You want to feed your chickens well to give them the best nutrition to live a happy life and to help them be productive egg producers. You are also not a fan of spending money on things that don’t matter.
Is laying mash really that different from regular chicken feed or will your laying hens do just fine without it?
Laying mash is a 16% protein, high calcium feed formulated to help laying hens reach the higher levels of their egg laying ability, while producing well shaped eggs with strong shells.
Laying mash is a 16% feed that is high in calcium
Laying mash is a 16% ground feed formulated for chickens that are starting to lay eggs or approaching egg laying age (even if they are not laying eggs quite yet).
Laying mash is generally made from ground corn, soybean meal, a poultry mineral mix and a ground calcium.
Is Raising Chickens For Eggs Worth It? helps you put together a budget for raising and keeping your hens.
Formulations of laying mash will have different ingredients depending upon where you live, around here, corn based rations are common place. Of course, you’ll also have the option of organic or non GMO feeds.
The specific ingredients don’t really matter, as long as they are balanced for the hens and acceptable to you.
Some laying mash formulations are made with meat meal or meat and bone meal
I have even seen a few laying mash formulations with meat meal or meat and bone meal in them. I’m pointing this out since some folks do not want any meat byproducts in their laying hen’s ration.
While it is natural for chickens to eat animal proteins, they are omnivores, if you are not comfortable with this addition to your hens’ ration, be sure to read the label on your feeds carefully.
Here is a link to Meat And Bone Meal In Poultry Feeds, to explain what is in the meat and bone meal so you can decide for yourself if it is an acceptable ingredient for your hens.
Laying mash will help your hens lay more eggs
The reason you feed laying mash to your hens is that by feeding laying mash you’ll give them the nutrients that they need to produce more eggs per week than they would without the mash.
When your chickens are poking around the yard for bits of grass and bugs, your girls are getting a great source of nutrients and a wonderful variety in their diet, but are still lacking sufficient calcium to reach peak egg production.
Notice I wrote peak egg production, by that I mean that the hens will be producing eggs at the top end of their genetic ability.
The top end of your hen’s genetic abilities, egg production wise, is the number of eggs that she is supposed to be able to lay per week as listed by the hatchery that you bought her from.
This is the number of eggs that she’s likely to produce under good management. Good management includes giving her the special feed that she needs to reach her peak abilities.
If you don’t feed laying mash your hens will still lay eggs, just not as many.
Some hens will also have more problems with weird shells and oddly shaped eggs. While you will have a few oddly shaped eggs occasionally, feeding the laying mash will help the hen get through this stage faster.
Feeding laying mash seems to promote onset of egg laying
We have also found in our birds, ducks as well, that if you put laying mash in with hens that are not laying, but should be, the laying mash seems to get them started laying. Seriously.
Of course, this only works if your hens are of laying age and they have enough daylight (low levels of daylight tell the hen to reduce egg production).
If you feel your hens should be laying and they aren’t, consider breaking out the laying mash, it may be the only thing your girls are waiting on!
Feeding laying mash will keep egg shells strong
The main benefit to using laying mash as your hens’ primary feed source is to keep the egg shells strong.
Why are strong shells important? For you, strong shells means that when you gather eggs they are able to take a little jostling around without damage.
Eggs with thin shells are very easy to crack, especially if you have kids helping you gather. Eggs with poor quality shells are also more likely to be misshapen.
Strong shells are vital to hatching eggs, as well. Even if the hen is doing the hatching for you, those shells have to be strong to make it through the setting period.
Strong egg shells help prevent egg eating by other hens
A second, not so talked about reason for needing strong egg shells is eggs that have weak shells can easily lead to egg eating.
When the shells are weak, sometimes non existent (occasionally you’ll find an egg that has membrane only, no hard shell), this is an egg that will break in the nest.
Eggs that break in the nest seem to promote egg eating. This is a tough habit to break, so you definitely don’t want the habit of egg eating to get started in your coop!
Roosters can eat laying mash, as well
While the laying mash is made for hens, the rooster can eat the mash, as well. Roosters really don’t need the mash, they would be fine on more of a maintenance feed, but that’s going to be tough to make happen.
Keeping the rooster out of the laying mash will require a separate pen for him, which may lead to other behavioral problems, so it’s better to just let him eat the mash with everybody else.
Laying mash is not suitable for chicks
Laying hens require large amounts of calcium for eggshells. Laying mashes typically contain 2.5% to 3.5% calcium. Growing chickens require only 1.2% calcium in their feed. If you feed high-calcium diets to growing chickens, kidney damage can result.Feeding Chickens For Egg Production, Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University Of Kentucky
It is not a great idea to feed laying mash to all of your poultry, especially young chicks.
First off chicks are likely to need a higher protein feed to grow well, closer to a 20% feed, and secondly, the extra calcium in the laying mash can be hard on the kidneys of growing birds.
Keep you chicks on a separate feed until they are older and ready to join the laying flock.
Layer pellets can be fed in place of mash
Some feed stores have a laying pellet, instead of laying mash, available for purchase. Be sure to double check that the pellet is for laying hens, not all chickens or all stock.
As long as the pellet has the needed protein percentage (16%) and you like the other ingredients that are incorporated into the pellet, this feeding laying pellets should be fine for your hens.
Layer pellets tend to be more expensive to feed than laying mash
We do not feed laying pellets simply because they are more expensive to purchase per pound than a laying mash. I do not feel the extra money is worth the feed coming in a pelleted form.
If you want to try pelleted laying feed, go for it. I can see how it would be less likely to be dusty compared to laying mash.
I have seen/read somewhere that pellets are less likely to be wasted by spilling, but since chickens are chickens, no matter what they are eating, I think they will still spill some of their feed, no matter the formulation.
What I’m trying to say here is that pellets may decrease feed waste, but they will not eliminate it.
Make your own laying mash might not save you money
You can make your own laying mash at home. The catch is that you’ll have to buy the bulk ingredients, calculate the ration, and weigh, measure and mix the feed in a wheelbarrow or other sizable container.
Here is an article of mine on Making Your Own Chicken Feed, if you are looking for the basic ration.
In our area, we can get the separate ingredients at the feed mill then mix the feeds we want. All at a good price compared to buying premade feed.
What are the bulk feed options in your area? You’ll have to price this out and see. I have been to some feed stores where buying the ingredients in bulk was actually more expensive than buying the premade!
What I’m hoping you’ll see here is that making your own chicken feed may not be the best use of your money. You’ll have to run the numbers and see how it works with the prices of feed ingredients in your area.
Here is an overview type article on feeding chickens that may be of interest to you Feeding Chickens For Egg Production.