Chicken growth stages also play an important role in the feeding of chicken. They have different nutritional requirements at different stages of growth; the nutrient requirements of poultry vary with several factors; such as:
- Health status
- Prevailing environmental condition
- Nutrient availability.
- Purpose of production.
There are different types of poultry feeds, not the brand name but the physical presentation of the feed. We have:
Mash is commonly served to chickens because of its simplicity and it costs less compared to pellet and crumbs. However, the pellet is the best type of poultry feeds as it allows even delivery of nutrients. Laying chickens fed with chicken layer pellets would have excellent access to all the nutrients available in the feed and lay maximally.
Overview of chicken feeding guide
It is very imperative to know the physiology of chickens before feeding them; this will enable the farmer to know what to feed chickens naturally, what not to feed chickens and possibly determine the cheap ways to feed chickens. Chickens are monogastric animals; this means that they have a simple stomach like humans. However, they do not eat like humans.
Chickens, irrespective of their age, will primarily eat to satisfy their energy requirement. As soon as this is met, chickens stop to eat. But in humans, we eat to satiation. In poultry feeding guide, chicken diet is formulated around the energy requirement of the chicken.
There are two species of poultry birds; The meat type and the egg type.
The meat type is the broiler chicken while the egg type is the laying chicken. The nutrient requirements of these chickens are not the same. There is a difference between broiler feed and layer feed; this is because the nutrient composition of chicken layer feed will stimulate egg laying while broiler feed will stimulate rapid growth rate.
Chicks feeding program
The chick’s phase of the chicken growth stages starts from a day-old to 4weeks of age. During this period, some medications and proper attention being paid to the chicks, especially the feeding. Heat is very important during this phase to activate the appetite of chicks, making them feed well.
What to feed chicks is not the same as what you feed laying chicken. Day old chicks are fed chick starter feed; Layer pullet chicks need 18 to 21% protein chicken starter.
This type of chicken feed is usually high in nutrients, about 23% CP for starter feed for broiler chicks. This poultry feed allows rapid growth and development of the tissues, bone formation and enhances overall performance during this phase of the chicken growth stages.
The amount of feed per chicken during brooding is not usually determined as chicks are feed Ad-libitum. Chick starter feed is served in a plastic chicken feeder because of easy cleaning and handling during the first 10 days of brooding.
After 10 days, feeds should be served in gravity chicken feeder or PVC chicken feeder in preparation of the other growth stages. Water is one of the important nutrient requirements of poultry. In the absence of chicken feed, water must surely be present. Water should be served using a clean chicken water feeder.
As chicken feed to satisfy their energy requirement, chicks pick up all the energy sources in the chick starter diet. Broiler chickens require high energy diet; a broiler feed contains 3200Kcal/kg, from day old to market size, usually 8 weeks and above.
When the energy content is too low, chicks will eat more to satisfy their energy requirements; however, high energy diet will make chicks eat less. When chicks eat less, there is a high tendency of deficiency of some nutrients as the chicks will not fully utilize the feed.
Layers feeding programme
Chicken layer feed specification is different from broiler feed. Layer ration should not contain more than 16-17% Crude Protein (CP) and the energy of 2745-3000 kcal/ kg. Laying birds come to lay at around 16 weeks; during the beginning of lay, layers can be fed a CP of 18% to prepare their physiological system for laying. When layers fully come to lay, the standard layer feed should comprise 17% CP. The Layer feed is classified into 3 with different composition, according to NRC 1994:
- The Starter feed for Layer pullet chicks should contain 18-20% CP and energy content of about 3000 Kcal/kg. The pullet feed should be fed from 0-6 weeks.
- The Grower feed which contains 14-16% CP and energy content of about 3000Kcal/kg. this pullet feed should be fed from 6 weeks to 12 weeks of age.
- Developer or pre-layer diet which contains about 12-14%CP and energy content of about 3000 Kcal/kg. This layer feed should be maintained from 12 weeks till lay, approximately 20 weeks.
In early laying hens, that come to lay at 16 weeks, pullets are fed grower feed or pullet feed prior to laying, from 8 weeks to 16 weeks.
When to start feeding chickens laying mash is dependent on the time of sign of laying. In some birds, it is very fast, 16 weeks, while some are as late as 22 weeks. The genetic makeup of the chicken determines the period of laying.
Do not feed layer ration or layer feed to laying hens immediately after the commencement of lay; this is because their reproductive system has not fully developed to handle the egg production processes.
It is therefore advisable to continue feeding with the pullet feed as laying commence till about two weeks. This is when to switch from grower to layer feed. Feed consumption of layers is controlled by the length of the daylight and temperature.
The longer the daylight, the more the hens eat. Laying hens feed consumption increases with light. During hot weather condition, laying hens generate lots of energy, hence the layer feed should contain less energy, 2745 kcal/ kg is better.
On the other hand, during cold weather condition, chicken generates less energy, hence relatively higher energy layer ration should be served.
Generally, at high temperature, feed intake is high, leading to high energy generation. Layer feed should contain more protein during this period, 17-18% CP. However, during cold weather condition, feed intake is low; high energy chicken layer feed should be served with relatively low protein content, 16 % CP.
The best chicken feed is not always achievable as chicken feed varies with nutrient composition, the environmental conditions, and purpose of production. What to feed chickens to lay eggs is not the same as what to feed broiler chicken for meat production.
The best chicken feed for laying hens is that feed that is flexibly formulated to blend with the layer chicken feed requirements and environmental conditions.
Feeding schedule for broilers
Broiler chickens are genetically bred for meat production; they attain market weight faster than other chicken breeds. Broiler feed ration is characterized by high protein content and energy; this specification conforms with their genetic make-up. There are two types of broiler feed, namely:
- Starter feed for broiler chicks
- Broiler chicken finisher feed
The starter feed for broiler chicks is fed to broiler chicks between the ages of 0-4 weeks. During this period, aside from the broiler feed, heat is very important as earlier stated. The broiler starter mash contains a very high CP of 23-24% and energy content of 3200Kcal/kg.
The broiler chicken finisher diet should be fed from 5 weeks to 8 weeks, ideally. This broiler feed contains a CP of 20-22% and equal energy content as the starter diet.
When broiler feed is fed in the right quantity and quality, the chicken grows faster and healthier. For effective costing; you need to know the amount of feed per chicken. In the case of broiler; how much does a broiler chicken eat from day old to adult weight? Ideally, a broiler chicken will consume 2.5kg to 4kg or more of broiler feed, depending on the predetermined market age. There are several tips on how to get bigger broiler chicken; all are functions of good feeding schedule for broilers.
Poultry feed supplement
At times, the poultry ration needs to be supplemented to improve the nutritional value of the poultry feed. Poultry feed supplement is always in form of premixes which is commercially available. Supplements are added to several types of poultry feeds.
For layer feed, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D are very important for the production of a good quality shell and bone formation. Calcium requirement varies with age, ambient temperature, the rate of lay and egg size. Generally, laying hen requires 3.4g of calcium per day and 3.8g of calcium per day after 40 weeks of age.
Lack of calcium in layer chicken diet can result in thin-shelled eggs, lost egg production, cannibalism and egg eating. Feeding eggshells as a source of calcium are not satisfactory because of the poor digestibility of the shells. Laying hens need about 4% calcium in their diet.
Also, in broiler chicken feed, they require Calcium and Phosphorus for bone formation majorly to carry the weight, thus avoiding leg problem as the chicken grows. Calcium and phosphorus are added at a ratio of 2:1 in any chicken diet. A good source of calcium such as limestone or oyster shell must be included in the diet or in a hanging feeder.
A successful poultry farmer needs a pragmatic chicken feeding guide; where precise nutrient requirements of poultry birds are included at different ages. The efficiency of the feed is very important as it helps to maximize the utility of the feed and minimize the cost of production.