Feeding broilers that are going to live basically for 12 weeks and feeding a champion show bird that you expect to breed and to show, these are two separate issues and should not be confused.
If you are breeding for the show , feeding your birds should begin at birth. Separate the likely champions from your show pens as soon as you can see potential. Keep these in separate pens, so as to avoid fighting or pecking. Keep a close eye on these and make sure you deworm regularly (see section on parasites in this site).
The following are guide lines only:
FROM DAY ONE:
Make sure you count one feeder to about 20 baby chicks, one feeder to 10 adult birds.
Also ensure you have good quality clean water to drink for the birds as filthy drinkers lead to diseases.
Feed a good quality compound feed such as MEADOW FEEDS PULLETT GROWER mash. Do not feed starter crumbles or broiler starter as this is for BROILERS only and the application is different.
In a plate or dish separate to the mash you can place some maas, and get your youngsters used to eating this as it is great food for gut health, feather growth, and general good condition. Maas contains lactose, fructose, vitamin C, calcium, fats and protein.
Vitamin C is your friend. Learn to find foods with this vitamin in it as it helps:
- To grow good healthy joints and soft tissue like muscle.
- To ward off diseases.
- To relieve heat stress and other stress factors. When a bird is stressed it pants, and vitamins and minerals are depleted in the body with the panting. To renew the minerals you can add a teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda to the drinking water. To renew the vitamins, give them fruit or veg with vitamin C.
- See section on feeding vitamin C to poultry.
At three weeks you can add whole wheat grain to the feed, a cup full to each feeder. The wheat has a higher content of protein that maize and will add to the general good gut health of your chicks. Don’t be tempted to feed broken wheat, it must be whole as the kernel inside is what contains all the goodness. Once the seed is fractured, the protective membrane of that seed is gone and it becomes a target for fungus and pathogens. The germ inside dies and you have no food value at all.
Keep up the maas every day if you can, or soured milk you are throwing out or yoghurt.
At this age you can start giving them greens to scratch in, such as lettuce, weeds like black jacks, chickweed, vegetable peels but these must be fresh. Do not give them rhubarb greens as this is poison.
At six weeks they should be old enough and have all their vaccines, ( see section on vaccinations)
Now they should be able to go outside to scratch and run around in the sun. Again protect them from hawks and predators.
By six weeks if these are large breeds, they should be able to handle whole maize, which you can add to your basic feed. Even a bantam can handle whole maize as an adult, and my silkies do well on this too.Feeding whole maize is a good idea, feeding maize crush is a waste of money, as again, the germ inside the seed has died, the seed is vulnerable to fungus and pathogens, and you are not getting feed value. A simple test is to see what droppings you get in your adult birds if you feed crush: Most of the maize is untouched in the faeces, none has been absorbed by the gut. If you feed whole maize there is never any deposit of maize in the faeces.
The same can be said of other whole grains such as barley and wheat. Wheat in rations is a real boon, as it increases egg production. Whole grain is also very good for the gizzard as it expands the gizzard of the birds and allows more nutrition to be absorbed. Birds with large gizzards are always healthier and larger.
Deworm regularly starting at three months. (See the section on parasites)
This regimen should be sufficient until the birds reach eighteen weeks. At this stage, you may see them wasting the feed as they scratch most of it out of their feeders. This is an indication they need something more.
Time to add LAYER PELLETTS, ( Meadow Feeds Late Lay Pelletts) to your mash. Start with a cup, and slowly add more each week, adding less and less mash as you go, until you have replaced the mash completely. If you see there are some birds still very keen only on the mash, leave one small feeder in the pen with mash. They will soon tell you when they have had enough mash. Once you feed pellets your feed will last longer as the pellets are more substantial and they may eat a lot less.
Continue with whole maize and wheat, barley , or even whole oats if you have it. Whole seed will also help to slow down the digestive process so that the bird benefits more from the feed. Pelletised feeds also slow the digestive process down which is why it is better to feed pellets than mash. However, the pelletising process is known to totally destroy fats, vitamins and a lot of minerals. This is why you need to supplement with whole seed, oil bearing seeds like sunflower and wheat, and lactose in maas.
Stay away from sorghum. Sorghum as I have said elsewhere on this site is full of tannins such as are found in tobacco. The birds ingest these tannins and they become a blocker to any absorption of protein or any nutrition in fact that the bird may also ingest. In other words your feed will appear in the faeces, and the bird will not benefit from whatever feed you are using. You may see weight loss, totally unexplained and the birds will not thrive. They will not die from eating sorghum but the good feed you are buying is ending up on your floor. So what is the point?
If you are raising layers or show poultry stay away from broiler feeds. These contain growth hormones, and sometimes medications like Amprolium, which are not going to produce a healthy show bird or layer. Amprolium is added to prevent coccidiosis, but its side effects are so much worse than the coccidiosis itself. Amprolium builds up in the system and the next time you have a sick bird that needs an antibiotic, that antibiotic will not work because the bird has built up all sorts of immunity through the amprolium. ( See section on coccidiosis). Remember that you are not breeding a bird for the table, you are breeding a breeder.
Amprolium is poison for ducks.
Remember that feeding substances that are easy for a bird to absorb in the short journey through the gut is the whole point of the exercise. This is why feeding certain types of oil help to slow down the digestive process and the bird then has more of a chance to benefit from whatever he is eating. Just by the way, it has been proven that a high fat content in the diet, of a kind easily absorbed by the birds, helps to keep at bay infections such as MG.
If you like you can look on it as you standing by a fast moving conveyer belt. You have 6 hours on that conveyer belt in which to grab whatever nutrients are presented. If you move too slowly, you miss out. That is what the poultry keeper is dealing with every day!
