The nutrient intake of poultry is affected by both the nutrient composition of the diet and the amount of feed eaten or poultry feed intake. The optimum nutrient intake for poultry raised commercially will depend on the commercial goals of the poultry enterprise.
The goals in feeding poultry differ between different classes of poultry. In general, for poultry raised to provide meat, such as broilers, the aim is to produce the maximum body weight gain for the minimum cost of feed while controlling the amount of fat on the carcass.
For egg laying birds, the aim is to maximise egg production for the minimum cost of feed while controlling the egg size and egg quality. For mature egg laying birds this generally entails maintaining a relatively stable body weight.
These different goals, along with differences in digestion and absorption of nutrients, require different levels of nutrients to be provided to different classes of poultry.
Farmers should maintain the right feed quantities for chicken at each stage of growth as shown below:
— For poultry feed, An egg-laying chicken requires 130-140g of feed per day.
— For poultry feed, A chick requires a minimum 60g per day. If they finish their daily rations, give them fruit and vegetable cuttings to ensure they feed continuously.
— For poultry feed, Young chickens (or pullets) which are about to start laying eggs should be fed 60g for 2 and ½ months and then put on layer diet (140g per day). Supplement the feed with vegetables, edible plant leaves and fruit peelings in addition to their feed rations.
— For poultry feed, Broiler chicks require 67g per day. Broiler finishers require 67g of feed per day to the day of slaughter.
— Chickens are very sensitive to aflatoxins- never use rotten maize (maozo) while making feeds.
Where to Buy Poultry Feed Ingredients
Poultry farmers who need raw materials for feed making including feed additives (pre-mixes and amino acids) can order them from agro-veterinary shops nearest to them.
There are also companies doing calibration services for farmers who wish to make feeds in large scale farming enterprises and even for any farmer who requires these services.
The nutrient intake of poultry can be controlled by limiting the amount of feed available to be eaten, by adjusting the nutrient content of the diet to match voluntary feed intake or by manipulating the lighting program through increasing or decreasing the duration of darkness. Allowing poultry to eat as much as they want is called ad libitum feeding.
There are a range of factors that can affect the voluntary feed intake of poultry, these include:
- Breed or strain
- Nutrient balance of the diet
- Ambient temperature
- Health and welfare status of the birds
- Accessibility of the feed
- Flock density
In addition, certain feed ingredients, poor feed quality or feed contamination can have adverse effects on voluntary feed intake due to poor palatability or the presence of toxic factors.
Suppliers of commercial poultry provide information on the optimum nutrient and feed intakes for their birds throughout the production cycle. Feed intake and production performance of flocks should be monitored and adjustments made to the diet composition where required to keep performance on track.
In particular, feed intake is readily affected by ambient temperature, with feed intake increasing at lower ambient temperatures and decreasing at higher ambient temperatures. In such cases, the diet may need to be reformulated to adjust nutrient intake to match changes in voluntary feed intake as a result of changes in ambient temperature.
As an example, in high ambient temperatures a more concentrated diet can compensate the decreased nutrient intake occurring as a result of lower voluntary feed intake.
Accessibility to feed is sometimes overlooked as a limiting factor and can be caused through inappropriate or poorly adjusted feeding equipment or inadequate feeding space due to overstocking of facilities.
The height of the feeders should be adjusted according to the flock age to provide easy access to the feed for all the birds.
Important Tips on Feed Preparation
When making home-made feed rations, it is important to do experimental trials, by isolating a number of chickens, feeding them and observing their performance. If the feed rations are right, the broilers will grow fast and layers will increase egg production (at least 1 egg after every 27 hours).
Buy quality fishmeal from reputable companies. If omena is used, the farmers must be sure of its quality; most of the omena in the open-air markets may be contaminated. Farmers are advised to go for soya meal if they cannot get good quality omena.
Always mix the micronutrients (amino acids) first before mixing them with the rest of the feed. For mixing, farmers are advised to use a drum mixer (many jua kali artisans can make one). Never use a shovel to mix feed because the ingredients will be unevenly distributed.
Important: To improve on the feed quality, farmers making their own feeds should always have it tested to ensure the feed is well balanced.
Poultry Feeds Nutrient Requirements
Poultry diets must be formulated to provide all of the bird’s nutrient requirements if optimum growth and production is to be achieved. There are six classes of nutrients:
- Carbohydrates – the major source of energy for poultry. Most of the carbohydrate in poultry diets is provided by cereal grains.
- Fats – provide energy and essential fatty acids that are required for some bodily processes.
- Proteins – required for the synthesis of body tissue (particularly muscle), physiological molecules (such as enzymes and hormones), feathers and for egg production. Proteins also provide a small amount of energy.
- Vitamins – organic chemicals (chemicals containing carbon) which help control body processes and are required in small amounts for normal health and growth.
- Minerals – inorganic chemicals (chemicals not containing carbon) which help control body processes and are required for normal health and growth.
Factors affecting the nutrient requirements of poultry
The nutrient requirements of poultry are affected by a large number of factors, including:
- Genetics (the species, breed or strain of bird) – Different species, breeds or strains of birds have different average body sizes, growth rates and production levels and will absorb and utilise nutrients from feed with different levels of efficiency. Therefore, they will require feed with different nutrient compositions. The genetics of commercial poultry is constantly changing, and as a result, so are their nutrient requirements. Consequently, breeders of commercial poultry provide information on the specific nutrient requirements for the birds they sell.
- Age – nutrient requirements are related to both body weight and the stage of maturity in bird.
- Sex – prior to sexual maturity, the sexes have only small differences in their nutrient requirements and males and females can usually be fed the same compromise diet to achieve acceptable growth rates. Differences in nutrient requirements are larger following the onset of sexual maturity and significantly different diet formulations are then required for each sex.
- Reproductive state – the level of egg production in hens and sexual activity in males will affect nutrient requirements.
- Ambient temperature – poultry have increased energy requirements to maintain normal body temperature in cold ambient temperatures and the opposite in hot ambient temperatures. Food digestion processes produce body heat, the amount of which will vary according to the nutrient composition of the diet. This is called the heat increment of the diet. In cold temperatures it may be desirable to formulate a diet with a higher heat increment and the opposite in hot temperatures.
- Housing system – the type of housing system will influence the level of activity of the birds and therefore their energy requirements.
- Health status – birds experiencing a disease challenge may benefit from an increase in the intake of some nutrients, most commonly vitamins.
- Production aims – the optimal nutrient composition of the diet will vary according to production aims, such as optimising weight gain or carcass composition, egg numbers or egg size. Poultry that are raised for breeding purposes may need to have their energy intake restricted to ensure that they do not become obese.
Here are some poultry feed formulation books and guides to support you below: