Comprehensive Analysis Of Poultry Feed Ingredients

Feeding takes about 70 – 75 percent of the total cost of production of a poultry business. The success of a poultry business is determined by the quality and not the quantity, per se, of the feed given.

Though, the quantity of the feed matters the efficiency of the quantity is enhanced by the quality of the feed. Poultry birds are very sensitive animals; the quality of the feed they eat determines their output. Also, what they eat is determined by some factors; these factors are:  

  • Species
  • Age and
  • The purpose of production – whether the birds are kept for meat or egg production.

Poultry require an array of nutrients to enhance their physiological development and productivity. Poultry birds need a steady supply of nutrients like energy, protein with essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and, most importantly, water.

Poultry birds obtain energy and required nutrients through the digestion of natural feedstuffs, but minerals, vitamins, and some key essential amino acids (lysine, methionine, threonine, and tryptophan) are often offered as synthetic supplements.

Below is the comprehensive guide to poultry feed and feeding; showing all the required nutrients and respective sources.

poultry feed ingredients


Energy is very important to poultry birds; they need energy to enhance their productivity. At times, energy supply takes about 60% of the poultry feed composition depending on the type of animal and production and phase purpose.

Poultry birds derive energy from simple carbohydrates and fat majorly. Grains are the major source of energy in poultry feed; they are maize, rice, millet, sorghum, oats, etc. Maize is considered the best energy provider and the standard for energy requirement for poultry feed. Maize contains no anti-nutritional factors that tend to reduce the digestibility of the feed in the birds’ system.

Energy sources like sorghum contain anti-nutritional factors called Tannins. However, if sorghum is used to formulate chicken feed, it must not be the sole source of energy in the feed. Poultry birds find it difficult to utilize sorghum because of the presence of anti-nutritional factors.

Importance of Energy in Poultry Feed

Poultry birds eat primarily to satisfy their energy needs, provided that the diet is adequate for all other essential nutrients. The energy level in the diet is therefore a major determinant of poultry birds’ feed intake.

When the energy level changes, the feed intake will change, and the specifications for other nutrients must be modified to maintain the required nutritional intake. For this reason, the dietary energy level is often used as the starting point in the formulation of practical diets for poultry.

Different classes of poultry need different amounts of energy for metabolic purposes, and a deficiency will affect their productivity.  

Protein and amino acids. 

Protein is another major nutrient needed in relatively large quantities by poultry birds. Protein plays a major role in the growth and development of poultry feed. The function of dietary protein is to supply amino acids for maintenance, repair of worn-out tissues, muscle growth, and synthesis of egg protein. 

Poultry birds need  20 amino acids to perform optimally and enhance their physiological development. Ten of these are either not synthesized at all or are synthesized too slowly to meet the metabolic requirements, and are designated as essential elements of the diet. These amino acids have to be supplied in the diet.

How Poultry birds Use Amino acids

From a physiological point of view, all 20 amino acids are essential for the synthesis of various proteins in the body. The essential amino acids for poultry are lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, leucine, histidine, valine, phenylalanine, and arginine. In addition, some consider glycine to be essential for young birds. 

Cysteine and tyrosine are considered semi-essential amino acids, because they can be synthesized from methionine and phenylalanine, respectively. Of the ten essential amino acids, lysine, methionine, and threonine are the most limiting in most practical poultry diets.

Poultry do not have a precise requirement for protein. However, an adequate dietary supply of nitrogen from protein is essential to synthesize non-essential amino acids. The amino acid requirements of poultry are influenced by several factors, including

  • Production level,
  • Genotype, 
  • Sex, 
  • Physiological status, 
  • Environment and 
  • Health status. 

For example, high levels of lean meat deposition require relatively high levels of lysine. High levels of egg output or feather growth require relatively high levels of methionine.

Common sources of protein in poultry diets include fishmeal, raw soybean, soybean meal, maize gluten meal, cottonseed meal, groundnut cake, etc.; these are rich sources of protein in animal feed. Some contain anti-nutritional factors like raw soybean and cotton seed; the anti-nutritional factors are always denatured through heat treatment before inclusion into the poultry diet.

Related: Advantages And Disadvantages Of Blood Meal In Livestock Feed

Fats and fatty acids

Fat is another important component of animal feed; they are needed in the diet to provide energy, enhance feed palatability, and reduce dustiness.

Also, because of the greater energy density of fat compared with carbohydrates and protein, poultry diets usually include fats to achieve the needed dietary energy concentration. Fat takes about 3 – 5 percent of the whole diet. Poultry does not have a specific requirement for fats as a source of energy, but a requirement for linoleic acid has been demonstrated.

