FAQ - Poultry

How can cannibalism be controlled?

The act in which chickens establish social dominance is called “pecking order”. Pecking order in chickens is a natural behavior in which status determines which birds eat first and have right of way privileges. Excessive pecking can lead to bleeding sores and even death if allowed to get out of control and is referred to as cannibalism. Cannibalism can be difficult to stop once it begins so prevention is the best and most successful treatment. Controlling cannibalism can be achieved by not crowding the birds, keeping light levels reduced, providing adequate feeder space, and insuring proper nutrition through a well balanced ration, such as Purina Mills Family Flock products.

Be sure to maintain good air quality and alleviate other conditions that may be stressful for the bird. It is also important to have adequate nesting space (4-5 hens/nest), with reduced light intensity. Furthermore, be sure to have dry litter; wet litter will damage feather quality, allowing greater damage from pecking. One of the best methods of preventing cannibalism is through beak trimming. Beaks are trimmed during the growing period with a heated blade in which about 2/3 of the upper beak and 1/3 of the lower beak is removed. After this procedure, the chances of injury due to pecking is markedly reduced, but does not impair the birds’ ability to consume feed.

Purina Mills® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe is balanced to contain the proper vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in the proper ratios necessary for the production of excellent quality eggs.

Do I need to feed grit to my chickens?

Chickens which are fed a complete diet such as Purina Mills® Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe, Layena® SunFresh® Recipe or Flock Raiser® SunFresh® Recipe do not need grit for digestion. If chickens are being fed whole grains such as Purina Mills® Scratch Grains SunFresh® Grains or if they are outside on the range, then grit should be fed to aid in grinding up feed in their crop. In this situation, grit should be fed at 1 pound per 100 chickens twice per week. It can be fed free choice or mixed with the regular feed.

Do I need to feed my chickens oyster shell?

Oyster shell is sometimes fed to chickens because it is an excellent source of calcium. Purina Mills® complete feeds which include Purina Mills® Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe, Layena® SunFresh® Recipe or Flock Raiser® SunFresh® Recipe are formulated to meet calcium requirements so supplemental oyster shell is usually unnecessary. However, for older hens in hot weather, particularly those laying larger eggs, extra calcium may be beneficial. In this instance, a small amount of oyster shell can be fed at 1 pound per 100 hens daily. Over-supplementing with oyster shell should be avoided since too much calcium in the diet can lead to the same symptoms as a calcium deficiency and include weak or soft shells and reduced egg production.

What is the proper way to handle and store eggs after gathering?

Eggs should be collected three times a day, especially during hot weather. If washing is necessary, eggs should be washed carefully with water. Common household detergents can produce an off odor or flavor in eggs. Eggs should be dried and cooled as quickly as possible. Storage temperature for eggs should be approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit and 70-75% humidity. Care should be taken to store eggs away from other foods since eggs can easily pick up the odors and flavors of nearby foods through their tiny pores.

What should I feed my turkeys, ducks and geese?

Ducks and geese should be fed Purina Mills® Flock Raiser® SunFresh ®Recipe from hatch on. It is perfectly okay to also feed Purina Mills® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe after 18 weeks of age. Medicated Flock Raiser® SunFresh® Recipe is not FDA approved for use in ducks or geese.

Turkeys can be fed Purina Mills® Gamebird Startena® or Purina Mills® Show Chow® Turkey Starter from hatch to 8 weeks of age. After 8 weeks, turkeys should be fed Purina Mills® Flock Raiser® SunFresh® Recipe. The medicated option of Flock Raiser® SunFresh® Recipe can be fed to turkeys to provide protection against coccidiosis.

At what age do hens begin laying eggs?

Hens begin laying eggs at the time of sexual maturity, around 18-22 weeks of age. Peak egg production usually occurs at about 28 weeks of age. In a laying flock, excellent peak production would be between 85-95%. This means that on a given day, 85-95% of the flock would produce an egg. After this peak in production, the rate of lay decreases about 1% to 1 1/2% per week. Several factors are involved in how many eggs a hen will produce such as breed, light exposure, housing and nutrition.

Commercial Leghorn strains have the genetic potential to lay 270 eggs per year, with good management and proper nutrition. Meat-type strains and pure lines i.e., Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, etc. are not as prolific.

Purina Mills’ nutritionists recommend Purina Mills® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe for maximum egg production.

