The right nutrition at the right time for layers

Timing is everything when it comes to feeding your laying hens. Ensuring they have the correct nutrition at just the right time is an important part of having a happy and healthy flock.

Hatch to approximately week 6: Provide free choice access to a quality chick starter ration and make fresh clean water available at all times. Proper nutrition in this critical growth stage will impact the performance of the chicken for their entire lifespan. Use a heat lamp to keep birds warm and provide 1 sq. foot per chick.

Approximately 6 weeks to 16 weeks: Continue to provide free choice access to chick starter and water. If you choose to feed treats (scratch grains, kitchen scraps, etc.), put out what birds will consume in about 15 minutes once per day. This a good guide to follow to make sure treats don’t exceed 15% of the total diet. Add treats only after week 6. If birds have access to anything other than a crumble or pellet, provide grit free choice in a seperate feeder.

16 weeks +: Now is the time to switch to layer feed! Provide layer pellets or layer crumbles and grit free choice along with access to fresh clean water at all times. Treats can be provided at no more than 15% of the diet. At this point it is also important to make oyster shell available free choice to provide supplemental calcium for hard-shelled eggs. Adult birds require approximately 3-4 sq. feet of space per bird in the coop; you also need to plan on one nesting box for every 4-5 hens.

6 thoughts on “The right nutrition at the right time for layers

    • Hello Gloria! Great question…Chicks should be separated from the rest of the flock in a clean area with a constant supply of food and water. Chicks also need higher temperatures than mature poultry; near 100 degrees.

      When chicks are 2-3 weeks old, they will start to out-grow their small brooder. They should be ready to be put in the coop; but still sectioned off from the mature hens and with a lightbulb. This allows the hens to see the newcomers, but not interact with them.

      Once the adolescents are fully feathered (when this happens depends on breed) they should be able to join the rest of the flock. Keep close watch for any aggressive hens that may “hen-peck” the newbies. This saying comes from the fact that chickens will attack eachother if they are bored, hungry, lack enough space or if another bird is injured or lacking feathers.

      *Safety Note: Be sure to situate the lightbulb away from flammable materials and check the corb for breaks in the insulation to prevent a fire.*

      You can download the Nutrena Poultry Care Guide here. for more information about raising chickens.

  1. HI, raising my second flock of chickens, first one was along time ago and I only had them for a few weeks. They will be 8 weeks old on 5/25/13. When it says add scraps, and scratch etc. what kind of kitchen scraps are we talking about? Anything we have left over as in, meats, veggies, fruits, basically as long as they eat it? Or are there specific things to give from our left overs? thanks!

    • Hi Kathleen,
      Yes, pretty much any leftover is a delicious dish for chickens! Just be sure not to feed them anything that is spoiled or moldy and always use moderation (like the 15 minute tip in the article).
      Thanks for the question!

  2. Hello, can I put pine shavings in my chicken’s run. The pen
    sometimes gets an odor after a rain. I heard pine shavings
    were good to use.

    Also can I add a third hen with the two I already have?

    • Sheryl – Pine shavings are great to use in your coop. What I like to do is clean the coop really well, then spread a deep layer of shavings on the floor. This bedding will last for a while and reduce odors.

      Moisture definitely brings out any smells that are lurking. One of our farm dogs was sprayed by a skunk and even after I have washed and deoderized her with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, she still smells when it rains. Weeks later! Now, if it would ever stop raining here in New England…

      Some things to do to reduce odors:
      1) Clean and disinfect – There are products that you can use to kill harmful and smelly micro-organisms in your coop when you do a major cleaning. Look for a poultry-approved disenfectant at your local farm supply store. A 30% bleach and water mixture is great for feeders and waterers; just be sure to rinse items thoroughly after washing and vent your coop when cleaning with chemicals like bleach. It is best to remove your flock when doing major cleaning to reduce stress on your birds.
      2) Ventilate – Be sure your coop has proper airflow so that fresh air can circulate to your flock. Many diseases are caused by poor ventilation in coops.
      3) Deodorize – Under your bedding, spread a deodorizing product made for stalls and coops (available from your local farm supply store), lime, or Bi-Carb (baking soda – available in bulk from the farm store).

      You can also feed to reduce odors. Did you know that the prebiotics, probiotics and yeast culture in our NatureWise poultry products helps reduce odors naturally from inside the bird? Science is pretty cool!

      You should be able to make your coop less smelly with those simple ideas.

      Find out how to introduce new hens to your flock here.

      Be well and enjoy your hens!

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