Bad practices in poultry nutrition remains a silent killer in our farming community

Efficiency in areas such as nutrition in poultry production remains essential considering the fact that about 70 % of total costs in poultry production are taken up by feed cost, meaning out of every M1.00 spent on poultry project, 70c-80c goes to feed costs, making it one of the operational costs that takes up a massive proportion.

It is therefore very crucial to lay a solid foundation in this unit since the issues of nutrition are of economic importance, not just in the feed costs but also because any compromise can negatively impact on health of the flock resulting in drastic losses (diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies). Red flags in nutrition should therefore be avoided for some of the reasons that;

  • Production and productivity is dependent on the type or quality of feed given to chickens. Quantity of feed should not be compromised or production will be affected negatively. Lower Egg production for instance can be noticed in both underfed and overfed birds.
  • Decline in egg production is noticed in birds fed low quality diets, less or more than required feed, hence important to stick to the daily feed intake requirements.
  • Nutrition plays an important role in poultry health- other diseases present themselves in poultry due to deficiencies in any of the required nutrients.
  • Cannibalism and feather pecking poses adverse effects in productivity and health of birds, at most presenting unnecessary mortality. This behaviour in birds can mostly be caused by nutrient deficiency in poultry diets.

Commercial feed companies take into account the nutrients; carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins in their diet formulation as a source of energy, tissue and bone structure formation, body processes, maintenance and production. All of these nutrients are required in certain quantities and any inclusion below or above poses a negative effect in poultry production.  Some of the nutrients if included in large quantities can be toxic to birds.

Daily Feed intake (how much feed a bird takes in per day)

Feed intake is different in different stages of production in poultry thus it is important for a farmer to know exactly the quantity to feed at different stages.  This is helpful in the early cycle of budgeting, where the farmer knows exactly how much feed is required for a number of birds to be reared and to preferred duration.

It is important to understand that different diets are formulated for different nutrient requirements in the flock reared because;

  • There is variation of nutrient requirement according to productive state of the bird-the rate of growth or egg production
  • Also, genetics contributes to the variability of feed or nutrient requirement in birds, hence requirement in one breed kept can be different in another breed but still in the same production type (egg or meat production).
  • Layer birds are fed strictly on layer diet because the formulated diet should support the production requirement- egg production needs high calcium inclusion for formation of shells
  • Broiler birds are fed on their specific diet and also increased quantity as required for the desired body weight within a short rearing duration (in 8 weeks, broilers have reached their targeted slaughter body weight).
  • Chicks-nutritional requirement of chicks is different from that of fully developed birds, at this stage, chicks need high protein and other minerals for the growth and formation of bones and feathers.

It should be noted that feed intake is determined by ambient temperature.  Any Increase in temperature suppresses the feed intake while colder temperatures induces birds to eat more to make up for the energy lost to keep warm.

Tables 1 and 2 illustrates feed consumption in birds, reared for different types of production (meat and eggs)

Table 1

Broilers (meat type) – cumulative consumption/bird up to 9 weeks

Age  (weeks) Body weight (g) Cumulative
Feed Intake (g)
Body weight (g) Cumulative
Feed Intake (g)
0 40 0 40 0
1 170 150 165 145
2 450 480 420 460
3 865 1120 780 1030
4 1410 2020 1250 1825
5 2250 3200 1750 2830
6 2700 4500 2300 4020
7 3350 6000 2800 5400
8 3900 7400 3300 6800
9 4400 8800 3700 8200

Source: Poultry CRC

The information in table 1 shows that at the 9th week of age, a bird would have consumed 8.2kgs of feed. This is the total feed comprising different diets; starter, grower and finisher diets.  The variability in feed intake is noticed between males and females in a flock.

Table 2

Feed consumption in layers up to the 17th week (g/bird/day)

Age (wk) Body weight (g) Feed consumption (g/bird/day) Age (wk) Body weight (g) Feed consumption (g/bird/day)
1 70 13 10 870-970 56
2 115 20 11 960-1080 61
3 190 25 12 1050-1117 66
4 280 29 13 1130-1250 70
5 380-390 33 14 1210-1310 73
6 480-500 37 15 1290-1370 75
7 580-620 41 16 1360-1430 77
8 680-750 46 17 1500-1540 80
9 770-860 51

Source: Poultry CRC

Although most farmers in layer production are interested in keeping their stock from point of lay(after the 17th week of age when they are ready to lay eggs), feed companies like Makhulo Farm Feeds have special layer diets from day old chicks up to when birds are at point of lay. The decision is upon a farmer to weigh if it is economical to raise a day old chick to point of lay or start when a bird is at point of lay.  It is also important to note, there is a business opportunity for farmers to rear the layer chickens up to point of lay to sell to those who have interest in keeping an older stock.

Feed wastage

  • Wastage usually happens when a farmer feeds their flock more than enough. Nutrient requirement of poultry at different phases should be considered. Over feeding of birds is a major contributor to wastage in poultry production and unfortunately it brings about not only decreased production such as in egg production and health complications but  also digging deep in the farmers pocket (for nothing)..
  • Appropriate elevation of feeders and drinkers should be taken into consideration
  • Particle size should also be considered, thus chicks should be fed on proper particle size diet
  • Some feed troughs are better than others in terms of wastage, pick wisely
  • Feed storage should be taken into consideration to avoid contamination and moisture or mould in feed which can result in spoilage and also health ailments in poultry.
  • Feeder-drinker position should be taken into consideration
  • Because feed intake correlates with temperature, it is safe to say a farmer should keep in range with recommended temperatures even in cold days to keep feed intake in normal. For those indigenous breed of chickens farmers keep, there is no much worry when it comes to harsh weather conditions, more reason we love RSDA and their beautiful chickens.


The percentile range expands more with bad feed practices and that costs a farmer a fortune and at most running at a massive loss.  The trickiest part of poultry nutrition is, it is its way or the high way.  No over feeding or under feeding, but exact requirement.


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