NZ Lifestyle Block - - The Good Life -

THE BAL­ANCE of nu­tri­ents, the pro­por­tions of pro­teins to fats and car­bo­hy­drates, and the es­sen­tial vi­ta­mins and min­er­als a chicken needs dif­fers through­out its life. What a bird needs when it’s un­der six weeks old varies greatly from what it needs when it fi­nally gets its first lot of feathers, when it ma­tures at around 18-30+ weeks in age, and whether it is a high egg­pro­duc­ing, light-bod­ied bird or a heavy breed bird with a ten­dency to lay down fat and mus­cle.

Breed­ing birds – hens and roost­ers – need more feed to suit their body size, but their diet also re­quires a higher pro­por­tion of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als to en­sure their health as they go through the stress of mat­ing, lay­ing and sit­ting, and the health of their off­spring. Most di­ets for­mu­lated for com­mer­cial breed­ing stock con­tain dou­ble the vi­ta­mins and min­er­als of a stan­dard layer diet, even though the rest of the main in­gre­di­ents may be ex­actly the same as a diet fed to com­mer­cial lay­ing hens.

Pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of poul­try breed­ers and farm­ers of­ten had se­cret recipes which they cre­ated through trial and er­ror, giv­ing them what they felt was the per­fect diet for their birds. A lot of peo­ple to­day think there is more merit in those di­ets than buy­ing com­mer­cially-made feed, but that’s not usu­ally the case, for three good rea­sons.

sav­ings and a lot less work as milling and mix­ing of sep­a­rate in­gre­di­ents, usu­ally by hand, was a ma­jor daily chore.

kitchen and gar­den. This diet may or may not suit the birds. Yes, they’ll sur­vive, but they may not al­ways pro­duce the num­bers of eggs or grow to ful­fil their ge­netic make-up be­cause they aren’t get­ting their full nu­tri­tional needs met.

Lighter breeds and hy­brids are more eas­ily able to con­sume the right amount of en­ergy and pro­tein to ful­fil their needs, if it is avail­able. If they need X amount of grams of pro­tein and Y amounts of en­ergy (kcals), they will eat un­til the daily al­lowance is achieved. If you feed them a diet which is high in what they are seek­ing in terms of en­ergy and pro­tein, they will need to eat less quan­tity than if the diet is low in th­ese in­gre­di­ents.

For ex­am­ple, if all you fed your flock was wheat (around 10% crude pro­tein) and a hen needs 17g of pro­tein a day, she would need to eat 170g of wheat. If she also got vege scraps and grass, then she would miss out on the cor­rect type of pro­tein her body ac­tu­ally re­quires – veg­etable pro­tein lacks the nec­es­sary amino acids, so she could be­come pro­tein-de­fi­cient.

But feed her a com­mer­cially-made bal­anced ra­tion (17% crude pro­tein) for­mu­lated with the cor­rect amino acids and she only needs to eat 100g to get her daily re­quire­ment of the cor­rect pro­tein. If you went for a cheaper feed with 14% pro­tein, you would have to give her 121g. Feed is usu­ally priced by qual­ity and avail­abil­ity of in­gre­di­ents, so buy­ing the cheap­est can mean a bird has to eat more to get the same ben­e­fit.

The big-framed, her­itage heavy breeds and the large com­mer­cial meat breed hy­brids used to pro­duce your typ­i­cal roast chicken are more driven by ap­petite than what they ac­tu­ally need, so they are more

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