How much protein for chickens? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Ok, how much protein should a layer grain ration be? I want to avoid feeding pellets as I want to go as natural as possible. My layer flock is confined in a mobil pen and gets weeds and grass daily. I think that the combination I'm using is too low and that is the reason I'm not getting anymore eggs. Thanks in advance for any help. annette

-- annette (, October 07, 2000


Hi Annette, layer ration should be no less than 16% protein or egg production will be compromised, also, grass and greens should make up no more than 20% of their total ration or they will not have "room" enough to take in adequate protein for optimal egg production. Without using commercial feed, your'e going to have to get pretty creative in providing enough protein; bugs are high in protein, and remember that chickens will eat all kinds of meat leftovers and scraps, they will eat most anything except onion and garlic and most "cabbage" type vegetables. You should see what they do to the poor, hapless mice and rats that venture into the chicken house, those beaks are miniature versions of a bird of prey, good for ripping things apart! I haven't come up with a consistantly available protein alternative, so offer free-choice laying mash, whole corn, grit, oyster shell and all the fresh picked grass/greens they'll clean up in about two hours. They also get any scraps and leftovers that the dogs won't eat, during peak garden season that can amount to a goodly amount. Good luck with your chickens! Annie in OH.

-- Annie Miller (, October 07, 2000.

I'll tell you what the feed store fella (a friend) told me, "Its hard to beat many decades of research by Purina". So I buy the pellets now but my chickens don't eat them much, cause they are mobile and love the grass and bugs. I give them scraps, including cooked chicken carcasses to pick clean. You know, after you've eaten all you want and aren't planning on soup, etc. They also get all the veggie/fruit scraps.

I now have a smaller flock, and it just doesn't pay for me to custom mix feed or to buy the special additives. So I offer the Purina pellets--- are you aware that if you get The Poultry Press there is a $2 off coupon for Purina products in there every month? It more than pays for the subscription. But I also offer all I can find for scraps. This has kept my feed bill low.

Could it be that they aren't laying as well because they are starting to molt or the daylight has shortened considerably?

-- Anne (, October 07, 2000.

They just started laying and I have 13 hens. I got 1 egg a day for 2 days, then 1 day nothing, then another egg. Then for 5 days, nothing. Today I got 1 egg. I don't really care if they lay the maximum amount of eggs or the minimum, but I figured I would get at least 1 egg a day with 13 hens! Thanks for the protein info, I am feeding too low an amount. We don't have alot of meat scraps, but I'm wondering about adding some milk to the water, or trying to see if I can make some cheese from the nonfat dry milk (which we won't drink unless we HAVE to). annette

-- annette (, October 07, 2000.

Annette, milk is a good supplement for hens, but don't add it to their water. Feed it in it's own separate dish -- either feed it fresh, and remove it and clean the dish before adding more, or feed it sour -- but don't let it go rotten in their dish. You can mix the powdered milk up and feed it, too, though it is rather lacking in fat. Also, when hens start to lay, they may be sporadic for a while. But it does sound like they need their feed supplemented.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, October 07, 2000.

Just about any whole grain cereal is getting close to the right protein - not enough, but close. Add some legume seeds and you've got enough. Just buy whatever you can get economically in bulk - say wheat or corn (maize) or oats or grain sorghum or feed barley or rye; and beans or soybeans or peas or chick peas (garbanzos) or cow peas (tick beans) or ..... One thing - food doesn't stay in the birds digestive system for long - it moves along through right smartly. So - to economise, and make sure theyt're getting enough out of the grain, it's a good idea to crack it fairly finely. If nothing else, just whiz a couple of handfuls in a blender or food processor or whatever they're called there until it looks right. If that's not enough do it again - small batches. Same argument - make sure there's plenty of grit or gravel available to them, to grind the food inside them. This can be oyster shell, which also gives them calcium; but they can also get the calcium from grain and greens.

Supplement that with kitchen scraps and greens, slugs and snails, bugs and insects, worms if you run a worm farm. Don't leave any food which can rot until it does if your chickens are closely confined - that's where salmonella gets into chickens. Compost piles are for the poor people who can't afford poultry (not really, but chickens are a better first use of food scraps - you can still feed it to the compost after the chickens have finished with it).

I'd be reluctant to feed poultry scraps to poultry - it's a possible avenue of infection - salmonella for one. That's also how BSE got started - feeding insufficiently cooked animal waste to animals. Granted that was to animals which should have been vegetarians, but prion diseases (Kuru - like BSE) can be passed around omnivores as well. If you're going to do it anyway, then I'd pressure cook it first, or make soup and then feed the debris to the birds.

-- Don Armstrong (, October 08, 2000.

Annette, you've gotten some good answers, I wanted to add that this isn't the besttime of year for egg laying anyway. Egg production will drop during the winter, even in the Southern states, unless you're using lights and feeding well. They may also be moulting, depending on their actual age. You might also need to move their pen more often (several times a day) and/or up whatever you're throwing in for weeds.

I always free-ranged my chickens and they laid a lot of eggs. I feed cracked corn and oats starting in late fall through early spring. Plus whatever scraps they got. It is also possible that something, even one or more of the hens, is eating some of the eggs. Make sure they're getting enough calcium and grit. And wait til spring. Gerbil

-- Gerbil (, October 08, 2000.

Don, thats a really good point. I guess I figured since I had cooked it thoroughly for my consumption that it would be cooked enough for theirs. They get the meat waste about every 6 weeks. I only leave it in the pen for one feeding. I was hoping those practices were enough. Other ideas about how to feed them meat waste?

-- Anne (, October 08, 2000.

In looking through Morrison's Feeds and Feeding (a book everyone with livestock should have), a common element in all of his feed mixes is one percent salt. Livestock need it just as much as humans. You might also consider mixing in some dried kelp, at about the same percentage of salt, with their feed as it is an excellent mineral source. A lot of people swear by adding vinegar to their water.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, October 08, 2000.

Annette, in my experience hens do respond to more protein with more eggs - when that's all they're lacking. Go to You'll think you're in the wrong place, but go to the bottom of the page and click on "associated websites". When you get there, click on ChickenFeed. Trust me. Gold is where you find it!

-- Sam in W.Va. (, October 12, 2000.

That is a great site...Everyone...check it out. Thanks Sam!!

-- Anne (, October 12, 2000.

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