Feeds and feeding take about 75 percent of the total cost of poultry production; the type of feeds fed to chickens determines the productivity of the chickens and the profitability of the poultry business.
Poultry feeds come in different forms; they are pellets, mash or crumbles. All these forms are made to reduce the particle size of the feed ingredients such that the chickens find it palatable and for better utilization.
Chickens have stages of growth and each stage requires different nutritional requirements, medication and other management practices. There are different types of feed fed to chickens at each stage, they are the best feed for chickens at each stage of their growth; their composition contains what the birds actually need at that particular age.
In the poultry business, there are four types of chicken feeds namely:
All these feeds are formulated to perform distinct functions in the development or growth, both physiologically and metabolically, on the chickens’ system. These feeds are function of the birds’ age.
You do not just feed your chickens any types of feeds because they made of grains; day-old chicks cannot eat grower feed and layers feed cannot be fed to broiler chickens and still expect good performance. These are wrong feeding programs; hence, you need to understand why you are feeding your laying chickens layers feed and why you feed day-old chicks starter diet.
Types of chicken feeds and Functions
1. Starter feed
You are familiar with the starter diet but do you know it is called or what made it a starter diet?
A starter diet is the type of feed given to poultry birds from a day old to four (4) weeks and a day old to three (2) weeks for pullets and broilers respectively, during the brooding stage. A broiler is fast maturing meat-producing bird that attains market maturity at about six weeks of age, pullet is the young laying chick with cockerel being the male sorted out of pullets, mature at 18 weeks.
At the age of a day old to 3-4 weeks for pullets and cockerels or three weeks for broilers, the birds need some certain nutrients in which only the starter diet can provide it.
Starting from the particle sizes, a starter diet has a relatively smaller particle with large surface area; this gives rooms for proper digestion and utilization of the feed.
Considering the nutritional composition of this diet, a starter is more nutritious and contains nutrients required for optimum growth of the chicks. A starter contains 18 percent crude protein for layers starter or cockerel and 22 percent crude protein for broilers with high-energy content.
As younger chicks, they need this high crude protein content to build their immune system and tissues to make them fit as they grow. This diet is characterized by high nutrient content to aid the development of the birds.
2. Grower feed
Grower feed is the feed given to pullets or cockerel at the age of five (5) to nineteen or twentieth (20) weeks and broiler at (4) to five (5) weeks. The nutrient composition of this feed is low compared to the starter diet.
The grower feed for chickens contains 16 percent crude protein for pullets and 20 percent crude protein for broilers and high energy, the protein content has been reduced to the level required by the birds.
The energy content is much because the birds are now grown and tend to perform more of inherent or habitual activities that enervate them, therefore, they need additional energy to complement the used ones.
Although the grower feed is not usually fed to broilers chickens, in order to reduce the cost of production and maximize profit, you can include grower feed in the feeding program.
3. Finisher feed
This diet is the last feed given to broilers at the age of five (5) and six (6) weeks before the sale. The finisher feed provides the nutrients that will sum up the basic requirements of the birds. It contains 21 percent crude protein with high energy to sustain life.
At this age, they are ready for sale so the farmer might tend to reduce cost here. The diet is high in energy because the birds are much engaged in inherent activities. The protein content is lower than starter because as the birds grow, their protein content decreases and energy increases.
4. Layer feed
Layer feed is a special feed formulated to aid egg production in laying birds; it is the best chicken feed for laying hens. The standard layer diet is given to laying birds at about twenty-two (22) weeks; one of the mistakes most poultry farmers make is that they give standard layer feed to laying birds at about seventeen (17) weeks when the birds are on their point of lay or probably just started laying.
Standard laying diet should not be fed to birds at point of lay or during their first week of lay. Giving them layer feed at seventeen (17) week would not meet their nutrient requirement at that age thereby reducing their production potential in the long run.
As said earlier, a layer feed is specially formulated for laying birds. It is formulated such that, it aids their production. A layer diet has 17 percent crude protein and high in calcium to aid shell formation. Some farmer feed layers grower feed; well, the hen would truly lay but not to their genetic potential. layer feed is what to feed chickens to lay eggs profitably.
In conclusion, feeding the chickens rightly in terms of given preference to the types of feed fed to them makes poultry business more productive. These feeds are formulated considering several factors such as age, physiological demand, and health.
You may also find these helpful:
- How To Rear Broiler Chickens For 6 Weeks At Low Cost
- Chicken Feeding Guide: For Broilers And Layers
- Causes Of Thin-shelled Or Soft Egg In Layers And How To Control It
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