Your own backyard chickens need to eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet so that they will have the best growth, weight gain, egg production and immunity from different poultry diseases.
Before, we had to formulate our own poultry feeds by combining different kinds of grains, like corn and wheat. Today, it’s fortunately a lot easier; most feed stores provide pre-formulated chicken feed rations that offer our backyard birds the precise balance of nutrients they need.
We should learn on the specific nutritional requirements of our chickens so that we will be able to discover the most effective feed rations in buying the ingredients of our chicken feed. This article, will guide you precisely on what your hungry chickens are craving!
Feeding Schedules and Types of Feed
Just like humans, chickens have completely different needs at various stages of its life. Different kinds of chickens has their own unique feeding needs. For instance, layers nutritional requirements are quite different than those of the broilers.
For Layers, from 0-6 weeks a starter feed should be given to the chicks with 20-22 percent protein level. At 6 weeks start feeding them pullet grower which has 14-16% protein until they reach 20 weeks. Afterwards, provide them a layer feed with a protein content of 15-18%. Since layer feed is usually more expensive, the poultry experts advice to substitute 1/2 pound of grain such as barley or corn for 1/2 pound of poultry ration every day. On this way, you can save more money but still giving the best nutrients for the layers.
For Broilers, from 0-6 weeks the protein content should be 20-24%. Then, give them broiler finisher with a protein level of 16-20% until they are sent to be slaughtered.
Expert Advice on the Proper Feeding Amounts
As the poultry saying goes, “fat hens are not happy hens”. We should not feed our chickens too much as it can be very expensive that would hurt our budget and the chicken’s health as well. According to the University of California-Davis, the recommended feeding for layer hens should be-
- Chick starter: 2 to 2.9 lbs. per chick for the first six weeks
- Pullet grower: 12 to 13 lbs. per pullet for approximately 14 weeks
- Layer feed: 1.8 to 2.4 lbs. per week per layer hen
For broiler chickens,
- Broiler starter: 3 to 5 lbs. per chick 0-6 weeks old
- Broiler Finisher: 1.6 to 2 lbs. each chicken until slaughter
Why Chickens Need Fresh Water
Water is one of the most important things to consider when feeding our backyard chickens. Just like we humans, the body of our chickens consist mostly of water. As poultry farmers, we should ensure that our flock have easy access to fresh, clean and potable water all throughout the day. It is also necessary to clean the waterers everyday to avoid diseases caused by dirty water.
It is the responsibility of a farmer to supply adequate, clean, and pathogen-free water to his or her animals. One importance of water to livestock is that it determines the performance of animals. For instance, a laying hen that hasn’t taken enough water will have no good and impressive laying performance. This is because water is highly essential in egg formation.
Some other importance of water to chickens are as follows;
Water is important in the digestion of food and feeds.
It is used in homeostasis in chicken’s body.
- It is required for cooling down the body temperature.
- It is vital for faecal excretion.
- It is required for metabolic reactions in an animal’s body.
So as feed, nutrition, and the health of poultry are being taken seriously, water intake should be taken important. When planning to establish a farm, the source of clean water to serve animals on the farm should be highly considered.
In summary, chickens needed to be served sufficient and cool water, and it must be free from any forms of contamination. The water must be from a clean and healthy source and must be served with clean water troughs. If chickens are starved of water for a very long time, they die and that will be a loss to the farmer. Water must be available for chicken at all times, except in situations where there is need to withdraw water from them. Birds such as broilers and layers are very sensitive to water and it is a factor that determines their production and performance.
What is Brooding in Poultry Production?
Brooding is defined as the management of chicks from one day old to about 8 weeks of age, and it involves the provision of heat and other necessary care during chicks’ early growing period. Brooding units are designed to house chicks from one day old until they no longer need supplementary heat (0-8 weeks). Growing pens are used from the end of the brooding period until the broilers are sold or the pullets moved into permanent laying houses (up to 20 weeks). Laying pens or cages are used for pullets and hens from the time they start laying until they are culled and sold at the end of the laying period (up to 78 weeks).
The natural method of brooding is used on farms where only a few chickens are raised each year. Depending on her size, a hen will brood 15-20 chickens. The broody hen will provide all the warmth required by the chicks. Before placing the chicks with the hen she would be examined for her good health and free from lice, tick and other ectoparasites.
Artificial brooding can be defined as the handling of newly born chicks without the aid of hens. It is accomplished by means of a temperature-controlled brooder (foster mother). Artificial brooding has several advantages over the natural method, which are:
- Chicks may be reared at any time of the seasons.
