Diary of a Poultry Farmer: Feeding regime for chicks important

Two weeks ago when I got to my farm in Njiru on the outskirts of Nairobi, I noticed that all the feeders were empty. At the time, the chicks were about one week old.

“How much chick mash are you giving the birds?” I asked Cleophas my farm manager. When he said 1.5kg a day, I felt a bit uncomfortable.

Immediately, I looked at the chart that I normally use to determine the daily feed requirements and quickly picked up the error.

You see, feeding is important for growth and production of meat and eggs from chicken. Inadequate or poor quality feeds can lead to slow growth, low egg production, diseases and death in the flock.

Therefore, to make it easy for the worker to determine how much feeds to give each day, I developed a simple chart which I have displayed at the entrance to the chicken coop.

The chart has five columns. The first one indicates the age of the chicks in weeks. In the second and third columns, I indicate the first and last day of each feeding period because as the chicks grow, their feed requirements also increase.

The fourth column shows the intake in kilos for 100 birds per day. The final column shows the daily intake for 500 birds.

Now, instead of looking at the 5th column (7.5 kilos), he was instead using the fifth (1.5 kg). I quickly corrected the error.

As a general guide, I give between 12- 60g of chick mash per chick per day.

Gradually, as I introduce growers mash at nine weeks, I allow between 60-90g of feed per pullet per day and I increase with age.

Depending on the size of hen, I give about 110-140g of layers’ mash per day per bird starting from 19 weeks.

Chart showing feeding regime for kienyeji

Chart showing feeding regime for kienyeji chicken. CHART | COURTESY

To calculate amount of feeds, I multiply the daily feed requirements in grams per bird with the total number of birds.

For example, the daily recommended feed intake for an improved indigenous bird less than one week old is between 12-15g. In my case I have 500 birds.

UNDERFEEDING IS DANGEROUS

To get the total daily intake, I multiply 15g by 500 to get 7500g. To convert the grams into kg, I then divide by 1000.

Here’s the thing. Besides light management I talked about last week (SoG Jul 8), the quantity and quality of feeds matters a lot.

Underfeeding is dangerous because a hen will only lay eggs when it has attained a minimum weight of 1.5kg.

This is not the only reason why I always weigh the feeds. Overfeeding the birds can also be harmful. According to one animal expert I consulted, improved indigenous birds should not be overfed during the growers’ period because the excess weight gained will affect the consistency of eggs laid later.

Another way to avoid overfeeding is by free-ranging the birds at this stage.

The quantity of feeds matters as much as the quality.

In order to escape the high cost of commercial feeds, some farmers chose to formulate their own and unless this is done properly, the results can disappoint.

Sometime last year (SoG Jul 23, 2016) I received an email from a reader complaining that at six months, her hens barely weighing 1.5kg had not laid any eggs.

At 12 weeks, she had substituted the commercial feeds with a home-made ration containing maize germ, omena, whole maize and sunflower cake.

My past experience with Kari improved Kienyeji breeds is that unless diseased, if feeds are of good quality and adequate, you should see an egg at about four and a half months and the cocks should hit 2 kilos by then.

The only way you can tell if the feeds you are using are of good quality is by taking them to a reputable laboratory for a proximate analysis test.

I just took my sample to Kalro and I am waiting for results.

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