How Much Do You Feed Chickens?
by Poultry farmer – Miriam Rolling| Last Updated– 09 March 2021
How many times do you feed and how do you know they’re eating enough to maximize their finish weight? And that is a good question.
The biggest variable we have with our pasture poultry is what they’re eating. You know, like the temperature goes up and down. They’re outside one of the biggest Boort inputs.
The things that we spend money on is their feed. And that’s one of the things that in general, we know the least amount at least about proper check and nutrition.
I’m going to get into the experiment that I’m going to do this fall because I have two hundred and forty birds coming August 27th and I’m doing some experiments with them and then we’ll just wrap it up.
Feeding meat chickens
How often do I feed my birds? I full feed all the time. And what I do is that I’ll feed them every morning when they’re in the brooder.
I always have enough feeders that the birds never run out of food. If your birds run out of food, then they all, when you put it down, even if you put down a bunch of feeders that first feeder that you put down, all the birds are going to bum rush that feeder and then they can jump on top of each other. They can scratch each other. It’s kind of brutal atmosphere.
Chickens, when they want to eat, just like really get after it. And that’s not so good. So when they’re in the brooder, I have a ton of feeders and I top all those feeders a couple times a day. So it’s easy for the birds to get to it.
They’re growing, which is what their job is to do, and that they have full access to that feed. Now, when they’re out in the field, I give them a full feed in the morning and I don’t do a two day feeding until I see that. When I come back the next morning, that feeder is completely empty when that feeder is completely empty.
I know they’re not getting enough feed and that triggers me to start feeding them more. I’ll feed them twice a day. I’ll go out in the morning and I’ll go out in the afternoon just to fill up their feeders again. And you’ll see over time, less and less food is left over and you’ll need to feed a little bit more often.
But my choice, in general, is to go with the full feed all the time because you want to maximize the growth that you’re getting for raising them, because the more chicken you grow, the more money you’re going to make.
Ideally, when you sell that bird later on, now you’re going to get into variables. And it all depends on the time of year and your area and the breed and the situation and all the things that go in to being a good pasture poultry raiser.
So grower, some of those things are temperature. If it’s cold outside, the birds are going to metabolize more feed and to stay warm, they’re going to grow more feathers. So they’re going to put on less body mass. And it’s usually coincides with cooler weather means shorter days for me, longer days are usually hotter because it’s in the middle of the summer, near the summer solstice.
And the birds, we got two things there. We have a longer photo period so that sunlight is coming through their skull and their skin and hitting their hypothalamus and triggering their triggering their pituitary gland to produce more body mass of chicken that I’m going to use cell and people are going to eat later on. But they’re also warm. So they’re they don’t have to generate heat to keep their bodies warmer. Broiler chickens, white Cornish’s cross broiler chickens.
We’ll look half naked in the summer because they don’t have to grow as many feathers in order to stay warm and trap their body heat in because it’s hot outside. So less feathers means more bodyweight. And you can grow birds out a little faster in the summer with a longer photoperiod, higher temperature than you can in the fall or the very, very early spring where you have a shorter photoperiod and colder days where those birds are also going to grow up more feathers.
They also grow more small feathers, which makes them a little harder to pluck. So they have a little extra time on processing day to pluck the fully feathered birds versus the half naked birds. Again, variables.
And I apologize. You’ll have to take this information and just it to your area. Now, I do full feed all the time. If I notice that the birds are excessively overweight and I’m starting to get heart attacks, I’ll draw back their feed a little bit towards towards the middle to end to reduce how much mass they’re putting on to let their bodies kind of catch up. And that’ll make them forage a little bit more and more of a diverse diet.
If I see that they are slowing down, I’ll get my feed tested or I will change feeds, which is not always recommended because changing their diet up just upsets the birds. But get the feed tested to make sure that the feed company means what they put on the label and also feeding extra so that there’s always a bountiful amount of food.
So the birds will eat a little bit of extra. I’ve also noticed in the summer when it’s super hot and I want the birds to eat, spray them down with some cool water, not like a jet stream interrogation style, but like gentle mist, cooling of water so that the birds will go from.
Sitting down and panting and being hot into being, this is great, I’m cooled down now, I can eat again and all the birds will go back and eat and then you have a greater feed efficiency because the birds will eat more throughout the entire day.
You can also change when you feed the birds because of the heat of the day as a two to three o’clock, their peak metabolic. He is five hours after they’ve eaten their last meal. So if you feed later in the day, the birds will eat that and the heat of the day will be here and their peak metabolic heat will be here right in the evening as it starts to cool down where if you feed five hours before two o’clock, you know, if you’re like nine o’clock or whatever, then their peak metabolic heat and the heat of the day will align and they’ll be the most stressed out.
And that’s when you really have to hose them down because they’re going to be so hot that they are panting and they’re panting and they’re that have all that motion. They need all that blood to be moving in order to pant, to cycle air to cool down, which will make their heart beat faster, which will stress it out and give them a heart attack because they’re too big and their organs didn’t grow fast enough to keep up with the rest of their body. And their bodies are overstressed from trying to cool down from the hot day.
Is this like a lot of information? I don’t know, because it is a one way stream. But let me know in the comments section below. I love sharing all the stuff because I’ve been through all these little things. So this fall, the products that I’m working on, I’m raising this batch of birds. I’m doing my standard two hundred and forty birds, which fits my truck and trailer going to processing and it fits eight chicken tractors together on the field.
I’m going to break those up into four different groups. I’m going to have my control that I do normally. I’m going to do their normal feed and take their normal feed and put it on a three day fermentation cycle. Right for their feed over a three day period and then switch it out in the buckets and we’ll get into this in the future.
Then I’m going to give one set of chicken tractors, free choice, fresh brewer’s grain, because I have a brewery here and it’s a free input for me and it’s usually not very nutritious stuff. It’s more a kind of empty fiber of really high in protein and nitrogen. And I’m curious to see just what they do over time compared to other chicken tractors.
And then I’ve been doing some research where there was a group of scientists who had gotten certain kind of yeast that breaks down the Brous grain and ferments it and makes it more freely available and makes it like the slurry. I’m going to start fermenting the brewer’s grain as well to ferment that and as a feed source for birds and see if I can offset or change my material, my input costs for feed by these feed experiments and talk about feed a lot this fall.
It is my key area of research. Because it is farm marketing solutions supposed to be business slanted, but your feed is a big business cost for pasture, poultry, for pigs, for animals in general, unless you’re raising them 100 percent grass fed.
What’s good for you? And yeah, we’re just going to do some experiments this fall and see see what comes of it. I’m pretty excited for that.
I feed certified organic feed and I raise my birds on pasture. I myself am not certified organic. I am very careful about my language, not make the claim that I myself am certified. There’s more paperwork and stuff and money that you have to pay to get certified. We are customer certified that they can see my feed bags, they can see how I raise the birds. I am willing to show them we have open door policy.
We’re going to show anybody anything and explain my process. And if they want to buy the product, great. If they don’t, then that’s on them. But because I don’t I’m not competing for shelf space on a store and I sell all of my stuff.
Retail I, my certification process is my customers. I process my birds that I sell on farm epiphanies. Poultry Farm in Johnston, Rhode Island. They are certified USDA poultry slaughter facility. What the actual regulations are on having organic certified birds and going through the processor, I don’t know, off the top of my head.
Put it up on the APA forum at APEP, a dog, the American partner, poultry producers, because there are other people who are. Not only certified organic, but on their own processing facilities and would know all those answers to those questions if you need help in that regard.