- Thousands of chicks may be brooded by a single person.
- Sanitary condition may be controlled.
- The temperature may be regulated.
- Feeding may be undertaken according to plan.
Brooding temperature is the temperature inside the poultry where the chicks are roaming. It is a very important variable that every poultry farmer should look closer as it could affect the growth and health of the chicks. To reduce stress and mortality, the brooding temperature should be checked always so that we will know if the temperature is just enough for the chicks. This article will guide you to have a good understanding whether you have provided the optimal environmental temperature for your chicks.
The essentials of a good brooder are:
A dependable mechanism for controlling temperature and regular supply of fresh air, dryness, adequate light, space, easy disinfection, protection against chick enemies, safety from fire, and economic in construction.
Management of Chicks in the Brooder
- Adjust the temperature as per requirement of the chicks. In case of oil heating, see that there is no defect in the stove or lamp. Chicks should not have access to the heated parts of the lamp at any cost.
- Avoid a damp poultry house. You can use a deep litter system.
- Discourage litter eating by the chicks, scatter mash over egg case flats when the chicks are first taken out of their boxes.
- Provide balanced standard mash.
- Keep provision for the entrance of fresh air.
- Provide clean, fresh water in front of the birds at least twice daily.
- Chicks, after 3 weeks old may be provided chopped green grasses (to increase Vitamin A intake)
- Clean the brooders including feed hoppers daily.
- Follow a regular vaccination program.
- Avoid overcrowding as this will lead to slow growth and mortality.
- Keep the brooder in such a place that cold wind and rain does not get in.
- Daily inspect the condition of birds and their faces for any sort of abnormality.
- Keep in touch with any veterinarian for the help at the time of need.
- It is always advisable to check the fittings, temperature control, feed and water trough arrangement before shifting the chicks in the brooder.
How To Know If Your Brooding Temperature is Optimal
The best indicator how to monitor the perfect temperature inside the brooding area is easily known by the behavior and movements of the chicks with regards to heat. A general indication that the conditions in the brooding area is optimal is when you see that the chicks are scattered evenly and comfortable. Thus, you will not need to alter the temperature and humidity.
Below are illustrations on the chick behavior according to the brooding temperature conditions:
Have you ever wondered why almost all restaurants in the world offer poultry or chicken meat? From the most famous fast-food chains like McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) to 7 Star Hotels like the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab in Dubai. All of them offer a common product bestseller – “foods derived from chicken meat”.
This however implies that broiler poultry farming business, ‘if done right’ would be an all-time very profitable business in the world. Thousands of success stories have evolved on this business criteria with the owners having sufficient wisdom of how to efficiently raise poultry, best management skills and a better poultry farming business plan. This article will outline how to start the business, and the broiler poultry farming business plan.
Bill Gates, the richest man in the world wrote an article on his personal blog, “Why I Would Raise Chickens” saying that poultry farming is a viable investment which can give income for the common people. He regards poultry farming business as an excellent and profitable business. Thousands of chickens are being donated to charity by the Bill Gates Foundation as a means of helping the poor community to earn money by starting poultry farming business.
Broiler chicken farming is a lucrative business, providing income for millions of people, but there are some essential things you need to do before you venture into the business. You have to decide on the size of your poultry farming business project i.e. the number of broiler chickens you want to keep per cycle; location of the poultry farming business e.g. a chicken farm , and your target market. These choices will be affected by the amount of capital you have, and the size of your target market. If you do not have a lot of capital, you can always start small and grow your broiler farming business overtime, remember, Rome was not built in a day. You also need to carry out market research (Who are you going to sell the broiler chickens to? At what price?) and write a broiler poultry farming business plan before you venture into the broiler production business.
What you need
LAND, HOUSING AND EQUIPMENT
The kind of housing you need and the size of the land will depend on the size of your poultry farming business project. When choosing the location for your poultry farming business, you have to balance the need for proximity to the market, with the cost of land, labor costs, security, and a good water supply. Your broiler poultry farming business plan should take into account all the costs of running the business.
When you are planning to construct a broiler chicken house, you have to select a site which is well-drained with plenty of natural air movement. Broiler Chickens cannot adjust well to temperature extremes, so it is very essential that the hens be housed, cared and provided with an environment that will enable them to maintain their thermal balance. You need to reduce temperature fluctuations, and this can be achieved by having the broiler chicken house oriented on an east-west axis to reduce the effect of direct sunlight on the sidewalls during the hottest part of the day. Good temperature control will enhance feed conversion and growth rate, making your poultry farming business more profitable.
