There are basically three ways of sourcing for poultry feeds for your poultry birds which include: Already bagged feeds (Finished Feeds) which can be purchased from feed mills or you can take a good feed formula to a feed mill for the feed to be prepared for you.
Also concentrates can be purchased from good sources to which you can add other recommended ingredients and then serve your birds.
With regards to which of the three feed sources is recommended for your birds. Well it depends on many factors which include the location of your farm (which determines which one you have access to), the number of your birds, the recommendation of your consultant, your choice etc. however; any of them could be good if you get them from a good source.
Make sure the feed-mill is dependable and never be afraid of changing a feed source if you are not getting good results. Try and get an expert advice before taking decisions.
Chicken needs protein, carbohydrates, and fats, along with the appropriate vitamins and minerals. Most starter and grower ration have 18% to 20% protein. This is formulated for growth and development of bones and internal organ. The amount of protein in their diet is very important; it helps them to produce feathers and eggs as well as to grow.
The Different Forms of Poultry Feeds for Poultry Birds
Feed comes in three forms: Crumbles, Pellets, and Mash.
Feed Ingredients – Poultry feed ingredients are easy to get, they are available to us;
1. Corn and soybean meal – Usually the most plentiful and lowest-cost sources of energy and well-balanced protein, thus it is extensively used.
2. Balancers and Concentrates – For preparing the poultry feed, concentrates and balances are special supplements which are prepared by the commercial poultry feed companies.
3. Salt – 0.2 to 0.5% is added to most poultry diets.
4. Supplemental lipids e.g. Millet (up to 5% of the diet) – May increase energy utilization.
5. Yellow pigmentation – Use as much yellow corn as possible plus good sources of xanthophyll, such as alfalfa meal or corn gluten meal, for the yellow coloration of the shanks, feet, skin, and egg yolks.
6. Non-nutritive additives are used for a variety of reasons – e.g., antibiotics (to stimulate growth & control diseases), arsenicals and nitrofurans (to improve performance), anti-parasitic compounds, anti-oxidative, and antifungal compounds.
7. Fish Oil – Fish oil is a dependable source of Vitamin A and D. Mainly it is used in chicken feed and laying hen’s feed. Fish oil is very effective when green pasture and sunlight is not adequate.
Chicken Feeds for your Poultry Birds
For chicks, their feed must be enriched with protein and concentrate on ensuring rapid growth and good health. Feed the chicks when they want to eat.
And after their two or three weeks of age, give them dry mash with self-feeders (when all the chicks can eat) and ensure a constant supply of fresh and clean water according to their demand.
Add some dry cracked wheat with dry mash till they reach three to four weeks of age.
1. Chicken 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 chicken feeds 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.
2. Home-mixed 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).
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. An example of an all-grain diet is enclosed.
Probiotics are sometimes provided to chicks during placement and before shipping. However, preparing a balanced diet can be a complex, possibly costly process, especially for producers with little background in nutrition.
Specialized knowledge is required about the nutrient requirements of chickens and the nutrients contained in feedstuffs.
Feed ingredients need to be sourced, milled, mixed together according to a formulation, and the mix is usually pelleted.
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.