Linoleic acid is the only essential fatty acid needed by poultry; linoleic acid’s main effect in laying birds is on egg size, which increases the egg size. Common sources of fats and oil include Palm oil slurry, groundnut cake, etc.


Minerals are another cogent component of animal diet; though, needed in minute quantity. They are needed for the formation of the skeletal system, for general health, as components of general metabolic activity, and for maintenance of the body’s acid-base balance.

Calcium and phosphorus are the most important minerals for poultry birds; they are classified as macro-minerals, along with sodium, potassium, chloride, sulfur, and magnesium. They are needed in relatively higher quantities unlike other minerals; they aid in eggshell formation and strengthen the bones of the bird.

Macro-minerals are elements required in the diet at concentrations of more than 100 mg/kg. Calcium and phosphorus are necessary for the formation and maintenance of the skeletal structure and good egg-shell quality. In general, 60 to 80 percent of the total phosphorus present in plant-derived ingredients is in the form of phytate-phosphorus.

Usage of Minerals in Poultry Diets

Under normal dietary conditions, phytate phosphorus is poorly utilized by poultry owing to the lack of endogenous phytase in their digestive enzymes.

It is generally assumed that about one-third of the phosphorus in plant feedstuffs is non-phytate and is biologically available to poultry, so the phosphorus requirement for poultry is expressed as non-phytate phosphorus, rather than total phosphorus.

A ratio of 2:1 must be maintained between calcium and non-phytate phosphorus in growing birds’ diets, to optimize the absorption of these two minerals. The ratio in laying birds’ diets is 13:1, because of the very high requirement for calcium for good shell quality. 

Dietary proportions of sodium (Na), potassium (K), and chloride (Cl) largely determine the acid-base balance in the body for maintaining the physiological pH. If a shift occurs towards acid or base conditions, the metabolic processes are altered to maintain the pH, with the likely result of depressed performance.

Birds exposed to heat stress consume more water and are better able to withstand heat when the water contains electrolytes. The replacement of part of the supplemental dietary sodium chloride with sodium bicarbonate has proved useful under these conditions or the inclusion of coconut water in the drinking water.

Trace elements like copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium, zinc, and cobalt; function as components of larger molecules and as co-factors of enzymes in various metabolic reactions. These are required in the diet in only very small amounts. Sources of Minerals are Liver, Oyster shell, seafood, etc.


Vitamins are also essential in poultry birds’ growth and production. They are classified as fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K) and water-soluble (vitamin B complex and vitamin C).

All vitamins, except for vitamin C, must be provided in the diet. Vitamin C is not generally classified as a dietary essential as it can be synthesized by the bird. However, under adverse circumstances such as heat stress, dietary supplementation of vitamin C may be beneficial.

The metabolic roles of the vitamins are more complex than those of other nutrients. Vitamins are not simple body-building units or energy sources but are mediators of or participants in all biochemical pathways in the body.

Related: Feather Meal: Usage And Nutritional Benefits In Animal Feeds


Water constitutes about 80 percent of the body. Unlike other animals, poultry birds eat and drink all the time. If they are deprived of water for even a short time, production and growth are irreversibly affected. Under most conditions, water intake is assumed to be twice the amount of feed intake. 

Water must therefore be made available at all times. Both feed intake and growth rate are highly correlated with water intake. Precise requirements for water are difficult to state and are influenced by several factors, including ambient conditions, and the age and physiological status of the birds.

Drinking water temperatures for chickens should be between 10 and 25 °C. Temperatures over 30 °C will reduce consumption. The quality of water is equally important. Quality is often taken for granted, but poor water quality can lead to poor productivity and extensive economic losses.

Water quality for poultry can be a major issue in arid and semi-arid regions where water is scarce. In particular, underground water in these areas can have high levels of salt. Saline drinking water containing less than 0.25 percent salt is tolerated by birds but can cause sodium toxicity if water intake is restricted.

The Importance of Water in Poultry Diets

Water is the most important, but most neglected nutrient in poultry nutrition. Water has an impact on virtually every physiological function of the bird. A constant supply of water is important to:

  • Aid digestion of feed;
  • Aid absorption of nutrients;
  • Aid the excretion of waste products; and 
  • Aid the regulation of body temperature. 

End Notes

This is the breakdown of poultry feed composition and the importance of different components of the feed. This guides in poultry feed formulation and manipulation; feeding poultry birds is very important and helpful to the productivity of the birds, provided the right quality and quantity are attained.

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