Generally, feeding your poultry birds take about 60%-70% of the total cost of raising a bird. For instance, to raise pullets from Day Old to the point of lay, you are likely to have spent around #750 in Naira using Nigeria as a case study or its equivalence in your own currency per bird.
So be prepared to 60%-70% of #750 Naira or its equivalence on the feeds. You can then multiply this by the number of birds you like to raise.
Also note that starving birds for just an hour could lead to very high mortality in the housing as this could reduce their immunity and predispose them to certain diseases.
It is not advisable to deprive your birds of feeds at all. Feed them ad libitum (i.e. as required) and expect a very good result.
Poultry Feeding Options
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. 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.
Home-mixed Poultry Feed Rations
Some producers decide to mix their own rations in order to be assured that only “natural” ingredients are used.
Poultry feed ingredients include energy concentrates such as corn, oats, wheat, barley, sorghum, and milling by-products.
Protein concentrates include soybean meal and other oilseed meals (peanut, sesame, safflower, sunflower, etc.), cottonseed meal, animal protein sources (meat and bone meal, dried whey, fish meal, etc.), grain legumes such as dry beans and field peas, and alfalfa.
Grains are usually ground to improve digestibility. Soybeans need to be heated-usually by extruding or roasting-before feeding in order to deactivate a protein inhibitor.
Soybeans are usually fed in the form of soybean meal, not in “full-fat” form, because the valuable oil is extracted first. Whole, roasted soybeans are high in fat which provides energy to the birds.
Chicken feed usually contains soybean meal which is a by-product of the oilseed industry. In the industry, soybeans are dehulled and cut into thin pieces (flaked) to improve the action of the solvent (usually hexane) which is passed through the soybean to extract the valuable oil. Vegetable oils such as soybean oil are used for edible and industrial purposes.
The soybean is then toasted as a method of heat treatment to deactivate an inhibitor which would otherwise interfere with protein digestion in the animal.
However, chickens can also be fed unextracted (full-fat) soybeans. An advantage of feeding unextracted soybeans is that they still contain the oil which provides high energy fat to the bird.
Unextracted soybeans need to be heat-treated-roasted with dry heat and then ground, rolled, or flaked before mixing into a diet.
Another method of heat treatment is extruding. Extrusion involves forcing the beans through die holes in an expander-extruder which creates friction which heats the beans sufficiently (sometimes steam is also applied).
Read Also: Poultry Bagged Feeds Vs Formulated Feeds
The result is a powdery material which does not require further grinding. Roasted and extruded soybeans should not be stored for long periods of time, especially in hot weather, because the oil turns rancid.
Since protein is generally one of the most expensive feed ingredients, the industry uses targeted rations and reduce the amount of protein in the diet as the birds grow (chickens require less and less protein as they age); however, it may not be cost-effective for small-scale producers to have different diets for starters, growers, and finishers.
Vitamin pre-mix is usually added but may be reduced by using vitamin-rich plant sources such as alfalfa. Other plants also provide vitamins in their leaves, hulls, and brans. Fish oil can provide vitamins A and D.
Yeast provides some of the B vitamins. Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D for ranging chickens (converting a precursor to vitamin D).
Poultry in cattle pastures may obtain vitamin B12 when picking through dung pats for insect larva.
Sprouting grains, although a labor-intensive process, is used by some producers for vitamins when access to range is not possible.
Sprouting can increase the amounts of carotene (vitamin A precursor) in the grain and as a source of year-round forage, could be an advantage for certified organic poultry production to reduce the amount of synthetic vitamins required in the diet.
Eating plants may provide a yellow color to the skin of slaughtered chickens and a deeper yellow color to egg yolks.
Trace mineralized salt is usually added to poultry diets, but other sources can provide minerals. Minerals, although not present in high levels in plants, are provided in fish meal and kelp (seaweed).
Meat and bone meal is an excellent source of minerals, particularly calcium and phosphorus, as well as being a good protein source.
However, if a producer does not want to use meat and bone meal, then dicalcium phosphate can be substituted.
Access to pasture can reduce the vitamins and minerals needed in the diet since the birds get vitamins from plants and both vitamins and minerals from insects.
Ration-balancing of home-made diets is important, especially on a commercial scale, to achieve the right amounts of nutrients. If diets are not properly balanced, then birds will suffer from nutritional diseases.
The proper amount of these nutrients needed in diets depend on breed, age, and type of production.
If you are mixing a large volume, you may be able to get a local feedmill to mill, mix, and possibly pelleted (requires different machinery) for you.
Feedmills also have access to feed ingredients and staff with nutritional expertise who can formulate diets.