Broilers chickens need sufficient space for them to grow well, they should not be crowded, otherwise they may suffocate to death and that will lead to a loss in your poultry farming business. Each broiler chicken requires about 0.1 square meters of floor space. which translates to 10 hens per square meter. So the size of the poultry house will depend on the number of birds to be reared. Your housing can be barns, chicken runs or hutches, and the cost of construction will depend on the materials used, and the size of the broiler poultry house. You also need poultry farming equipment which includes feeders, drinkers, lighting system and waste disposal system. The cost of equipment should also be take into account in your broiler poultry business plan.
DAY OLD CHICKS
You should purchase your day old chicks from a reliable accredited hatchery or company where the parent stocks are well managed. The success of your broiler poultry farming business will partly depend on the type of day old chicks which you buy. Broiler chicks from different hatcheries vary greatly in terms of quality, and thus will be a determining factor in the success of your poultry farming business venture. You should assess the quality of the chicks by checking whether they are clean, dry, have bright eyes, are active and alert, and should not have any deformity on the body.
Buy your stock from accredited hatcheries which have a comprehensive history of vaccination and health management programme for the breeding flock. If you are new to the poultry farming business, you should enquire from other farmers to hear where they buy their chicks from, as they will usually have experience with various hatcheries. When you have purchased the day old chicks, you need transport them carefully to avoid mortality, as the day old chicks are tender and must be handled with care. The costs of the chicks should be properly accounted for in your broiler chicken business plan.
FEED AND NUTRITION
To be profitable in the poultry farming business, you have to minimize the costs and the mortality rate, as well as optimize the target weight of the broiler chickens. Broiler chicken stock feeds are formulated to provide the protein, energy, vitamins and other nutrients essential for health and efficient growth of the birds. Just like with day old chicks, the type of broiler poultry feeds you choose will have a great impact on the profitability of your poultry farming business.
Most broiler chickens are sold to the market when they are six weeks old. Each bird will consume about 4 Kg of feed from 0 to 6 weeks. At this age, they will have an average of 2.2 KG to 2.5 KG. The broiler chickens are given a specific type of feed depending on the stage of production. There are 3 types of broiler poultry feeds, which are Starter feeds, Grower feeds, and Finisher feeds. The chickens also require enough water for efficient growth. You will also need a broiler stress pack/vitamin supplements which can be used to promote growth of commercial broilers and chicks, and also to combat stress during periods of high temperature, after vaccination and as an aid in recovery from disease to boost performance of the stock. All the feed costs should be included in your poultry farming business plan.
MANAGEMENT AND LABOUR FOR BROILER POULTRY BUSINESS
The number of farm workers you need will depend on the size of your poultry farming business project. If you are running a small poultry farm business e.g. 100 birds/cycle, you and your family may be enough to take care of the birds, but if you are rearing 2000 birds per cycle, you will need full time employees to manage the poultry farm. There is need for good technical knowledge of broiler poultry farming rearing techniques for success in the business, and good management skills.
CAPITAL FOR BROILER POULTRY FARMING BUSINESS
The amount of capital required for the broiler poultry business depends on the scale of the project. You can get a loan from the bank, or funding from investors, to use as capital to start your poultry farming business. If you plan to raise capital from investors and a loan from the bank, you need a good poultry farming business plan. If you don’t have access to investors and bank loan, you can use your personal savings and start small, and grow your business overtime. Broiler chickens are very profitable, so if you reinvest the profits you get, you can quickly grow. Even if you are not planning to get a loan, you should still get a broiler poultry farming business plan to guide you in starting and operating the business.
MARKET FOR BROILER CHICKENS
The market for broiler chickens is very huge and is ever increasing. The annual global demand of broiler chickens is 90 million tonnes. That’s a lot! You can supply your broiler chickens to individual households, butchers, schools, restaurants, companies, supermarkets, organizations, events, abattoirs etc. You can sell your broilers as live birds or you can slaughter and freeze them and sell them as dressed chicken. The broiler poultry farming business plan ought to include a proper marketing plan to use in your poultry farming business.
The export market is also very huge! As you grow your broiler production business you will be able to export the meat to other countries. The largest importer of broiler chickens is the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is a political and economic alliance by six Middle Eastern countries which are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Currently, the top producers of broiler chickens are United States of America, Brazil, China, European Union, India, Russia, Mexico, Argentina, Turkey, Thailand and Indonesia. The largest importers of the meat include the previously mentioned Gulf Cooperation Council, Japan, Mexico, European Union, Iraq, South Africa, China, Hong Kong and Philippines.