Production of poultry has been on the rise over the years, with more farmers seeking a market share in this lucrative venture. This trend is expected to continue over the next decades. The increase of poultry farming has placed pressure on the demand for feed as well as raw materials. In fact, feed costs currently account for approximately 60% of the overall poultry farming costs, hence the need for efficient management of feed rations. Commercially produced pellets which are often preferred are characterised by exorbitant prices that are beyond the financial capacity of most farmers. There are also home-made types of poultry feeds that are affordable, however usually lack sufficient nutrients hence the need for supplementary feeds. This clearly indicates the need for broiler farmers to be aware of required feed rations for broiler chickens at various maturity levels.
Starter Feeds for 1 To 21 Days Old Broiler Chicks
The purpose of a starter feed is to develop appetite and allow for maximum early growth in young chicks. Ideally, chicks should consume well balanced feeds with commercially produced pellets being the most preferred. This is because they contain all the essential nutrients and are easy to manage as rations are often outlined on the packaging. Broiler starter feed generally represents a small portion of the total feed costs. The amount of feed per broiler chicken should allow for a targeted weekly gain of approximately 170g. As such, broiler starter should be provided for 10 days with rations per chick ranging between 1 to 1.5kg in 3 weeks. Adjustments can be made accordingly. It has been reported that the skip a day feeding scheme during the starter period leads to improved carcass quality and reduces sudden death syndrome. This is often associated with birds that are on ad libitum feed intake. Note that feed rations differ according to the type of starter feed used. Home-made rations such as wheat, oats and barley should be limited to 25% of the starter diet. When using commercially produced broiler feeds, it is advisable to strictly adhere to the outlined feed recommendations.
The amount of starter feed per broiler chicken should also take into account the nutritional value of feed. As previously stated, broilers have different feed requirements in terms of energy, proteins and minerals during different stages of growth. It is therefore important for farmers to adapt the amount of feed per broiler chick according to nutritional requirements for maximum growth. Broiler chicks have a high protein requirement therefore feed rations should constitute about 20 to 24% protein. Once reaching the age of 6 weeks, protein requirements slightly fall to approximately 16%. The high protein requirement at this stage allows for the targeted growth rate for broiler chickens. Take care that fresh water is availed at all times and supplementary feed provided according to the nutritional value of the feed type.
Grower Feed for 21 To 35 Days Old Broiler Chicken
Grower feeds are meant to achieve consistent growth until birds reach maturity level whereby they can transition to finisher diets. As such, broiler chickens at this stage require continuous feeding so as to reach the targeted weight. The amount of feed per broiler chick at this stage is about 142g per day amounting to approximately 2kg of feed over a 14 day period. In simpler terms, the total amount of feed per broiler chicken should be about 2kg in 2 weeks. It is advisable to introduce chickens slowly to grower feeds. The recommended rations are 70% starter mash and 75% grower mash on day 21 and increase day 22 rations using a 50:50 ratio. Day 23 rotations should comprise of 25% starter and 75% grower mash. Chickens are able to efficiently digest grower mash by day 24. This is done to prevent sudden changes in the dietary plan that can compromise the health of birds.
The nutritional value of broiler feeds is also essential in this phase. In fact, there is no point in providing adequate foods rations without proper nutrition as this compromises the health of poultry leading to low productivity. Birds within this age group require a consistent supply of about 14 to 16% protein in dietary feed per broiler chicken. Energy is also an essential nutrient required by growing broilers. As such, to is recommended to mix broiler feed with an energy rich supplement like maize at a ratio of 2:3 respectively. When using grower mash, these rations must be altered accordingly as broiler chickens demand higher food rations for mash in comparison to pellets. An important point to note is that feed rations also depend on the variety of broiler chickens. This is because various birds grow at different rates and do not weigh the same even at maturity. Larger broiler chickens like Jersey Giants generally require more feed compared to other birds such as their miniature versions. Another point to note is that this also applies to commercially manufactured feeds. Take care not to provide excess energy (carbohydrate) rations as they are known to reduce the uptake of essential nutrients.
Finisher Feeds for 35 To 42 Days Old Broiler Chicken
Broiler finisher feed is often provided until the point of slaughter. Depending on the breed variety, farmers can alter rations of feed per broiler chicken to suit the dietary needs of birds. Fast growing chickens often start on grower and finisher feeds quite early. The main purpose of providing finisher feeds is to ensure higher growth rate, improved feed utilization rate and health maintenance of birds. In order to achieve this, the amount of feed per broiler chicken should be 142g per day over a 7 day timeframe. According to various agricultural research as well as commercial feed producers, broiler chickens should have 1 kg feed consumption a week before slaughter which is usually around 6 weeks.
As previously mentioned, another essential factor to consider is the nutritional value of feed. Commercially produced feeds usually have sufficient nutritional value. However, it is important to check prior to purchase. Farmers who make use of home-made feeds often experience challenges in weighing out feed rations. None the less, they should seek to reach about 14 to 16% protein value in feed to maintain growth. It is advisable to mix commercial feeds with energy rich grains at a ratio of 1:2 respectively. Caution should be taken not provide excess grain feed as it can potentially harm broilers leading to low productivity. An important point to remember when providing feed rations is that they need altering according to the type of broilers kept. Also, some varieties are more aggressive than others and can consume larger quantities and particles leaving inferior quality feed to other birds. For this reason, it is essential to provide sufficient amounts of good quality, uniform sized poultry feeds.