If you have decided to become a poultry farmer, you will have to buy a lot of things to keep the farm going. When writing the shopping list, keep in mind that you will need a feeder, a water pot, a heater, a heat lamp for chicks, and appropriate food for the animals. Poultry food is used to feed chickens, geese, turkeys, and other common birds raised by farmers. It should contain all the necessary nutrients and minerals to ensure a healthy life.
How poultry farming used to be done
A couple of centuries ago, there wasn’t much attention paid to poultry food. Domestic birds were kept on regular farms and their diet consisted of insects, grass, some grain spilled by horses around the farm, and household scraps. Calcium supplements and garden waste were added to the diet to increase the number of nutrients needed.
Getting the right food
A farmer has to consider a lot of things when deciding on the right poultry food, such as the rate of egg production, how fast the domestic birds grow, their current and desired weight, how much energy the birds consume to eat, etc. All these criteria influence the quantity of the poultry feed that is required as well as the nutrients it needs to contain.
If you are raising poultry for own consumption, you can get poultry food delivered in jars or directly in tube feeders. Things are different for poultry farms, as the feeding process is done by machinery. This way the cost is reduced and the maximum capacity of the farm is increased. For poultry farms, the process of providing appropriate food for the birds is the most expensive part of the business.
Keeping the food clean
It doesn’t matter if you own a poultry farm or you are raising birds at a smaller scale – the food should always be kept dry and clean. There are higher chances of fungal growth if the food gets wet.
Damp food might lead to mycotoxin poisoning which is one of the most common causes of toxicoses in this business. Make sure the domestic bird food is properly deposited and the feeders are cleaned on a regular basis. By doing this, the risk of your animals getting sick will be diminished.
Make sure your birds get enough vitamins, minerals, and nutrients through their diet. A source of clean water is also important if you want to optimize the poultry farming process. For example, a hen that lays eggs needs 4 grams of calcium per day. Half of this quantity will be used in the egg. If you want to increase the quantity of calcium, oyster shells are a great choice.
Adding shell grit to the poultry’s diet
The most common form of grit is made of granite. The grit helps to digest the food as it goes through the gizzard so mature chickens should be served grit shells in a separate recipient. Buying grid is not required if you are using commercial poultry food since the diet is low in fiber. Birds living outdoors usually pick up very small stones to help them grind the food.
Furthermore, shell grit is a great source of calcium. This way, you will have delicious eggs with strong shells. Without enough calcium, eggs might have an unnatural shape and fragility.
Poultry feed comes in different forms
There are 3 main categories of poultry feed: mash, crumbles, and pellets. Each of these categories has its own particular benefits. You should know how to use all three categories correctly in order to have healthy birds and a fast growing process.
Mash is the best choice for young birds since it isn’t processed and is way easier to consume than crumbles and pellets. You can also use it to feed mature chickens. The right method of preparing mash is to mix it with water.
Some farmers use hot water during winter. Add water until the mix consistency is similar to porridge. Make sure that the food recipient can’t be tilted over so the food doesn’t get wasted. Mash should be served and consumed as fast as possible so it doesn’t get moldy.
Using crumbles is right in the middle between mash and pellets. Crumbles are made from pellets, which are broken into smaller parts. It looks like oatmeal, which makes it easier to eat and collect. It is more facile to use crumbles than to use mash, due to its semi-process feature. Despite being harder to find, it is easier to deposit and serve to your poultry.
Pellets have a higher availability than mash and crumbles. They are usually made of regular mash compressed into cylindrical shapes that are easily consumed and digested. Unlike mash, they have the advantage that the ingredients don’t separate during transport so the poultry consumes the entire pellets.
Using pellets is a good way to reduce waste. However, keep in mind that pellets are too big for young poultry to consume.
Other types of chicken feed available
This feed looks like grains of dirt or sand and it has the highest percentage of protein. As the name says it, farmers use it for newly hatched chickens to accelerate the growing process and to keep them healthy. Chick starter comes as crumbles in order to be easier for the chick to eat it. Use this type of feed for 12 to 16 weeks at the beginning of the poultry’s life.
The grower feed type usually replaces the chick starter and it is fed until the chicken lays its first egg. It has a smaller amount of protein than the chick starter but it is enough to support a healthy growth. It comes as pellets or crumbles. If you want to reduce waste, you should choose pellets. Also, wastage can be reduced by mixing crumbles with water.
This type of feed has a very high percentage of protein – way more than needed for a chicken to have a normal growth. The only purpose of the broiler feed diet is to get an incredibly fast growth. It is used by commercial farmers so they produce and deliver as fast as possible to the slaughterhouse. You might want to choose broiler feed if you are raising meat birds.
Their rapid growth requires a higher level of protein intake. The growing process varies according to breed, genetics, and general health. For a chicken fed with natural food, it might take almost 6 months to fully grow. If a chicken’s diet is based on broiler feed, it will reach maturity in 2 months.
The layer feed is given to chickens (or ducks, or geese) when they begin to lay eggs. It has a larger amount on calcium than regular feed to support the body and the egg’s necessities. Birds not laying eggs should not be given this type of feed. A high volume of calcium in their diets will affect their liver and kidneys.
Game bird feed
Game bird feed represents the middle choice between regular feed and broiler feed. It is more expensive than the regular one and it has less protein than the broiler feed. People use this feed for show chickens. It causes their feathers to look better and they gain a bit of weight.
Using cracked corn to feed your animals is the cheapest solution. Despite having a high level of fats, a diet based on cracked corn is not enough. It doesn’t prove enough protein and nutrients for a healthy growth. Some people use it as a treat or during the winter when a higher level of fats is required.
Fermented feed is obtained by mixing any type of poultry feed with hot water. After obtaining the right texture, place the feed into a container or an airtight plastic barrel. Place the barrel in a warm room or let it sit directly in the sun. The heat will activate the fermentation process, affecting the chemical content of the feed. Also, it adds useful bacteria to the flock’s diet.
In general, chicken scratch is more like a treat than a proper feed. Most chicken scratch is made of cracked corn, wheat, sunflower seeds, and other grains that birds love to consume. It is a good source of energy for the flock, but it doesn’t provide enough protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Medicated vs unmedicated feed
First of all, don’t use medicated feed if you had your flock vaccinated. Medicated food has a chemical named amprolium that protects the birds against dangerous or even deadly diseases.