Feed mash should be supplied to the chicken twice daily. For instance: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. To prevent wastage of feed mash, feeders should be filled to ⅓ of the total depth and care should be taken also that water troughs or gutters are level, unpunctured and clean.
The most convenient way of feeding chickens is with a balanced pelleted ration, whether the birds are confined indoors or allowed to range outdoors. Most diets contain corn for energy, soybean meal for protein, and vitamin and mineral supplements.
Commercial rations often contain antibiotics and arsenicals to promote health and improve growth, coccidiostats for combating coccidiosis, and sometimes mold inhibitors. However, it is possible to obtain unmedicated feed-check feed labels to see if they contain feed additives.
In the industry, the feed is pelleted so the bird can eat more at one time. Chickens are nibblers and make frequent trips to the feed trough for small meals, which requires energy.
Pelleting reduces the amount of energy required for a bird to feed. However, many producers of pasture-based, “natural” poultry believe that the meat is better when the bird receives more exercise.
If the bird is eating a fibrous diet, grit such as oyster shells is supplied to aid in grinding up coarse feed in the gizzard. Industry birds usually don’t use grit because the diet is low in fiber. Outdoor birds also pick up small stones.
Different rations are often used, depending on the production stage of the bird. Starter rations are high in protein-an expensive feed ingredient. However, grower and finisher rations can be lower in protein since older birds require less.
- Providing a balanced nutritious diet and plenty of water is critical to keeping a healthy flock.
- Using a pre-mixed feed may be the easiest system for small flock owners.
- Your bird’s nutritional needs will vary with age and whether you are raising them foregg or meat production.
Poultry Feed Nutrient Requirements
The nutrient requirements of poultry vary depending on factors such as:
- genetics (e.g. species, breed or strain of bird)
- sex – significant differences in diet for male and female once sexually mature
- reproductive state (i.e. egg production in hens and sexual activity in males)
- ambient temperature
- health of the bird
- production (e.g. meat or egg laying).
A bird’s diet must include a combination of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water for optimal growth and production.
A starter diet is about 24% protein, grower diet 20% protein, and finisher diet 18% protein. Layer diets generally have about 16% protein. Special diets are available for broilers, pullets, layers, and breeders. Whole grains can also be provided as scratch grains.
Access to clean water is important. Levels of total dissolved solids above 3000 ppm in the water can interfere with poultry health and production.
Chicks will double their weight four to five times in the first six weeks of life. This tremendous growth demands proper nutrition. A commercially prepared chick starter – or “crumble” – is the best way to provide a complete nutritional package at all times.
In the first six weeks, feed consumption will be approximately 1 kg for each egg-producing chick and 4 kg for each meat-producing chick. The starter should contain a coccidiostat to stop intestinal damage caused by one of the common types of chicken parasites.
Some chickens are better off with restricted feeding, offering food only twice-per-day. Heavier breeds tend to pig-out and might gain extra weight if their diet isn’t managed.
However, Hess says this is a time-consuming method and he worries about the owner’s ability to correctly judge how much to feed. If it’s not right, the birds will establish a pecking order, which could also lead to cannibalism.
Feed for Poultry Chickens
The types of food birds feed on differ as they grow in age and these are:
Chick feed mash: is used for chicks as from a “day old” (D.O.C.) to 8weeks old when chicks would ordinarily be in the brooder house.
Growers feed mash: is used in feeding chicks from 8weeks old to 20 weeks old, when birds would be still in the growers house.
Layers feed mash: is used for birds from 20weeks old upwards, when the birds are about to be laying eggs or 10% of the birds have started dropping.
Broiler starter feed mash: is used in feeding day old broiler chicks till 4weeks while Broiler finisher feed mash: is used from 4weeks old upwards.
Note: Feeding unbalanced feed mash to birds can lead to disorder both in appearance and egg production. The way or style of feeding the birds and quality of equipment are both of great importance because the design of feeders or drinkers must be standard and accurate.
Unless this is done, birds will not have easy access to food or water and it can lead to retardation of growth among birds which is not supposed to happen with birds of the same age.
Common Poultry Feed Ingredients
Providing the right nutrition is important for poultry growth, production and health. Different energy requirements are required, depending on factors including bird age and production status.
Providing adequate nutrition is important so that the bird is able to achieve its productive potential and also for it to sustain health.
Feed that is of poor quality, not in the right form or does not contain the right levels of energy and mix of nutrients, can potentially cause nutritional stress and lead to other health concerns.
|Sorghum||An excellent source of energy but contains only about 9 % protein|
|Wheat bran||Contains about 15% protein; high in fibre and low in energy. More suitable in layer diets and broiler grower diets|
|Rice bran||Is also high in fibre but high in energy; it may contain 12% oil and 13% protein. Used in layer and broiler grower diets|
|Broken rice||High in energy but low in protein|
|Maize (corn)||Most common grain used in poultry feeding|
|Millet||This grain grows well in arid areas|
|Fish meal||This is made from fish waste. Protein is only 45% but is of good quality. It also provides valuable oil, minerals and vitamins|
|Copra meal||Widely available in tropical countries. Contains 20-22% protein of moderate quality. It has 7% oil and is high in fibre. It contains no starch but contains mannans which can cause high viscosity in the gut of chickens and can reduce the digestibility of some dietary nutrients|
|Copra meat||This is the whole coca nut. It is very high in oil (65%) and therefore in energy but low in protein (7-9%)|
|Palm kernel cake||Also widely available in tropical countries. Protein is 16% and of inferior quality and similar to copra meal in feeding value|
|Peanuts||These contain about 28% protein of medium quality. They are high in oil but may contain aflatoxins which are highly toxic|
|Green feed||Succulent green feed, particularly legumes, provide important vitamins and xanthophylls which give the skins of meat chickens and egg yolk an orange – yellow colour. Also dried tops of cassava, sweet potatoes etc contain high amounts of protein|
|Starchy root and tubers||Sweet potato, yams, taro, cassava etc are good sources of energy but are very low in poor quality protein (5-6%). They must be first cooked before feeding to chickens|
|Shell grit, coral grit, limestone||Very important sources of calcium (40%) for bone growth and egg shell formation|
|Grain balancer||This is a commercial product providing high-quality protein to balance deficiencies in local ingredients. Minerals, vitamins and other nutrients may be included|
|Free amino acids||Some of these ‘building blocks’ are now manufactured and can be added to the diet in small amounts to make up deficiencies e.g. lysine, methionine, threonine|
It is important to maintain health and productivity of poultry through proper nutrition. Birds need a series of nutrients which are found in the various feed ingredients. These nutrients include macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats), micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) and water.
Water is not usually considered as a nutrient, but its importance must always be emphasized. There are several systems of feeding: free-choice or “cafeteria style” feeding of mash and grain, controlled feeding of mash and grain, feeding all mash, or other combinations of a complete feed.
Each system should accommodate the specific needs of your flock, and be designed for flexibility, low maintenance, and reliability to keep installation and operating costs low.
The choice of one of these feeding systems will depend mainly upon the size of the flock and the labor and equipment available. Success with any system depends on the feed supply, equipment, management and individual practices.
The likelihood of disease and/or nutritional problems will be minimized if good sanitation, adequate housing, equipment and daily care are emphasized.
Regardless of the quality of chicks purchased, good results cannot be expected unless chicks are fed a nutritious diet. Free choice allows birds to balance or regulate their intake of grain and mash.
The freechoice system can work well with small flocks but leaves too much guesswork for a commercial flock. There are, however, general recommendations for feeding replacement chicks, layers, broilers and turkeys.