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When chickens reach 3 weeks of age, you can tell whether the chicken is male or female. But if it is a slow-growing breed, it may take around 6-10 weeks. Female chickens need to be fed layer feed to ensure better egg production. But feeding them at the right time is crucial.

Can chickens eat layer feed before laying eggs? You can start feeding layer feed when your chickens reach 18 weeks old. It is necessary even if your female birds have not laid their first egg yet. However, it can be before 18 weeks unless they already laid their first egg.

Can Chickens Eat Layer Feed Before Laying Eggs?

Most experienced chicken keepers don’t suggest feeding layer feed to any hens whose ages are less than 18 weeks old.

It is best to start feeding layer feed when female chickens reach 18 weeks old. Or you can begin feeding layer feed when their first egg arrives.

However, this rule is applicable to regular chickens. The ideal time can be early or late, depending on the situation.

Can Chickens Eat Layer Feed Before Laying Eggs

Early Laying Chicken Breeds

Some chicken owners are desperate to get eggs from their feathered friends. That’s why they early lay chicken breeds.

Golden Comets, Leghorns, Australorps. Rhode Island Reds, Sex Links, etc., are known as early egg-laying chickens. They lay eggs as early as 16 weeks.

Chicken BreedEarliest laying sessionAverage laying sessionNumber Of Eggs Per Year
Golden CometsAs early as 16 weeks16 to 19 weeks250 to 320 eggs per year
Pearl White LeghornsAs early as 15 weeks16 to 18 weeks300 to 320 eggs per year
Black AustralorpsAs early as 16 weeks22 to 24 weeks250 to 300 eggs per year
Rhode Island RedsAs early as 16 weeks18 to 24 weeks270 to 280 eggs per year
Sex LinksAs early as 16 weeks16 to 20 weeks250 to 300 eggs per year

Late Laying Chicken Breeds

Some hens reach maturity a bit late. That’s why they started laying eggs lately compared to regular chickens.

Breda or Jersey Giant is one of them. It may take up to 8 to 10 months to lay eggs. But some chicken owners shared their hens start laying eggs within 5-6 months.

Jersey Giant generally lays eggs during the winter month as they are cold hardiness.

Cochin, Sussex, Brahma, Orpington, Marans, etc., are some common late-laying chicken breeds.

Chicken BreedLatest laying sessionAverage laying sessionNumber Of Eggs Per Year
Breda or Jersey GiantAs late as 10 months7 to 8 months150 to 200 eggs per year
CochinAs late as 9 months6 to 8 months150 to 180 eggs per year
SussexAs late as 8 months6 to 7 months260 to 280 eggs per year
OrpingtonAs late as 7 months5 to 7 months200 to 280 eggs per year
MaransAs late as 9 months6 to 7 months150 to 200 eggs per year

When To Feed Laying Feed To Female Chickens?

Female chickens generally start laying eggs within 18 weeks to 22 weeks. Most healthy hens lay eggs on the average period.

You should start feeding layer feed once they become 18 weeks. Even if they don’t lay eggs after passing 18 weeks or 19 weeks, you can continue providing them layer feed. 

Keep feeding them layer feed until they begin laying eggs, and continue until they stop laying eggs.

Can Chickens Eat Layer Feed Before 18 Weeks?

Female chickens can’t eat layer feed before 18 weeks old. A chick starter or a layer feed contains around 0.8% to 1.2% calcium.

On the contrary, a layer feed contains 4% to 5% calcium. Chickens who are still not laying any eggs don’t need these much calcium too early.

Kidneys play a crucial role in regulating the calcium level in a chicken’s body. An excessive amount of calcium will be considered waste.

 It will lead to the formation of calcium deposits and result in potential kidney damage.

Besides, lifetime egg production will reduce due to imbalanced calcium consumption. It may also shorten the female chicken’s lifespan.

Why Do Chickens Need To Be Fed Layer Feed After 18 Weeks?

Chickens need to be fed layer feed after 18 weeks to lay eggs with strong eggshells.

According to the National Institute of Health, chicken eggshell has around 380 mg of calcium in each gram.

According to an article from the University of Florida website, their dry eggshell has 95% calcium carbonate. A healthy eggshell contains around 2.2 grams of calcium.

A female chicken needs around 4.5 grams to 5 grams of calcium per day. You must provide them with this amount of calcium to help them lay healthy eggs with solid eggshells.

Besides, layer feed plays a crucial role in their overall egg production performance.

According to several types of research, chickens who were not fed enough amount of calcium start laying eggs a bit late.

Their yearly based egg production abilities also decreased compared to hens who were fed 5 grams of calcium daily.

In addition, layer feed can make the chickens’ nervous system, circulatory system, and cardiac system healthy.  

What Happens If Chicken Eat Layer Feed Too Late?

If you feed hens after several weeks of first laying an egg, it can affect their egg production abilities.

More importantly, it will make the outer eggshell too soft. The eggs are more likely to break easily due to thin-layered eggshells.

It will fail to protect the internal components of the eggs. The eggshell strength will gradually decline if you fail to ensure calcium intake.

Besides, laying hens may not lay eggs as frequently as they should. As a result, the total yearly egg production might be reduced.

A late introduction of layer feed will create 78v  imbalanced nutrition. After all, grower feed and layer feed don’t have the same nutritional value.

Can Non-laying Adult chickens Eat Layer Feed?

Chickens start laying eggs at 18 to 22 weeks on average. They continue it for five to ten years. Some may stop laying any eggs once they are three to four years.

Once your female chickens stop laying eggs, you no longer need to feed them any layer feed. Doing so will cause various health issues.

You can shift to regular feed that doesn’t contain too much protein and calcium.

Layer feed contains a higher amount of calcium. Overdosing calcium can be toxic for non-laying adult chickens.

Feeding them for several weeks can damage their kidney or liver. If you are raising laying and non-laying chickens combinedly, serve them food separately to avoid this issue.

How To Know When To Start Feeding Layer Feed?  

You should start feeding layer feed when your female chickens begin laying eggs. Their behavior and body structure will change before laying eggs.

The followings are the common symptoms that give enough reasons to start feeding layer feed. 

01. Large Reddening Combs and Wattles

Do your female feathered friends have large reddening combs and wattles?

Their combs and wattles usually don’t become big unless they start laying eggs. If you notice this symptom, your chickens might lay eggs soon.

Do you see bright redness in your chicken face? If so, it can be another sign that your birds are going to lay eggs soon.

02. Making Excessive Noise

Do your chickens make any noise? Have you heard the EGG song? It is often called “Cloaca.”

 Laying chickens make cackling noises before and after laying the eggs.

If your chickens are too loud, it can be an indication that they are laying sessions are going to start soon. It may continue making the noise for anywhere between 1 and 10 minutes.

03. Repeatedly Visiting The Nesting Boxes

Are your chickens repeatedly visiting the nesting boxes? Nests are a comfy, cozy, and noise-free location to lay eggs.

If your birds stay close to the nesting boxes several times a day, they might be getting familiar with the placement of the nesting boxes.

Female chickens will try to discover the best position to lay eggs comfortably.

Besides, it might be trying to figure out the safest time to lay eggs so that other hens won’t disturb it.

04. Eating More 

Are your female chickens eating more than the other chickens? It can be a sign of laying eggs.

Their dietary energy levels may increase during their laying phase. Chooks may start eating other food from natural sources that will give them extra energy.

Their feed intake generally increases when they start laying eggs. After all, it takes burning a good amount of energy to lay eggs.

05. Instinctively Squat

Are your chickens instinctively squatting repeatedly several times a day?

Their submissive posture is an indication that the female egg is ready to be mounted by a rooster.

It is generally giving a comfortable mating position for the rooster to produce fertile eggs.

Roosters will add sperm to the hens’ bodies. It will be stored for several weeks until the hens lay eggs.

Final Verdict

Every chicken owner is responsible for taking care of their chooks properly. They must be aware of what to feed and when to feed.

Make sure the layer feed doesn’t have more than 18% protein level. Also, the calcium level should not be more than 5%. But 4-4.5% is better, though.

Initially, buy several layer food options in small quantities from different brands to figure out which options your chickens like the most.

Don’t forget to read the product label carefully. It should not contain any harmful ingredients. Hopefully, you got a clear idea of “Can chickens eat layer feed before laying eggs?”

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