In South Africa, all chicken feeds are based on Maize and Soya. This is acceptable up to a point, but remember that maize is rich not only in protein but also in sugars and starches. Not all of this is good for your show birds, and when it comes to feeding Brahmas, one of the very large breeds, things take another turn again.
I discovered through my own experiences with Brahma large, that these birds do not feed like other breeds.
Perhaps because they are more closely related to the original jungle fowl, and are wired more like a game bird than a soft feather, which is their category, they eat differently.
A Brahma chick will give you grey hairs. One day it will eat everything in sight including its siblings. The next you are wondering if it has eaten anything at all. Don’t panic, this is normal for a Brahma! Brahmas go through growth spurts. They seesaw much like a growing horse for months before attaining adult status. This means you need to feed according to its needs. Most people feed as per amount of birds in the pen, and when they see that the food is being left, they reduce the amount of feed. BAD IDEA with the Brahmas, because they are probably undergoing one of their low growth points, and when they hit a high growth point, the food will not be available, and the chick will eat its siblings or starve. You will not get full potential from your Brahmas if you do not adhere to this programme:
1. Feed plenty of good feed and feed with a high protein content for the first 18 weeks. Start with only growing mash, and add a container filled with soured milk, maas. This separate from the mash.
2 Week three add whole grain such as wheat. Wheat of good quality has more protein than maize without the starch or sugar. It does not build fat, it builds muscle.
Keep on with the maas.
3 Week 6 you can add greens such as whole maize plants weeds such as blackjacks or plain grass.
Keep with the whole wheat.
4. Once birds are of a certain weight and size to be able to handle whole maize, add that to their feed. You can add sunflower later on if they eat it but watch that wild birds don’t eat it first.
Once these birds are fully vaccinated and on the way to laying you can slowly replace the mash with layer pellets, but these birds still need a lot of protein so do not be in too much of a hurry to switch.
In the case of large cocks, I find a little extra calcium on the food does them good but only in adults.
If you can add a little oil to the feed, cod liver oil once a week or Omega 3 and 6 oil once a week this works well too, especially for the feathers. Deworm regularly to ensure good feather quality.
Feed greens as often as you can: Banana plants are great as the stem is full of minerals, Lucerne, fresh from the garden, any green leafy vegetable except rhubarb which is poison.
Feed plenty of fruit, guavas are ideal as the fruit when it has been stung by fruit flies produces an enzyme called tryptophan. This is what we pay a fortune for in our commercial feeds, and is available free from our humble guava trees.
Feed as much vitamin C as you can, any citrus, pawpaws, bananas,avocados which are full of lycine and vitamin E, as well as lecithin. Mangoes are also good, but stay away from rotten fruit, the guavas being the exception with the fruit flies. Never feed rotten vegetables or fruit as these contain pathogens, ecoli . Never feed cooked meat to the birds, and never feed rotten carcasses which may contain botulism.
If you have a problem with cannibalism, feed fresh liver and blood from the abattoirs…must be fresh. A tablespoon of table salt added to a ten litre font for 3 days also sorts out cannibalism. Basically it is a cause of deficiency in the diet which is easily rectified.
You will find that birds will not eat the peel of the citrus which is full of pectin and poison for them, and they know it too.
if you can, try to grow your own greens, such as wheat, which can be grown in trays and fed with the roots as soon as the plants are about 10cms high. You then get full value of the wheat germ oil which you can see if you squeeze the base of the seed still attached to the little green sprouts.
If you can, grow COMFREY as well, which is a natural source of vitamins, iron, minerals and a natural antibiotic to boot. If the birds are a little under the weather, or some are coughing, often a dose of comfrey sorts it all out without having to resort to chemicals or expensive antibiotics. Some feed additives now are made from oils and derivatives from natural herbs, origanum being one.
If you are very enterprising you can even grow your own meal worms, but you need a lot of meal worms to satisfy few birds!
Meal worms are a wonderful source of protein, fat and lactose. They are clean in that they do not eat rotting food stuffs, only grain, bran or vegetables such as gem squash, carrots, potatoes and cereals. Feeding earth worms is a risk, seeing as they harbour tape worms; meal worms are pure feed value but require a lot of effort to produce, and they must be kept dry at all costs and away from ghekos and other predators.
To provide a constant source of meal worms you will have to have several containers for the beetles, the pupas and the worms as they are growing. They do not grow very fast, and weather will affect the final outcome. In winter the worms will develop more slowly, in summer more quickly. There are several types of meal worms, the giant and the standard being the most popular.
The internet will provide ample information should you be interested in starting your own meal worm farm.