You can feed sunflower, but be sure the wild birds are not eating all your sunflower. They bring disease, and parasites as they feed on your expensive food.
Make sure at this stage that the birds have sufficient food to last the day. Monitor how much they eat, refill only when empty. The general idea is to check at night before they roost. See if there is a lot of food left or a little. There should be a little left, to last them to the next feed time, and early morning. If your feeders are absolutely dry, you need to feed more. If they are still full at night, you need to feed less. This is a better system than measuring cupfuls of feed, as the birds themselves will tell you what and when they need it. Do not be tempted to restrict the birds in any way because you read it in a book that fat birds don’t give you eggs. This is the biggest con job on the planet, as fat birds are usually those given the WRONG kind of feed and not too much feed.
A fat bird is one that is incapable of digesting the food it is given, and so it is your responsibility as poultry owner to give it the right kind of food. Poultry gut health is complicated, because from start to finish in a bird the food takes about 6 hours if not less. That means you have about half that time in the gut of the bird to give it something it can:
b) break down into components it can use for energy and feed conversion to eggs and growth.
If you give a bird for example, oil as an additive in the feed, make sure it is a type of oil the bird can digest and break down QUICKLY, otherwise it goes to fat. Cod liver oil is such an oil, wheatgerm oil, sunflower oil also are good. Do not give them chip fryer oil which has carbonated and is likely to be poisonous too! No, popcorn is NOT good for your birds!
Restricting birds, especially breeds like BRAHMAS (see feeding Brahmas), is counter productive as you will probably be restricting feed intake at a critical growth period in the bird’s life and in so doing you will be throwing away a potential champion.
At this stage you can add fruit to their diet, guavas, bananas, banana plants, paw paws, mangoes, avocados all are good.
The extra fresh source of vitamins will add lustre to your show birds.
Breeding birds need cod liver oil.
Add a half cup to some whole grain and feed once a week, especially the males.
Scraps from the table…
Easy enough to feed your birds with scraps from the table but please make sure these are worth it! Don’t give them yesterday’s cold fish and chips, or oily carbonated foods scraped from the frying pan. Any fresh vegetable scraps are allowed, outside leaves of lettuce, cabbage spinach, beetroot, cauliflower or broccoli are great. Carrot peels are also good. Stay away from foods that have gone off, especially meat which may give them botulism. Don’t feed smelly or rotten veggies, potato peels or slimy greens. Don’t feed them processed meats like polony or smelly ham you no longer want.
The natural way…..
I have always tried to feed my show birds as closely as possible to the natural way they would feed in the wild.
In the wild birds are forced to eat whatever is available on the jungle floor. This is a restricted diet for sure, but the larger seeds, whole seeds, whole grains, whole insects, fibrous greens and roots they eat all serve to increase the size of the gizzard, and allow more nutrition to reach the system of the bird. it helps break down food into energy much faster than our processed feeds do.
it also converts feed into eggs and energy much faster.
if you were to cut open a wild jungle fowl you may see very large gizzards, for this purpose.
All domestic poultry originated from what is called the jungle fowl. These were wild birds found in the jungles of India, Sumatra, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, among others. They are still found there today, and many a tourist has been startled when taking a quiet safari through national parks in India to hear a stentorian cockle doodle doo!
That would be a jungle cock.
They live on the jungle floor. They eat whatever they find on the jungle floor:
Insects, caterpillars, worms, centipedes, ants, larvae etc. All these are packed with protein, fats, lactose, fructose, minerals and vitamins. The same found in soured milk and maas.
Roots, seeds, green grasses, dead leaves, old insect casings, nuts and berries. These are packed with Chlorophyll, iron and vitamins, moisture. The same is found in greens at home. The berries have plenty of vitamin C, so important to the birds. Please note they eat whole grain!
Jungle birds eat a lot of fruit and berries. They also consume large amounts of root vegetables, which form a natural dewormer. They scratch among the leaves on the jungle floor and dust bathe in the lime soil and dead leaves under the trees, and this rids them of parasites. They also eat foods with a high moisture content, and therefore do not need as much water to drink. This is helpful because excess water drinking in hot weather can lead to ascites, or water under the skin, or gut problems like diarrhea.
Having said this, make sure you have access to CLEAN drinking water at all times.
So, to mimic as close as possible what the birds would find in the jungle is common sense. Since implementing this plan, I have seen a marked difference in the condition of my domestic birds. Instead of keeping them inside, I let them run under trees and make sure there are plenty of fruit trees in their pens. They scratch under these trees all day. I give them plenty of greens, fruit, maas, whole grain, and some compound poultry feed. As I believe them to be jungle birds, I keep them under trees. It is not enough to let them have a green field in which to run, although obviously this is better than confinement to a cage. If you can, let them run among fruit trees, scratch in leaf litter under trees, and eat whatever insects and vegetable matter they find there.
Red Jungle Fowl (Wikipedia).
Courtesy of WIKEPEDIA. These are Sri Lankan jungle fowls. Male on the left, female on the right. There are several different types and colours still in the wild today: The Red Jungle Fowl being the most common, but there is also the Green Jungle Fowl, and the Grey Jungle Fowl.
All our common breeds today are descendants of these beautiful birds. Hard to imagine!
Some of these exquisite birds are bred domestically. They do not respond well to confinement, and cannot be fed solely on compound poultry feeds. They need fruit, whole grain and access to free range.
Please be aware not every one will agree to my feeding methods. They have served me well in the last 20 years and I have grown and shown many many champions on just this regimen. It does not mean it is perfect and may not be what you want or what you believe works for you. What I have written here is the result of many years of trial and error, watching and learning every day and mostly observation .