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Chicken Nutrition

Chicken nutrition can be a very complicated matter. It is one of those topics that many people are strangely fanatic about. Fortunately for the run-of -the-mill chicken enthusiast, there are many carefully formulated chicken rations available which can provide you with everything you need in terms of proper nutrition. Most feed manufacturers provide specialized rations for chicks, young birds, layers and broilers. Chick feed is sold in a "crumble" form; whereas, most other feeds are pelletized. Read the labels on your feed carefully. A guaranteed analysis of protein, fat and crude fiber content should be stated. Try to keep your feed as fresh as possible, as vitamins in the feed will deteriorate with time.

Chicken Nutrition

Protein

Protein stimulates growth, repairs worn tissues and promotes fleshing and feathering. Free ranging chickens would acquire protein through ingesting insects. In chicken feeds, protein is provided through the addition of animal byproducts. The protein content of chick feeds is high at around 23% to encourage growth. For laying hens, a diet of 16 to 18 percent protein is sufficient. Broile r feed is often 20 percent protein. When you buy chicken feeds, they will usually be described in terms of the percentage of protein they contain (e.g. 23% Chick Starter, 16% Lay Pellets, etc.).

 

Scratch and Grit

As a feed supplement, farmers often provide "scratch grains," composed sorghum, cracked corn and oats. Most scratch grains are around 10 percent protein, 8 percent fat and 5 percent fiber. These grains are digested slowly and provide a good reserve s upply of energy, especially in cold weather. Be careful not to overfeed grains, as the high fat content can cause chickens to develop excess body weight. For those chickens without access to stones and gravel, it is important to provide grit. Chickens hold grit in their gizzard, where food is crushed before moving to the pancreas and small intestine.

 

Vitamins and Minerals

Most quality feeds contain all of the vitamins and minerals a chicken needs. Nevertheless, many farmers provide their chickens with additional vitamin and mineral supplements dissolved in drinking water. Calcium in the form of oyster shells is ofte n provided to laying hens due to the large amount of this mineral used in producing eggs. Broilers are often given cod liver oil in their water to provide vitamin D3, which is sometimes deficient in commercial feeds. Don't be overenthusiastic about supplements; Remember that excessive use of vitamins can prove toxic to your chickens.

 

Water

Chickens drink a lot of water. In terms of weight, laying birds normally drink twice as much water as they consume feed. If are deprived of water for even short periods, egg production will decline. Dirty water and watering equipment may discourage drinking and act as a breeding ground for disease. Provide fresh water daily, and regularly clean and disinfect your watering equipment.