Choosing the appropriate chicken feed for your poultry is crucial as it paves the way for the growth of healthy chickens. Chickens rely on feed for a significant portion of their diet and the type of feed chosen has an effect on their health and productivity, cost of rearing and the presence of pests that feed on the leftovers.
The main ingredients used are cereal grains like wheat, corn, barley, sorghum, rye, protein meal such as vegetable protein like canola meal, sunflower meal, soybean, animal protein like meat, bone or fish, fats and oils, vitamins, minerals and supplements which are combined to make a feed that meets the nutritional requirements of chickens based on the age and stage of the chicken such as chick starter, pullet grower and laying hen.
Three key poultry feed
Mash is made from crushed grain which is mixed with protein meal and supplements to get a fine, almost powdery mix. It is a complete feed with the right levels of proteins, vitamins and minerals and is often used for young chickens up to eight weeks old as it’s smaller and easier to eat and digest.
Mash is the cheapest feed, requires minimum processing. The only drawback is the mess made by young chicks as they feed only on the big pieces of grain. The leftovers are tough to clean up and attract pests like rats. Mash which is moist sticks to the feeders and reduces the flow. Chickens also do not get a balanced diet as they leave out the finer grains while feeding making them deficient in vitamins and minerals.
Pellets are made from mash feed, which is then heated and compressed into tough hard pellets. They are a complete feed, with the right levels of proteins, vitamins and minerals though they are costlier due to extra processing. As they are larger and more difficult to digest, they are generally used for adult hens more than 20 weeks old who can eat them more quickly and leave hardly any mess or waste. The hens also get a balanced and more nutritious diet as they have to eat all the ingredients in the pellet having no choice to scratch through the feed as they do for mash. They are also less likely to clog up the feeder bins.
Crumbles are made from whole pellets, which are again broken into smaller sizes. They are a complete feed, with balanced levels of proteins, vitamins and minerals, and are usually fed to pullets (teenage chickens) from 8 to 18 weeks as a transition food while they are growing. It is a semi-loose variety of chicken feed that has a rough texture like oatmeal in between powdery mash and solid pellets. Smaller breeds and pullets (teenage chickens) choose to eat smaller crumbles than larger pellets. The drawbacks are that they cost more than mash and pellets due to extra costs for converting mash to pellets and breaking them down into crumbles. While crumbling the pellets dust is created which is wasted and makes a mess as it is left by the chickens while eating and also attracts pests like rats and mice.
Providing the right nutritious food is very important for poultry growth, production and health. The energy requirements vary, based on many factors, including bird age and production status. Providing adequate nutrition is important for the bird to achieve its productive potential and for it to sustain health. In the case of poor quality poultry feed, improper nutrients or not containing the right energy level can cause nutritional stress and lead to other health concerns.
(Views expressed in the article are author’s own.)