The Croad Langshan Club
Feeding your Croads
It's quite simple to feed Croad Langshans if you stick to two important rules: 1. Always use appropriate and good quality feed 2. Always provide clean water.
The chicken or the egg?
The feeding of the chick starts before the egg has been laid! This may sound odd, but if you feed the breeding birds the appropriate ration, they are much more likely to produce fertile eggs and healthy, vigorous chicks.
A newly hatched chick can survive for up to two days on the remains of the yolk sac that it has absorbed prior to hatching. For the first feed I like to add a small amount of cold scrambled egg to the chick crumbs. I find the yellow colour attracts the chicks to eat, the chick crumbs stick to it, and it also helps the change onto solid food. Another useful addition in the first few days are probiotics. This is a powder that can be added to the feed or water and puts 'good bugs' into the chicks system, enabling them to utilise the food much better, giving them a good start in life. Probiotics are also a useful aid at times of stress such as weaning, change of diet, shows, and so on.
Always make sure the chicks have a drink by carefully dipping their beak into the water. If they are a bit slow to go to the drinker try dropping a few tiny bits of grass on the water - they move about and attract the chick to the water.
Chick starter crumbs generally are 18% protein, and usually contain a coccidiostat to provide protection against the disease coccidiosis. It is possible to buy the feed without it.
Feed chick crumbs until the chicks are about 6-7 weeks old, they gradually change them over to a grower/rearer ration - mixing a little of the new feed in at a time, and gradually increasing the amount. Do this over a period of a week or so to avoid any digestive upsets.
Growers pellets can be fed from 7 weeks of age until the birds are ready to lay or are introduced to the laying flock. Again it can be purchased either with or without the coccidiostat and has a protein content of around 15%.
It is best not to 'push' young Croads on too fast. They are large-framed birds that benefit from slow growing and plenty of space to exercise. If fed too high a protein feed at this stage they can grow a little too quick and 'go off their legs'. As I was once told - grow the frame first then fatten them up later.
Once your birds are about 18 weeks old, you can change them over to either layers or breeder pellets. The breeder pellets are usually a little higher in protein, but I find the Croads do better on this than the layers. The adult birds can be kept on this ration all the time. Breeder pellets are a little more expensive than layers, but are a good way of supplying all the correct nutrients as they contain optimum levels of all the necessary vitamins and minerals for good breeding birds.
If you are rearing birds for the table - and Croads are really tasty - do not allow them to roam quite so freely and put them on to a finisher feed from about 14 weeks old to killing.
Insoluble grit is an important part of the diet, with flint grit being the best, oyster shell grit can supply an overload of calcium that can lead to skeletal problems in a growing bird. A little mixed in with the flint grit for the laying birds is ok. As the birds eat the grit, it travels down into the gizzard where it helps grind up the food, - because as you know, hens teeth are very rare! Very small 'chick grit' should be provided for the young birds, moving on to a larger size as the birds get bigger. Provide this in little hoppers in the pen and the birds will help themselves. If free ranging, the birds will also pick up small stones from round the garden.
Clean fresh water should always be provided in containers that can be easily cleaned. Try to position it in the shade to keep it cool in summer and provide aired water in winter when it is cold. I find using small tubs useful when the weather is freezing as the ice can be easily emptied out. Five adult birds will drink, on average, a litre of water a day, increasing greatly during hot weather. It makes it easier for the birds to drink if the surface of the water is placed so that it is on level with the hens back. Either hang it up or use bricks so that it is up off the floor. This stops them scratching dirt and bedding into it as well.
The addition of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to the water is very beneficial to the birds, as well as keeping down the formation of green algae in the drinkers. ACV helps with the breakdown and digestion of feed, and increases the acidity in the gut making it more hostile for parasites and disease to flourish there. Mix at a rate of 1 teaspoon ACV to half a pint of water (1/4 cup per gallon). Again, introduce it to the diet gradually.
From an early age Croads can be introduced to grain. Use kibbled or chopped wheat for chicks and whole grain for adults. Wheat is readily eaten, and is best fed separately to the pellets as the birds will pick out the grain and leave the rest! On average, an adult hen will eat about 150g of pellets per day and this can be supplemented with approx. 15g of grain (too much grain can create an imbalance in the diet). When the weather gets colder, grain will stay in the bird's system longer, helping to keep them warm, which is why it is best to feed the ration on a morning and then grain on an evening. Maize is a very heating food and should be fed sparingly - too much can also start to turn a hen's skin yellow - not to be recommended if you keep white Croads! Oats are a traditional poultry food and can be mixed with the wheat.
Fresh greens are an important part of the diet especially if your birds aren't able to free range, it's amazing just how much grass they actually eat when outside. Hang greenstuff up in the pen - a hanging basket is useful for this. Bunches of nettles, cabbage leaves, lettuce, etc. are all enjoyed. Mine like a sugar beet or two in autumn when the farmer next door harvests them, it doesn't take them long to hollow them out - the same goes for turnips. Don't feed greens in excess as this can cause digestive upsets. It's not a good idea to feed grass clippings as this can lead to impaction of the crop. There are a few garden plants that are toxic to hens and certain plants can cause a taint to the eggs - moss being one of them.
Any feed given must be free from mould and contamination. Store the sacks of feed in vermin proof bins and watch out for tiny forage mites that can infest the feed. Always check the use-by date and use up old feed before opening new bags.
A useful tip for birds that are confined inside is to give them a big lump of polystyrene to peck. It keeps them occupied for hours and won't do them any harm as it passes straight through them.
Shelley Rogerson, Club Memberamended 11 Dec 2006