Start feeding a complete layer feed to your hens when they turn 18 weeks old or when you see the first egg, whichever comes first. Eighteen weeks is the age when most egg-laying breeds are considered adults. Most excitingly, it’s the time when many breeds will lay their first egg. To produce eggs, hens require different nutrients from when they were growing; therefore, at this key milestone, you can start switching your chickens to layer feed.
After choosing a complete layer feed for your flock, it is important to make the transition over time to prevent digestive upset.
For the backyard birds on our farm in Missouri, we have found it’s best to make the transition over time rather than all at once. We mix the starter and layer feed evenly for four or five days. If birds are used to crumbles, start with a crumble layer feed. The same goes with pellets. The more similar the two feeds are, the more smoothly the transition will go.
Many hens will eat the mixed feed without noticing a difference. When hens are eating both feeds, flock owners can stop feeding the starter feed and make the complete switch to all layer feed. It is important to give your birds enough time to adjust to the new diet. Most birds will adjust within a couple of weeks but some can take a month or longer to fully transition to their new diet.