There are different types of chicken feed or poultry feed that can only be used at different levels of birds according to their age and breed as we are going to be discussing about below.
Broilers are raised for 8-10weeks. So give Broiler Starter poultry feed mash during the first 4-5 weeks of life while you give Broiler Finisher Feed Mash in the last 4-5 weeks of life/ cockerels feed on Chicks Feed Mash for their first 8weeks of life, they are then maintained on Growers Feed Mash for the rest of their life (example: the rest 4months).
Layers feed on Chicks poultry feed mash for the first 8 weeks of life, They are then given Growers Feed Mash until they start laying at about 18weeks. Layers Feed Mash is then introduced to the birds after about one or two weeks of laying.
N/B: Never give Layers poultry feed mash to your birds until they have reached at least 5% production.
Feed ingredients for poultry diets are selected for the nutrients they can provide, the absence of anti-nutritional or toxic factors, their palatability or effect on voluntary feed intake, and their cost.
The key nutrients that need to be supplied by the dietary ingredients are amino acids contained in proteins, vitamins and minerals. All life functions also require energy, obtained from starches, lipids and proteins.
Feed ingredients are broadly classified into cereal grains, protein meals, fats and oils, minerals, feed additives, and miscellaneous raw materials, such as roots and tubers.
Types of Chicken / Poultry Feed
The correct type of feed for your birds largely depends on two things: their age and whether they are meat birds or laying birds.
Chick starter: Exactly what it sounds like, chick starter is for the first (usually six) weeks of your baby chicks’ lives. This is typically 22 to 24 percent protein for meat birds (called broiler starter) and 20 percent protein for laying breeds.
You can buy medicated or unmedicated chick starter. Most people use a medicated feed, but organic and pastured small farms often use unmedicated feed.
Grower pullet: After chick starter, young pullets that are destined for a laying flock are put on a lower-protein diet to slow growth to allow strong bones and adult body weight before laying begins.
If the protein is too high, development happens quickly and the birds lay too early. Grower pullet rations typically have 18 percent protein and are fed until the chicks are 14 weeks of age.
Pullet developer or finisher: At 14 weeks, young pullets can be lowered to a 16 percent protein feed until they begin laying. Some feedlines don’t distinguish between this stage and the grower stage and just have a grower-finisher that is somewhere in the middle protein-wise.
Layer rations: Laying hens at maturity (around 22 weeks of age) require a 16 to 18 percent protein level and extra calcium and minerals for strong eggshells. Don’t feed layer rations to birds younger than this age as it damages their kidneys due to the high amounts of calcium and phosphorus. However, roosters can eat laying rations.
Broiler rations: These high-protein feeds are for meat birds, particularly Cornish X Rock crosses that grow extremely fast. Broiler rations are typically 18 to 20 percent protein. This is sometimes called “grower-finisher” feed.
For heritage and pastured meat birds, protein content can be lowered to 16 percent after 12 weeks of age until butchering. Some may choose to keep the heritage meat birds on the higher grower-finisher rations until slaughter.
The Different Forms of Feed
Chicken and poultry feed comes in three forms: crumbles, pellets, and mash.
– Crumbles are excellent if you can get them,
– but pellets are sometimes the only form available.
– Mash is usually used for baby chicks, but it can be mixed with warm water to make a thick oatmeal-like treat for chickens.
However, it must be fed right away or else it spoils and becomes moldy, so don’t let the mixed mash sit around.
Poultry Feed, Nutrition and Water
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.
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.
The Poultry Hub has detailed information about the poultry nutritional requirements for:
- egg laying chickens
- meat chickens
Different feed rations are formulated for the different ages and stages of production. Starter, grower, finisher, layer and breeder rations will usually have different levels of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals depending on the nutritional requirements of the birds.
The amount of feed consumed by poultry varies depending on whether the bird is being raised for egg or meat production. Feed intake will also vary depending on environmental conditions such as temperature, physical activity and whether the birds have access to other sources of feed such as grass in free range systems.
Other factors include:
- availability of, and access to, feed and water.
Poultry feed contains many ingredients including:
- grains (e.g. wheat, barley, sorghum)
- protein meals (soybean meal, canola meal, animal protein meals)
- fats and oils
- amino acids
- vitamins and minerals.
Feed ingredients will vary depending on a number of factors including product availability, locality, price and quality of the raw ingredients.
Poultry should always have access to plenty of cool, fresh drinking water, but make sure the water is low in salt. Salt is already provided in poultry feed, and drinking water with high salt levels, may cause an oversupply of these minerals and lead to:
- increased water intake
- wetter droppings and wet litter issues
- reduced performance.
Water provided for drinking, cooling and range irrigation must be free from microbial contamination that could potentially cause disease in poultry, or lead to food safety issues. Test water regularly to ensure that it meets specific microbiological and contaminant standards.
Water that does not meet the standards, including all surface water such as creek, dam or tank water, must be treated with approved methods to kill potential disease organisms.
Generally, water intake should be about 1.5 to 2 times feed intake.
Poultry water consumption is dependent on factors including:
- food consumption (i.e. reduced food intake may lead to reduced water intake and vice versa)
- water being too hot
- contaminated water
- ambient temperature
- type of drinkers used
- drinker height
- water pressure.
Check drinkers daily to ensure they are in working order. Drinker systems should also be cleaned and flushed regularly to remove any microbial or mineral build up in the lines.
To ensure that adequate water is available to meet bird requirements, the manufacturer’s recommendation of number of birds per drinker should be used as a guide.