Keeping a flock of laying chickens is rapidly increasing in popularity, as it is a rewarding hobby. With this popularity comes more and more questions from beginners, so below are some frequently asked questions from people who are new to keeping chickens.
Why have my chickens gone off the lay?
It can be quite a problem-solving exercise to work out this one. Here are a few simple things to check:
- Are you feeding a high-quality chicken feed – and enough of it? Laying chickens should have “ad lib” (as much and as often as desired) access to a layer-specific feed. This ensures chickens get enough protein, energy, vitamins and minerals to support the demands of egg production. If you are supplementing their diet with lots of added feeds like veggie scraps and/or mixing wholegrains in with their layer feed, this could be your culprit for depressed egg production. Scale back on the added feeds and ensure they are eating their main meal (layer feed) before their dessert (added treats/scraps). Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for chickens, so make sure they have access to layer feed before they go foraging.
- Do your chickens have good access to water and shade? Hot, thirsty chickens will decrease their intake of feed, which decreases egg production.
- Are your chickens going through a moult? If so, they will be off the lay, which is quite common when day length decreases as we head into winter. It is hard work growing feathers back and producing an egg a day, so something has to give.
There are many other possible reasons, including certain diseases, stress, the list goes on – but check out these potential causes before digging any deeper. Consider if your flock needs worming and minimise contamination of feed by sparrows and vermin – a good feeder is a worthwhile investment.
Can I feed leftover NRM Chick Starter Crumble to my laying flock?
No, you cannot if you want to eat the eggs. While it may be tempting to get rid of your leftover NRM Chick Starter Crumble by directing it to your layers, it is not advised because it contains a coccidiostat. A coccidiostat is a must-have in a feed designed for chicks, as it prevents a serious parasitic infection they are susceptible to. However, the coccidiostat has a withholding period for eggs intended for human consumption, so unless you want to dispose of your eggs for 10 days, it is best to avoid it.
Why is my flock laying thin-shelled eggs?
This is another complex one that tends to be linked to not eating enough layer feed. Run through all the same problem-solving checks from the previous question regarding laying, as well as a few more:
- How old is your flock? Older chickens lay thinner-shelled eggs.
- Have your chickens got worms? Gut health issues can impact on the absorption of nutrients from the diet and impact on eggshell quality.
- Are your nesting boxes adequate? They should have 5cm or more of bedding material for a soft landing.
Is there any benefit in feeding some whole wheat to my chickens?
Many people like scattering some whole wheat for hens. A little is okay as a treat but wheat is very low in calcium and too much will reduce layer feed intake, which could have an impact on egg production and eggshell quality.
Hopefully these frequently asked questions have helped some chicken newbies. If you need a bit more information, contact your local Nutrition Specialist or visit www.nrm.co.nz and use the “Ask an Expert” function to send in a question.
Article supplied by Stacey Cosnett, Nutritionist.