How does light affect egg production?

Chickens have a pineal gland (a gland behind their eye) which functions to control reproduction. Increasing day length in the spring acts to naturally stimulate egg production through the increased length of exposure to light. Furthermore, as the amount of light decreases in the fall and winter due to shorter day length, egg production naturally declines.

The use of artificial light to supplement natural daylight allows egg production to continue throughout the year. To maximize egg production in the hen, Purina Mills’ researchers recommend 14-17 hours of light per day. Providing supplemental lighting in the spring, fall and winter will insure that the number of hours of light remains consistent thereby allowing optimum egg production throughout the year.

What causes double yolked eggs?

Egg production in the hen is controlled by the release of specific hormones, which in turn stimulate the release of a single egg yolk from the ovary. After the yolk is released from the ovary it continues its journey through the hens reproductive tract where it develops into an egg with a hard outer shell. Usually, only one yolk is released by the ovary in a given day. However, sometimes two egg yolks or on rare occasions, even three yolks may be released at the same time resulting in the formation of a double or triple yolked egg.

This release of more than one yolk at a time is due to an over stimulated ovary which occurs as a direct result of the increased level of reproductive hormones in the hen. This phenomenon appears more commonly in young hens and is also seen more frequently in meat-type strains of hens verses egg-type hens. Genetics may also be a factor involved with some hens naturally producing a higher percentage of double yolked eggs than others.

What SunFresh Recipe products are available and how do they differ?

Purina Mills® carries three primary SunFresh Recipe® products: Start & Grow®, Flock Raiser®, and Layena®. Purina Mills also carries a whole grain poultry supplement, Purina Mills® Scratch Grains.

Purina Mills® Start & Grow® SunFresh® Recipe is intended for layer chicks and should be fed from the time they hatch until they are ready to lay at about 20 weeks of age. Start & Grow® is a complete feed containing all the proper nutrients to grow healthy chicks and comes in the form of crumbled pellets (etts). Start & Grow® Medicated can be fed to chicks until 8 weeks of age to prevent coccidiosis.

Purina Mills® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe is designed to be fed to pullets from the time they start laying throughout their entire span of production. Layena® is a complete feed and provides all the vitamins and minerals necessary to produce top quality eggs.

Purina Mills® Flock Raiser® SunFresh® Recipe is formulated for broiler chicks, ducks and geese and is fed from hatch until market weight. For turkeys, it can be fed from 6 weeks of age to market. Flock Raiser® is a complete feed and contains all the required nutrients to efficiently and rapidly grow meat birds from hatch to use. Flock Raiser® Medicated is available to provide protection against coccidiosis in broiler chicks and turkey poults. Flock Raiser® Medicated is not FDA approved for use in ducks or geese.

All of the above Purina Mills® SunFresh® Recipe feeds provide a complete and balanced diet for the birds they are intended for. No other supplemental feeds are necessary for birds to receive proper nutrition.

Purina Mills® Scratch Grains SunFresh Grains is a natural all grain supplement and allows natural pecking and scratching instincts to be satisfied. Scratch Grains are not a necessary part of the diet but can be useful to keep poultry busy and content. Purina Mills® offers Scratch Grains for feeding to chickens after 12 weeks of age. Purina Mills’ nutritionists suggest feeding a limited amount of Scratch Grains per day in proportion to the daily feed consumption (i.e., 5-10%).

My chickens are breaking the eggs and eating the inside. Why are they doing this?

Probably a result of softer shells caused by inadequate nutrition. There are a few very essential minerals that are required for strong shells. Unfortunately most people only think of calcium as being important for strong shells. But there are 5 or 6 that are critical, not only the correct levels, but the rations between each other. Also, if the diet was deficient in these minerals, it may have caused the chicken to become a little nervous and that may cause them to eat their shells.

We recommend feeding Purina Mills® Layena ®SunFresh® Recipe® to avoid this problem. Layena® is formulated with added Vitamin D3, phosphorous and other essential minerals for strong, hard shells.

Now here is the problem, when you switch from your current feed to Layena®, the birds have already developed this habit and may continue to try and break the eggs. They like the taste of the eggs and will purposely try and break them. So what you need to do is to collect the eggs several times a day for a couple of weeks so that no eggs get broken. This should break (no pun intended) the habit and allow you to enjoy your farm, fresh eggs.