Commercial feeds from a reliable feed store have all the nutrients in the right proportions that the chickens need. A balanced diet is necessary for optimal growth and production. If you use a good diet that meets the dietary needs of your flocks, supplementing with other items with upset the balance of the diet. The ingredients used in different types of feeds are similar, but the proportions vary depending on the particular chickens being fed.
A chicken’s daily consumption of feed depends on the composition of the diet. Chickens typically adjust their feed intake in order to meet their energy requirements. As the energy content of a diet increases, feed intake decreases, and vice versa. Environmental temperatures also play an important role in determining how much feed a flock will consume. During hot weather, feed intake decreases. Feed intake increases during cold weather as chickens consume more to supply the extra energy needed to maintain regulation body temperature.
Chicks require a diet that can provide the nutrients needed for rapid growth and feather development. Chicks are given relatively high levels of energy, protein and the vitamins and minerals for the starter period. Once the chicks are fully feathered their energy requirements are reduced. Feeding management for layer pullets aims to maintain a growth rate that will lead to the pullet reaching sexual maturity at the desired age while avoiding obesity. The stage at which a pullet will start laying eggs is affected by age, body weight and day length. On a percentage basis, layer pullet diets have lower energy and protein levels than chick diets. Different breeders recommend different feeding strategies for their birds, including the number of different diets fed during the pullet growing stage. Many breeders recommend a pre-lay diet that increases some of the nutrient levels, such as calcium, that will be required by the bird when it begins to lay eggs.
Nutrient Levels for Layer Diets
The aim of layer diets is to optimise egg production (in terms of egg numbers, egg size or egg mass), provide the nutrition required to safeguard health and maintain the desired body weight. As with layer pullets, different breeders recommend different feeding strategies for their birds, including the number of different diets fed during the laying stage. Calcium is increased for egg shell formation. Table 3 provides data on typical nutrient levels for layer diets.
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