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I've been struggling with calcium deficiency in my hen who started laying 6 weeks ago. first eggs were fine, then she quit mid September. Then I added some artificial lighting and she started layiing again but thin-shelled and no-shelled eggs. I have 3 pulletts who arent old enough to lay, so I was feeding a combination of organic scratch, organic layer mash, fresh grass and dandelion greens and earth worms. When the eggs got thin and no-shelled I stopped the scratch and decided everyone could eat the layer mash. Everyone hated the mash. So I tried layer pellets-ended up with non-organic by mistake. anyone want a bag of that? Everyone hated the pellets even more than the mash and decided the mash was pretty exciting after all-but they pick out the grain bits and avoid all the small particulate stuff-which I assume is the calcium and other supplements. So should I just starve them until they finish up all of it or what? They have had access to oyster shell calcium as well, but dont seem interested and I have been adding apple cider vinegar to their water. Today I got fed up and gave them a tin of cat food with a dozen ground eggshells in it. Can it be a vitamin deficiency of some other kind that is preventing calcium absorbtion? Anyone go through this before?
Stephanie, I think all chickens pick at their layer mash or pellets, mine certainly do. They always seem to waste a lot but I think it's just a chicken thing.
You might want to try using layer mash with warm water, mix it up and try them with that, they might like it better.
Cat food isn't really very good for them so go easy on that.
One thing is they are young and it seems to take some a while to get real eggs going. Again it happened with mine for a while.
Try going to http://www.backyardchickens.com/ lots of good information here.
Try using layer crumbles, which is part way between mash and pellets in size. Less waste that way. Mash is usually used in large operations as it flows better or for chicks. Be careful about feeding layer feed when less than 22 weeks as that can damage their kidneys due to high calcium and phosphorous content. What is the protein content of the feed you're using? I use 18% crumbles, and when I accidently bought 16% pellets, they started pecking each others feathers out which is a habit that's hard to stop once it gets going. It does take a few weeks of early laying to sort out their systems. I've had soft shells, rough shells, double yolks, huge and tiny eggs within the first month or so of laying. Lighting will also make a difference at this time of year.
The curse is lifted! I am now getting consistently nice thick shelled eggs! Not really much change in the feed, so you were all indeed right-it seems sometimes they just need practice when they get started. Either that or I waited too long to add the artificail lighting-let her go off laying then added light then she had to start up the process again. Maybe the adding-shell part of the process didn't come on line as quickly as the making-filling part? In any case I now have eggs and very healthy looking chickens.