For backyard chickens, the number 18 is just as important as a milestone as it is for humans. Eighteen weeks is the age when laying hens are considered adults. Most excitingly, it’s the time when many chicken breeds will start laying eggs. At this key milestone, switch your hens to a chicken layer feed.
This feed switch is an essential step in the road to farm fresh eggs because hens require different nutrients to produce eggs as compared to when they are growing.
To produce an egg each day, hens need high levels of calcium, vitamins, and minerals. Hens transfer many of these nutrients directly into their eggs, so the nutrients in layer feed play an essential role in the eggs hens produce.
Consider the following steps when transitioning to a complete chicken layer feed:
1. Choose a chicken layer feed that matches your goals.
The best chicken feed for layers depends on your flock goals. Select a complete layer feed before the transition begins. Ideally, make your layer feed decision by week 16, so you’re ready to make the transition at week 18.
First, look for a complete layer feed. This means the feed should be formulated to provide all 38 unique nutrients laying hens require without a need to supplement.
- For organic hens and eggs: Purina® Organic layer feed
- For added omega-3 in your eggs: Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3
- For strong, healthy hens: Purina® Layena® pellets or crumbles
2. Transition to chicken layer feed over one week.
When birds reach 18 weeks old or when the first egg arrives, gradually switch your laying hens to a layer feed. It’s important to make the transition over time to prevent digestive upset.
Many hens will eat the mixed feed without noticing a difference. When laying hens are eating both feeds, you can stop feeding the starter-grower feed and make the complete switch to all layer feed. It is important to give your birds enough time to adjust to the new diet. Most birds will adjust within a couple of days but some can take a couple of weeks to fully transition to their new diet.
3. Keep chicken feed consistent.
Once the transition to layer feed is complete, it’s best to maintain a routine.
We recommend providing free choice layer feed to hens and switching out the feed each morning and evening. Laying hens eat approximately 0.25 pounds of complete feed each day, equalling about one-half cup.
If birds are free-ranging, offer complete layer feed before they go out in the morning. This will help them consume the essential nutrients before filling up on less nutritionally balanced insects and plants.
It’s important for the complete feed to make up at least 90 percent of the hen’s diet. It’s reassuring to know that each bite of feed is balanced to keep our hens healthy and producing quality eggs.
Source: Patrick Biggs, Ph.D. Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions