I went to a presentation this past weekend at the Feed Barn, Open House and Chicken Care. I spoke with the rep from Manna Pro, wondering if she had ideas why I was getting only 8 eggs daily from 16 one year old pullets. She encouraged me to switch to Manna Pro brands, assuring me that I'd see a significant jump in production. Does anyone out there have experience feeding Manna Pro? I've been mostly feeding Nutrena layer mix, sometimes buying a bag of Kruse layer feed. Is the switch of brands really going to make much difference?
I know many people like the organic feeds but for us it's Kelly's which is the only layer feed that feed store sells... well they MIGHT have organic I've never asked, but you walk in and ask for layer crumble and that's what they hand you. We've got seven chickens at a year old and get six to seven eggs a day. Although breed of chicken does play into that. For us we picked egg laying machines on purpose. I'd be suspicious of a brand change making that much difference. Some difference maybe but that seems just like a rep just pushing the product to me.
That's what I was leery of, so I thought that I'd ask for feedback. My girls are primarily RIReds, 2 Eastereggers, one Jersey giant and one black sex link. For the first year, the eggers were giving me an egg each for every two out of three days, but since their molt at the beginning of the cooler weather I think I've had 6 green eggs total. The Jersey is pretty reliable, but the others... I just don't know who's laying and who isn't.
My black sex links are very dependable almost every day, we don't have RIReds this time but last time they were very good layers, again no Easter eggers this time but last time they were so-so on laying. Good luck with figuring it out. It's hard to tell sometimes. I think I know who my winter slackers were and they will probably be first into the stockpot when the time comes but wyandotts are medium layers I believe so I'm not surprised. I think my two barred rocks have been medium too but didn't quit for three months like the wyandotts did.
No, switching feed isn't going to make a difference. Especially if you are already feeding them exclusively layer feed (not adding treats, scratch etc). It is more likely that your lack of eggs has to do with not enough daylight. Have you been adding any supplemental light in the morning?
Yes, there's a light in the coop that comes on for a few hours in the early am and again in the pm from 7 to 10 right now. I have been giving them some scratch in the evening, about 2 cups? and after I feed the horses, I sweep up the alfalfa in the barn and feed the hens the loose leafy parts, but not the stems... maybe 1/2 of a dustpan. It didn't strike me as being excessively heavy on extras. I have not changed my routine in 4 years, and it's just lately that the production is so low. Today, only 3 eggs. I've also had some very thin shelled eggs, and a few with no shells at all, even though there's always oyster shell for them. One day last week, I gave them some sour milk, which I assume would help with the calcium. None of the hens seems especially fat, but seem rather on the thinner side to me. When I've butchered in the past, there has been only a moderate amount of fat on my birds. The scoop that I use to feed them in the morning holds about 64oz, but I could measure that to be surer. There's almost always some food left in the feeder when I refill. I did treat for roundworms and coccidia last summer. I saw the worms in a poop or two, and then I thought that some of the poops looked awfully loose so I did the treatment for coccidia. I know that my puppies have tested for coccidia in the past, so I'm pretty sure that needed to get done. Poops look OK right now. I wish there was an easy answer.
I would stop the scratch. I'm no expert but I've been told scratch is like feeding chickens junk food. It's really not good for them, the only benefit I know to scratch is, it is cheaper than layer feed but truly they need the layer feed. I doubt the alfalfa is hurting them but until egg production is back up I'd stop it too. Maybe even get them some protein in the form of some meal worms. I saw freeze dried meal worms in the bird seed section of Lowes just the other day pretty reasonably priced. The other thing I would say is be warned it can take them a little bit to recover from a dietary problem. I once ran out of food in their feeder and didn't know it. They couldn't have been without food more than 24 hours but it took them four days to get back on track with laying and that was just from one day of Oops food. If this has been going on for a bit, it could take longer.
Also personally I'd drop the night time light. They need sleep just like we do. I can't imagine they need that much extra light especially with the increase in days already happening. But that might just be my issue not real. I know commercial egg situations are so much worse. I just don't like "forcing" them out of their natural rhythms more than necessary. A little light in the morning I can see but not a lot. Just the lowest effective amount.
I have a compost bucket that I keep in the barn. I'm farming some pill bugs in there. I offer them some live bugs maybe once a week now. I'm just starting to see some baby bugs, so I can offer them more of the adults soon. Last summer the compost pile was filled with big white grubs. I'll keep my eyes open for those, too. Girls had wonderful grubby parties last summer. Any bug that I can catch, I feed to my ladies... grasshoppers, June bugs, crickets, hornworms.There's not much out here so far this year. Our nights are still too cold outside the heat island.
Jeanne, I echo Erica's note on the light set up. The recommendation is to have the lights come on at say 3:30 or 4 in the morning and go off mid morning so their night time actually comes normally. In the presence of light they are active. You are looking for a total of about 14 hours of light a day, which you can adjust seasonally - sunset now is about 6:30 so if you had the lights come on at 4:30ish and off at 10 a.m. you will give your girls what the need and not use extra electricity.
The sun is up and very bright by 7... why keep lights on until 10? am I missing something?
You are correct Jeanne, once the sun is up bright you can turn them off. Most of the general recommendations simply state mid-morning to turn them off and you are right - if the sun is up and bright why waste the electricity :-)
Yes, a brand or product switch can make a huge difference. Read labels for ingredients, protein and fat content, etc. A significant change in feed can send a bird into a molt, as well as impacting their laying.
Most of those who raise chickens for exhibition are very picky about the brands they choose. I know a number of folks who have said that they get much better results with Manna Pro or Kelley than with Kruse or Nutrena. Nutrena and Purina are my last choices for quality. I used to use Kruse, but far prefer Manna Pro for freshness and quality. I have heard people that get feed with the organic bulk order sing praises about that feed, too.
I did buy a bag of the MannaPro, but I want to use up the opened Nutrena first, and then I'll keep tabs carefully to see if things improve. The group ordering of organic feed might be interesting to me, but I'm most of the way out to Wickenburg, so it's too far away to be feasible for me.