Let’s take a Meyer Moment to talk about calcium and its importance for poultry. Calcium is an essential mineral for all growing beings but for your birds, it is a key component of egg shells. There are many sources of calcium for your flock, some obvious and some not so obvious. Today, we’ll summarize how to deliver this vital nutrient to your flock.
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Hey everyone! Welcome back to The Coop with Meyer Hatchery – where we talk all things poultry in hopes of inspiring crazy chicken keepers and educating future flock owners. We’re glad to have you tuning in for this brief midweek break as we provide a Meyer Moment to cover relevant happenings.
Let’s take a Meyer Moment to talk about calcium and its importance for poultry. Calcium is an essential mineral for all growing beings but for your birds, it is a key component of eggshells. There are many sources of calcium for your flock, some obvious and some not so obvious. Today, we’ll summarize how to deliver this vital nutrient to your flock.
Arguably one of the most important sources of calcium for your birds can be found in their feed. The calcium levels need adjustment with the age of your birds so pay special attention to the guaranteed analysis labels on your choice of feed. Baby chicks that have not reached laying age need less than 1% of calcium. Laying birds need nearly 4 times the amount, about 5% calcium.
For laying age hens, calcium is absolutely vital for strong eggshells. Without proper calcium intake, laying hens may become calcium deficient. Calcium deficiency can manifest as thin and abnormal eggshells, weak feathers, decreased egg production, and eventually bone issues such as osteoporosis. Chickens know their dietary needs, so it is common for a calcium-deficient chicken to eat eggs right out of the nesting box.
On the flip side, there is such a thing as too much calcium. This is especially true for young chickens. Young chickens that have not reached laying age should not be fed layer feed. The extra calcium in layer feed that is not utilized for egg production in young birds will be filtered by their kidneys. This overload can eventually lead to kidney failure.
Besides feed, a very common calcium source for chickens is oyster shell. Oyster shell is a low-cost supplement that can be offered free choice to your birds. Your laying flock will help themselves to the oyster shell as their body deems necessary. You will rarely find a rooster bothering to indulge in oyster shells as they simply don’t need the extra calcium.
Bugs are also a favorite treat of chickens and for good reason! Bugs and insects are an amazing source of calcium. You may have noticed that many chicken treats include insects in some form.
Exact calcium needs will vary from chicken to chicken, but did you know that calcium requirements have actually changed a great deal over the years? Chicken genetics have made tremendous progress in the past century, and in turn, so have their dietary needs. In the 1940s, laying hens had a calcium recommendation of nearly half of today’s recommended levels. This progression is due to breeders and geneticists working to create and develop breeds to be more productive and more efficient than in the past.
We hope you enjoyed this Meyer Moment about calcium as an essential mineral for your flock.
Enjoy the rest of your week and as always, thank you for listening to The Coop!
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