The feed equation
How much calcium do chickens actually need?
There’s a lot that goes into raising chickens and a balanced diet will ensure they grow strong, lay eggs and live healthily and happily. Calcium is absolutely crucial. But how much is not enough – and how much is too much?
From one to eight weeks the chick will need a starter feed such as Poultry Chick Starter that is high in protein to ensure maximum growth. Then, from 8 to 18 weeks, these chicks can be boosted with a ‘grower product’ like Pullet Grower Mash. This has less protein, but contains balanced energy and amino acids for optimum growth plus appropriate calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin D levels to aid the chick’s bone development and strength.
A laying hen (over the age of 18 weeks) will need to eat approximately four grams of calcium daily to ensure they have enough in store to make one egg shell. This nutrient, along with vitamin D3 and other trace elements, will keep your chooks in fine fettle.
While it’s important that adult laying hens maintain high calcium levels it is equally essential that birds under the age of 18 weeks have smaller amounts of calcium. If these growing birds are eating layer feed there’s a high risk that they’ll develop kidney disease and die.
No matter the age of your birds, access to a feeder is important. As chickens feed in a hierarchy, the veritable pecking order, it may be that some spaces are set out with small screens to help weaker and smaller chooks feed with some security. It’s also important to remember that your birds will self-regulate when feeding. There’s no danger of over-feeding with a balanced daily diet.
At Topflite one of our most popular products is Scratch & Lay. This carefully developed mix contains high-protein poultry pellets along with barley, canary seeds, wheat, oats, kibbled maize, kibbled green peas, sunflower seeds and grit. This feed contains 1.9% of the calcium needed for an adult laying hen. Further calcium should always be available from sources such as crushed oyster shell grit and supplementary treats like dried mealworms and the Hen Health Tonic.