely to make sure they were all getting enough to eat or feed a few by hand, which I have done in the past.
So I should feed my 21 chickens about 5 qts of feed at 2-3 x day and as much as they will eat in about 45 mins?
I ask about the feed rationing because they are going through it a lot faster now than they were in the summer. I suppose that could be because they were getting other things then too, like garden left overs and bugs, etc. I also don't want them getting overweight, now that they are not getting much exercise.
My hens and pullets seem to be eating everything all the time.They are going thru a gallon of laying pellets and a cup of hen scratch and anything else I give them everyday.I am sure it is because it is so cold and they are still growing and getting ready to lay.They have food out all the time.I couldn't stand to ration them.I do limit the amount of grain they get.They lay better just on the laying pellets and I really think the Kent laying pellets and chick starter are both better with very little dust.I feel they need some grain to keep them warm.Spoiled hens!Posy_Pet
I did buy mash once, but it was all dust, which they didn't eat. I was very dissappointed in it.
Mine seem to be eating a lot more now too, but it's not being supplemented so much with greens and garden produce. Maybe it the cold that has increased their intake. It does take more energy to keep warm.
If you buy mash type layer rations you must add water to it so it sticks together. Usually 1 part water 2 parts mash during weather above 38F. Below 38F go to 1 part warm (90 to 110F) water 1 part mash. They love it and eat every speck that way. Another plus for buying mash instead of pellets or crumbles is the price. If you can find it is usually sell for about $14 per hundred pounds. Some organic mills sell organic layer mash for $30/hundred pounds.
Chicks raised on moisten starter/grower are healthier and more active and are less likely to feather pick flock mates. I use 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar per gallon of water and use this to moisten their starter/grower. Vinegar stimulates appetite without the downside that brewers yeast has. The moisten s/g should form a ball when pressed together but crumble apart easily. If it is too wet it packs down and is hard for them to eat it when they are 1 to 10 days old. As they get older it isn't a big problem.
Could you elaborate on the drawbacks of yeast in chicken feed, you mentioned it so I thought I'd google it but I gave up after pages and pages of results on selenium from yeast, just one relevant keyword would go a long way I'm sure. Clearly I picked the wrong horse in the vinegar yeast race.
Pelleted feeds are the way to go, any fines can be saved for starting chicks. The wastage is minimal, each pellet has all the ingredients. I feed game bird breeder pellets from Jan thru April when saving hatching eggs and game bird conditioner pells the rest of the year. They are both 21% protein, the breeder pellet has more vites and mins to make better eggs for hatching. Layer products are but the cheapest ration to make the most eggs. It is not a good feed for more than just getting the most eggs at the least cost. I dont know any breeders who feed lay feed, but it is ok for just making eggs. My birds eat almost double the amount in cold weather as in warmer times. Lots of greens in the winter months is a real benefit too, cabbage heads work nicely, sprouted oats are also relished.
I am no expert but I feed my chickens layer crumbles and they have it available all the time.
I have a contraption I saw on another site made out of PVC pipe. I fill the tube up once a month and they eat whenever they get ready. Here is a photo of the feeder before I started putting food in it.
My gals are big but it does not seem to have affected their laying, although they just started so I guess i can not say that for sure. Whether they are over weight I do not know that either because they are cochin and weyondette and so are extremly fluffy. what I do know is they seem to be very happy.