1. Nutrition – process in which a chicken takes in feed, breaks it down and use it for body development and production.
Poor nutrition causes low egg production and growth rates in chicken.
2. Feeding – act of providing feed or feed materials to chicken so that they can get nutrition.
3. Balanced diet – a mixture of feed ingredients that provide all the required nutrients in the body of a chicken.
Why Feed Chicken:
Feeding is important so as to increase the production of meat and eggs from chicken.
Lack of feed or water will reduce resistance to diseases and parasites, and subsequently reduce the flock productivity and increase flock mortality (deaths).
Key issues on Feeding:
- Adequate feeds
- Means give your chicken enough feed according to its requirement by age. This will promote proper functioning and faster growth.
- High quality feeds
- Means give your chicken well balanced feed to meet its nutrition requirement by age. This will improve their yields.
- Appropriate and inadequate equipment
- Means use the right equipment that will provide enough feeding space for the birds and avoid feed wastage through spillage.
Nutrition Requirement by Age / Type:
Feed Requirement by Age:
|Age of chicks (weeks)||Feeds per bird per day (grams)|
|4-6 (about 1 month old)||35-50|
|7-8 (about 2 months)||55-80|
|16-27 (4 to 6 months)||68-80|
|28+ (7 months and above)||100- 130|
- Each chick will consume 2kg from day 1 to 8weeks.
- Growers from 8weeks to 18 weeks of age will consume about 8kg during this period.
- Feed twice a day for better performance; a major portion in the morning and a smaller one in the evening.
Feeding Space Requirement by Age per Bird:
- Chicks – 4cm space in long feeders and 2cm in round feeders.
- Growers – 8cm in long feeders and 2cm in round feeders.
- Layers (Mature chicken) – 10cm in long feeders and 3cm in round feeders.
- Feeders should be about 14cm deep and should always be filled about half (½) to 2/3 full.
- Allow 3cm drinking space per bird in round drinkers and 10 birds per a drinking nipple.
- Drinkers should be washed daily and filled with fresh water.
Problems related to feeds:
- Fish – fishy taste in meat and eggs.
- Cassava – contains cyanide which is toxic.
- Oil and seed cakes can contain excessive amounts of oil and fibre leading to too much fat in the chicken’s body:
Note: 1. Buyers do not like very fat chicken because they lose a lot of weight to the fat surrounding the intestines.
2. Too much fat in layers may cause fatty liver disease or reduce egg production.
- Beans and peas contain a number of anti-nutritional substances thus should either be avoided or used in very small quantities.
Preventing Feed Wastage:
- Avoid poorly designed feeders,
- Avoid too full feeders;
- fully filled feeders lose 30% of feed
- 2/3 full feeder lose 10% of feed
- ½ full feeder lose 3% of feed
- Keep away rats and wild birds
Types of Feeds and feed sources:
|Energy||Maize, Millet, Sorghum, Wheat, Rice, Cassava etc….||Provide energy for temperature, exercise, scavenging, incubation …|
|Proteins||Fish / Omena / Ochong’a, Sunflower seed cake, Cotton seed cake, Soybean, Insects, Worms etc…||Provide body building blocks – facilitate body development|
|Vitamins||Sunlight, Vegetables, Green grass, Vitamin concentrates (premixes).||Enhance good health – resistance to diseases|
|Minerals||Dicalcium phosphate (DCP), Limestone, Bone meal, Burnt egg shells…||Bone and egg shells development|
|Xanthophyll||Green vegetables and other leaves||Yellow colour in legs and skin of chicken – indicates high quality.|
|Ingredients||Maximum inclusion level (%)|
|Maize -low in lysine and methionine||70|
|Sorghum (white-low tannin)||30|
|Wheat bran – high in fibre||15|
|Wheat pollard – form pasty mass when chewed||20|
|Sunflower seed cake – high in fibre||5|
|Cotton seed cake – high in fibre, gossypol present||5|
|Soybean meal – high in lysine||30|
|Fishmeal – high in lysine||5|
|Dicalcium phosphate (DCP)||1|
|Lime or Calcium grits||9|
- Always seek guidance from a livestock production officer to carefully select the ingredients and blend them to achieve a balanced diet.
How to reduce cost of feeds:
- Feeding is responsible for 80% of operational costs in commercial chicken production. It is therefore important to have in place a proper feeds and feeding strategy prior to bringing in the flock.
- Most micro and small poultry enterprises struggle with low productivity. For instance productivity of Indigenous Chicken (IC) under free range production system is approximately 66 eggs/ hen/ year.
- The low productivity of IC is mainly due to poor nutrition, diseases & parasites and poor management.
- Employ climate Smart Agriculture Technologies that reduce cost of feeds in order to reduce the cost of feeding chicken. Some of the affordable technologies include;
a) Making Home Made rations
Producers are encouraged to grow their own feed sources and carefully blend them to achieve a balanced diet for their chicken.
This helps reduce production costs while maintaining high production.
Also promotes value addition which leads to better profits in cereals and chicken farming.
- When formulating your local ration at home, simply combine;
Energy feeds (75%) + Protein feeds (20%) + Minerals & Vitamins (5%)
- Crush your feed sources in order to improve their digestibility so that chicken get the most nutrition from them.
b) Use alternative food sources
(i) Growing maggots
- Mix poultry waste and water in a large open pot in the ratio of 2:1
- The pot is left open during the day for flies to lay eggs and covered at night
- After 3-5 day the eggs will hatch into maggots and feed on the mixture
- They may be harvested by gently pouring water into the pot.
- The maggots will float ,washed and fed to chicken
(ii) Growing termites
- Fill a short necked pot with poultry waste and straw and sprinkle with a little water
- Set the pot upside down
- After a day the pot will be full of termites that can be offered to the chicken
- Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) – www.kalro.org
- Training Notes by Madam Salome Nyaga – Principle Livestock Production Officer Tharaka Nithi County.
- Feedipedia website – www.feedipedia.org
NB: Please read further to get more understanding about Indigenous Chicken Nutrition.
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