Chicken is a wonderful creature to raise. It is not picky when it comes to their feed, they can eat many veggies, seeds, fruits, some small animals, and some food products.
But the laying stage is when extra nutrients are needed, and layers pellets are designed for that goal, but can chickens of different ages enjoy layers pellets? Can cockerels eat layers pellets? You should not feed them layers pellets.
What are layers pellets?
layers pellets are pelletized poultry feed that is designed for laying hens. They usually have a high amount of calcium for laying hens since it is needed for egg production.
layers pellets normally contain wheat, maize, salt, sunflower seeds, and oats. You can also find many other ingredients like linseed, grass meal, seaweed, yeast, marigold flower, and more.
Related: Can chickens eat cooked chickens?
Can cockerels eat layers pellets?
Layers pellets should not be fed to cockerels or any chickens that are smaller than 18 weeks old since the excessive amount of calcium is not good for chickens that are not laying eggs.
Calcium helps with bone health and development. At the right amount, calcium can help prevent osteoporosis in chickens.
Calcium is also important for the development of eggshells. A lack of calcium can result in brittle eggshells.
It also helps with hormone secretion, muscle function, nerve transmission, and vascular function as well.
However, layers pellets should not be fed to cockerels or any chickens that are smaller than 18 weeks old since the excessive amount of calcium is not good for chickens that are not laying eggs.
Also, layers pellets are not nutritious enough for baby chickens. Baby chickens need a wide range of nutrients to grow up. And layers pellets are not ideal since it is excessive in calcium but lacking in many other nutrients.
The recommended amount of calcium for young chickens that are below 18 weeks old is 1% calcium, and layers pellets are nearly 4 times more than that amount.
Why too much calcium is bad for chickens
When feeding too much calcium to cockerels or pullets, the excess calcium will be excreted by the kidneys as uric acid. The uric acid can easily build up crystals inside the kidneys.
These crystals will block the tubules of the kidneys, which can lead to death. It could happen a few months later when the metabolic demands and the stress of laying eggs started.
It can also happen if the chickens come in contact with diseases that affect the kidney like infectious Bronchitis.
Too much calcium may tie up phosphorus, resulting in a lack of phosphorus. You can also expect the chickens to have rickets (soft or rubbery bones) just like when there is a lack of calcium.
Mixing is still concerning
If the diet comes with 2.5% or more calcium for young chickens can cause nephrosis, visceral gout. The ureters leading from the kidneys can have calcium urate deposits. Ultimately, it can lead to death.
If a mix including layers pellets (layers feed) and some other scraps are used in a chick’s diet, it may reduce the serious effect of kidney damages from the excessive calcium.
But, that mixture will still cause long-term insidious damage. The amount of layers feed in the mixture needs to be less than a quarter of the chick’s daily diet.
Furthermore, you need to consider the calcium from other food you use in the chickens’ daily feed like milk, yogurt, dog roll, or whey, which have a reasonably high amount of calcium.
Chickens and many types of birds have a relatively small appetite. So even if you feed the chickens 50% layers feed and the rest is scrap, wheat, or greens, they will still get twice the amount of calcium needed.
If you move to layers feed from chick starters too early, young chickens would consume more water than they need, which leads to scouring and wet dropping.
The early switch happens if you decide to do so or the breed is not ready for laying yet even after 18 weeks.
Scouring and wet dropping tend to carry on through the laying cycle. If a chicken has persistently white fecal-stained feathers during lay, then there is a fair chance that it was fed layers feed too early.
layers pellets shouldn’t be fed to young chickens – Image Credit by Morgan Obami on unsplash.com
What other food shouldn’t you feed to cockerels?
Besides layers pellets which contain excessive calcium to cockerels, you should also avoid feeding them these foods:
Green potato skins
Green potato skin may contain solanine, which is harmful to chickens and humans as well. Solanine can cause headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
When serving potatoes to your flock, check if you see green spots on the potatoes, especially at the potato peels or eyes. Those green spots are the indicator that it contains solanine.
Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which is also bad for chickens. it can cause heart problems and even death.
Some parts of avocados are toxic to chickens. For example, avocados’ skins and pits are bad since they contain persin, while the avocados’ flesh is fine. Persin makes the chicken hard to breathe and causes heart problems.
They contain hemagglutinin chemical compounds, which causes digestion problems.
Onions may be used widely by humans, but it’s not good for chickens since it has thiosulphate. Its health risks far outweigh its benefits to chickens.
Rhubarb leaves are toxic to chickens as well as humans. They contain oxalate that makes the chickens ill or even kills them if too much is consumed.
So, can cockerels eat layers pellets? In short, while calcium has many benefits like promoting bones’ health and development and helping with egg production, you should not feed cockerels layers pellets.
This is because the amount of calcium in layers pellets is too much. Excessive calcium in chickens may cause kidney failure since it creates crystals inside the kidneys, which damage them over time.
Even if you try to mix layers pellets with other food, the amount of calcium would still be concerning. Also, there is calcium from the food used in the diet that you should consider as well.